|Dev: Paradox Interactive|
|Pub: Paradox Interactive|
|Release: September 13, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-768p||Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence|
Like any good strategy game, Sengoku has numerous systems that present you with risks and rewards. While you won't be dealing with a tech tree or a complex variety of resources, you will have to preserve your honor, a resource that waxes and wanes as you do things like make "plots" to undermine rivals and send gifts. If your honor runs low, your underlings lose respect for you and might even rebel; if you run out, you commit seppuku, or ritual suicide. There are also several religious factions (Shintoism, Buddhism, and later Christianity) that provide different perks.
The battle system here is fairly primitive, and nothing like the detailed and entertaining RTS warfare that Shogun 2 offered—as I mentioned earlier, it's not much different than Risk, with the bigger army winning most of the time. There is no naval warfare at all, and while putting a rival castle under siege may sound fun in theory, it's a long, tedious process in practice.
One interesting feature is that you can recruit ninja clans for a variety of tasks, such as spying, serving as bodyguards, killing rival leaders, and even rescuing hostages so that you can break a pact without consequence. While you do have to be careful not to overextend yourself, and while there is a strategy element to your decisions about whom to attack and how, I tended to see the military angle of Sengoku as secondary to the diplomatic one by quite a margin.
Conducting diplomacy in feudal Japan is an incredibly complicated endeavor, so I would recommend playing a game or two in Sengoku's single-player mode before tackling multiplayer. When you do try multiplayer, it's the same game, only with real people controlling some of your rivals.
In terms of presentation, the game is successful, though limited in its ambition. There is no voice acting whatsoever—which is disappointing until you remember all the awful stereotypes that Asian characters in strategy games usually embody. The sound effects are low-key but effective, the music captures the culture it's meant to represent, and the graphics look nice without breaking any new visual ground.
If you prefer strategy games with a strong kinetic aspect—armies moving constantly, battles breaking out at a steady pace, and lots of life-or-death decisions to be made—Sengoku will be far too thoughtful and tedious for you. It certainly was for me. But if you want a well-made, carefully balanced simulation of the diplomatic choices that a feudal ruler would have to make, take some time off of work. With its deep gameplay and slow pace, Sengoku can absorb weeks of your life if you find yourself liking it too much.
CCC Contributing Writer