[REVIEW] Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun


By Dan Spence on February 6th 2017


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Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is developed by Mimimi Studios and published by Daedalic Entertainment. It’s a throwback to the real-time tactics games of the late 90s and the early 2000s that outshines its predecessors in basically every way.

It’s immediately obvious to see that Shadow Tactics shares its DNA with some of the classics of the genre; games like Desperados made by Spellbound Entertainment and the Commandos series from Pyro Studios. Shadow Tactics is a stealth game that is set out like a real-time strategy game; it sees you commanding a squad of specialised operatives in real-time while they slowly and meticulously take apart their enemies defenses in a bid to complete their mission objectives. But while Desperados and Commandos featured Wild West and World War II settings, Shadow Tactics is set in Edo/Tokugawa Japan with your team consisting of a ninja, a samurai, a thief, a kunoichi (female ninja) and a sniper.

While Shadow Tactics is a stealth/tactics game, it often plays out more like a puzzle. Each member of your team fields a couple of unique abilities and working out how, when and where to use these abilities is the puzzle that the game revolves around. At least once per level you’ll encounter a situation that requires meticulous forethought and planning; these usually involve truly formidable defences made up of innumerable guards. It’s your job to take apart these defences – ideally in a way that prevents the guards from realising that their friends are missing lest they call for backup. It’s this puzzle of working out what to do and when and in what order that lies at the game’s core. But where to begin? You could lure one of the guards away and into one of the thief’s traps or you could wait until nobody’s watching and have your ninja slit a sentry’s throat before dragging his body into the bushes. Whichever strategy you decide to use, there’s still a myriad of things to consider before you put it into action: are your troops outside of the guards’ vision cones? Will your plan be so noisy that it attracts more guards? Are there any civilian witnesses? Is there a place nearby where you can hide the bodies? Are there any patrols or watchtowers to worry about? Is there somewhere that you can hide once your target has been dealt with? Inevitably you will forget at least one of these things and the process of trial and error will begin. You’ll quicksave and reload over and over and over again while you try to perfect your chosen method of execution, at which point your plan will either succeed or you’ll give up and change tactics. Planning your attack in this way is the meat of the game and seeing your carefully constructed plan flawlessly executed is the incredibly satisfying payoff.

Shadow Tactics - Explosion

 

Shadow Tactics puts a considerable amount of effort into ensuring that it’s levels stay interesting. Every level so far (I’m 7 levels in) has introduced new gameplay elements: the first level teaches you the basics and introduces shadow mode (an ability that allows your characters to perform preselected actions simultaneously), the second adds traps as well as non-lethal attacks and the third teaches you that guards will follow your footprints through snow (which can either get you caught or be used to set up traps and ambushes).Later levels add darkness, disguises and ways to kill the seemingly indomitable samurai. These steady additions keep the game feeling fresh even several hours in with each level providing a twist to make you think and play differently. Shadow Tactics really shines in terms of replayability as well. Every level can be approached in multiple ways and upon completing a level the game reveals the criteria required to unlock a number of “badges” for the level that you just finished. Each badge represents an extra objective or challenge that encourage you to play levels in different ways. One of the badges is always “complete the level in X amount of time” but the others are usually level-specific; examples like “complete the level without swimming” or “don’t kill any guards” force the player to think in a completely different way about how to approach the level which means that there’s plenty of extra stuff to do, even after you’ve completed the main campaign.

Shadow Tactics - Temple

I have to admit that I was initially put off by the game’s price (£34.99), but any doubts I had were instantly dismissed upon playing the demo. It’s immediately clear just how much effort went in to producing this game. Unlike its stealth-tactics forefathers, Shadow Tactics features fully modelled 3D environments and they are beautiful. Each level is like looking at an incredibly detailed, living diorama complete with guards and civilians going about their business. Not only are these levels great to look at but they’re well thought out as well; with every level featuring multiple paths and optional objectives that each provide their own unique challenge. The high production values don’t end at the game’s environments either, Shadow Tactics features quality voice acting with well-written characters. While the dialogue isn’t particularly deep, it’s still fun to see how the characters interact with each other whether it’s the funny, reluctant master/student relationship of Hayato and Yuki or listening to Aiko and Mugen flirt between missions. The inclusion of Japanese voice options was also something that I really appreciated.

Shadow Tactics - Level

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun represents a real renaissance for real-time tactics games. While the price may seem steep at first it’s definitely worth the investment (although if you’re still on the fence you should absolutely try the demo). For fans of games like Commandos and Desperados this game will undoubtedly prove to be the pinnacle of a genre that was long thought dead.


Shadow Tactics is: RECOMMENDED



Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is available for £34.99 on Steam and Humble Store. It is also coming to PS4 and Xbox One in 2017.

PC version played for purposes of review.

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About Dan Spence

Dan Spence is a man with a computing science degree who would quite frankly, like a job writing about video games.

Posted on February 6, 2017, in PC Games, PS4 Games, Reviews, Xbox One Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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