The latest title to take us back in time to fifteenth century feudal Japan is a strategy game from developer Paradox Interactive. Taking a step away from the typical strategy games that we know and love, Sengoku offers the ability to dominate the country through an assortment of exemplary, or underhanded, deeds. Marriage, assassination, diplomacy and, yes, to a certain extent war; all are tools in your arsenal to take territory after territory until the majority of the land is conquered.
It was an interesting time in Japan, the fifteenth century. The known authority of the Ashikaga Shoguns is no more as we step into Sengoku in the year 1467. The country is now divided into various provinces, each run by one particular figure. Could you be the one to unite the land of the Rising Sun as you take over each territory, gradually gaining ground until enough of the country is your own to become the new Shogun? Sengoku offers an assortment of means to thrust you firmly into this violent period of time, from diplomacy to religion, genetics to ninjas.
Unusually for a strategy game, combat in Sengoku is a completely hands-off experience. Battles with neighbouring foes are decided by the roll of dice as you watch helplessly. Of course this isn’t any great problem; combat is just one of the tools in your belt to utilise in the pursuit of the country. Once you start dabbling in some of the other means of control you’ll no doubt decide that all out war is often not worth the hassle.
The success of your own kingdom will be dominated by two basic resources; gold to put up buildings, pay for an army, the usual really, and honour gained through the making of alliances or the helping of your friends. Strangely enough, it’s the strength of your honour that allows for the more underhanded skills in your arsenal, such as sending out ninjas to bring disruption to a neighbouring province.
Statistics mean a lot in Sengoku. To run a successful kingdom you will need the right people on board, people that have the right genetic traits to work well with your kingdom’s ruler. An intricate system of menus provides you with a vast amount of information to help you make the right decisions throughout your reign. Fortunately the user interface has received a lot of hard work from the good folks at Paradox Interactive, meaning that the information is shown in an intuitive way. This is an excellent help at easing you into the game as you shouldn’t feel too overwhelmed by information overload at any point.
Sengoku isn’t the most visually interesting game on the market, but with an absolutely stunning map screen (where you’ll spend a lot of your time), and nicely designed menu systems it certainly isn’t bad to look at.
Paradox Interactive’s Sengoku won’t be the game for everyone. If you prefer getting your hands dirty with the combat elements of a strategy game then you may want to look elsewhere. However, for those with an interest in controlling the population of a country through a variety of means, from marrying off your children to powerful parties, to forging alliances with neighbouring nations, this is the game for you. There are hours of entertainment to be had in Sengoku, and with the game developing differently depending on your actions, there is certainly a lot of replay value to enjoy.