Late last year developer, Mimimi Productions, put out their stealthy, real-time tactics game ‘Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun’, published by Daedalic Entertainment. Sadly, Shadow Tactics kind of flew under the radar with a lot of people not being aware of the game, that is, until now. The game’s have been re-released, this time on consoles and the game is gaining some popularity. But is it any good?
Back in the late 1990s, a game called Commandos came out that revolutionized the stealth/real-time tactics game genre. No other game has matched the quality put forth by Commandos, until now. ‘Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun’ borrows the formula put forth by Commandos and improves upon it rather successfully by applying it to a historical Japanese backdrop. My initial vibe I got from the game prior to playing it was that it would be something along the lines of the XCOM games, which I am not that big a fan of. Thankfully, this turned out not to be anything like XCOM and I immediately got swept up in what turned out to be a really fun stealth game.
You eventually seize control over 5 different characters (a sniper, a ninja, a samurai, a traps expert, and a female who is able to take on disguises) which gives you a wide variety over gameplay styles, and how you complete a mission. Each character has their own strengths as well as their weaknesses (sniper can’t move bodies) meaning all characters are fairly well balanced and you can’t just rely on one member of the team to carry out the mission.
The game has a very simple art and animation style. That being said this works perfectly fine for this type of game. I simple love the look of the game, the whole aesthetic works so well. The animations of the attacks are simple and streamlined, and they look great. One option while setting up the game that I opted for rather quickly was to have the dialogue in Japanese rather than English and just have English subtitles at the bottom. I could not recommend this setting more. The Japanese voice work sounds a lot better than its English counterparts, and adds so much to the immersiveness of the whole game.
There’s not a whole lot that I did not like about the game. One thing that stuck out to me was the story path. Just like the stealth/tactics games of olde, Shadow Tactics is a little stuck in the past with it’s linear story path. There’s not a lot of deviation when it comes to what you can do while accomplishing your mission. The constant reminders to save are kind of like a double edged sword. On one hand they’re helpful and they’ve reminded me a couple times to save, but on the other hand they’re constant, they never stop, they remind you after a minute of not saving, and they pop up on the screen in a bit of a dramatic animation that makes me think something’s gone wrong. An option to turn this off would have been nice, or just don’t remind the player every minute! I get what they’re doing though.
Lastly, and one of the biggest things in the game, the camera mechanics. The camera movement is totally a manual thing, meaning you (the player) needs to move the camera with the right analog stick. On top of that, rotating and zooming in are also options that you can and will need to use. This takes a LOT of getting used to if it’s something you’re not use to doing in other games (raises hand).
All in all, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was a beautiful surprise of a game. I was expecting a boring XCOM-ish, tactical strategy game but what I got was an incredibly fun tactical game where stealth is the only option. The gameplay is seamless, easy to get used to, and a heck-load of fun. The game looks beautiful, and is set in one of the most interesting time periods in all of history. The option to have only Japanese voice work is a great idea, and definitely made for a more immersive experience. The price tag is a bit high for this kind of game, but if you have the money and you’re looking for a totally new gaming experience I recommend picking up Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun.