Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence

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More than 30 years ago, KOEI released the first Nobunaga’s Ambition. It started out as a PC game in Japan and has since seen numerous title releases over 18 platforms overall. Millions of copies have been sold making it one of the most popular strategy games ever released. Those who gave the games the time they deserved were really in for a treat. Very few strategy games are as deep as the Nobunaga franchise.

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Now, in 2015, we are getting another title in the franchise. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence looks to continue on with even more features than its predecessors. It definitely doesn’t disappoint. Before I get going, let me say this. You will be overwhelmed at first. It will run you ragged. If you stick through it and keep going, you will have one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had in a long time.

The setting is a familiar one to those who have played any games in the franchise before. Sphere of Influence takes place in the Sengoku period of feudal Japan. During this time period, Japan was fractured and there was a constant struggle to gain control over any land that was unclaimed. The focus of the franchise is Oda Nobunaga. His goal was to conquer and unify Japan. You don’t have to choose to play as Oda, but the goal is the same. You also have a choice of other daimyos from various regions of this once broken Japan.

When you get started, you will be greeted with a tutorial that leaves no stone unturned. Once you get through that, you will be presented with an introductory level. This is the best way to get the basics down. Be read to read a lot. Sphere of Influence is very text heavy. This introductory level will take roughly 30-45 minutes to complete. The only problem with this level is that it doesn’t really tell you how to play the game through any type of events. It more introduces you to the tool system that you will be using throughout the game. It doesn’t really lend itself well to the gameplay. When comes down to it, as with the rest of the game, trial and error is going to be key.

There are a lot of aspects of Sphere of Influence that take a lot of getting used to. You need to get these down to create a solid balance overall. You have politics, developments, and the most obvious being combat. Combat is the least of your worries when it comes to the overall gameplay. Development is important because that will lead to your overall expansion once you battle it out and claim more land.

At first you have a really small section of the map. Your political actions are probably the most important aspects. There is the old saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. There is good reason for this. If you think you can just rush into war and start taking land, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. However, if you gain an ally with your neighbor, you can both take over a larger piece of land. Just like everything else, this will take away from your cash. Depending on the outcome, this reward might be greater than the risk. Eventually, you will have to turn on that alliance to take over their land.

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Development is also just as important. You will need to keep your citizens happy. This is a big one as it can affect your cash flow and overall productivity. You will have to control your community’s income, decide on how much to tax, and how to set up your lands overall infrastructure. It’s gets tricky as everything is always moving in real time. There isn’t any stop and go like there are in other strategy games. You have to react to everything and plan for the future.

Combat is just as difficult. You start out planning your strategy before you go into battle. While that sounds all well and good, the tides of battle change rapidly. You have to be quick and able to read the battle so you can change things up on the fly. There are a few ways to win. You can completely wipe them out, retreat, have them retreat, or force them into battle so long they eventually stand down and accept defeat. The first option rarely happens unless you completely outclass your enemy or have a strong alliance going into it. I found myself pushing them retreat or retreating myself. Don’t get too upset if you are defeated. You will be able to build up more and take to that battle again later. Watching each battle unfold is a treat as well. Graphically, the game is definitely a treat.

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When I originally took on the task of reviewing this game, I knew it was going to be tough. There is a lot in the game that couldn’t be covered in this review. Mostly because having played this quite a bit, I still haven’t figured everything out. The more I do figure out, the better Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence gets. If you can give it the time it requires, learn the ins and outs, you will do very well with this title. Newcomers will definitely get stuck a more than a few times. Keep at it, you will get through it. I won’t sugar coat it, this is a very tough game. However, it is just as rewarding.

The Good

  • Gameplay is very deep.
  • Battle animations look great
  • Pacing is spot on.
  • Rich in historical accuracy.

The Bad

  • Not newcomer friendly. If you take the time to get into it, this can easily be overcome.
  • Almost too many features and decision points. Will definitely be overwhelming for some.
9.0

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