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Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun review

Stealthy.

© Mimimi Productions / Daedalic Entertainment

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun excels in almost all regards. From design, gameplay, story and everything in between. If you’re a fan of games like Commandos: Behind enemy lines, Splinter Cell and anything with ninjas in, then you’ll have a blast.

Each mission will have you experiment with each of the five playable characters. Sometimes all at the same time. They all have their own unique abilities and strategies. The first two are Yuki and Mugen, Yuki is an agile thief, who can lure enemies away from their ranks and take them out one by one, he also has a trusty shuriken for long range assassinations. Mugen is the brute type. He isn’t as quick as the others, but he can sustain far more damage and also take out a huge group of enemies with his katana flurry attacks. The other three are just as memorable and will have you combining their skill sets to more efficiently take out the guards blocking your path.

Watch the Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun launch trailer:

 

The story is surprisingly well written as are the characters. For an isometric style stealth game, compelling characters are mostly non-existent, but here they are fleshed out and their motivations well earned. You’ll fight through 13 main missions. All open-ended in how you can complete them. You’ll not always have every character at your disposal (in fact most of the time you won’t), this will mean you’ll have to alter your usual tactics to get through areas. You can zoom out and see the entire map, and this is best done at the beginning so you can get to grips with the environment as you develop a plan. Like a heist or a great escape you have to remember guard patrols and gauge their lines of sight so you can either move through like a ghost or take them out one by one. A lot of the time you’ll have to position your characters ready to attack all at once which is done with the press of a button. You can set up multiple moves to dispatch guards without anyone being alerted. It’s satisfying as hell when you put your plan into action, and it actually pulls off. You’ll grin as four or five guards drop dead, and no alarms are sounded.

The graphics are reminiscent of Japanese artwork, similar to how Shogun 2: Total War’s artwork was weaved throughout the menus and gameplay. It’s impressive, especially from a smaller studio. The voice acting is appropriate except for Yuki, who is oddly not Japanese like the other voice actors. It all serves to immerse you in this Edo period, Japanese tale.

Some of the time, however, you’ll be fighting not the occupying army but instead, the camera. Swinging it around like a mad man to get your character into view. It isn’t too bad but sometimes time is of the essence, a guard’s line of sight is creeping closer, and you’re trying to turn the camera so you can climb the rope to safety. It can get frustrating but there is a quicksave option, and you’ll regularly be reminded at the top of the screen of how long it’s been since you last saved.

View some Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun screens in our gallery:

The difficulty spikes occasionally, the map is filled with a million guards and not many places for you to hide. You’ll have to navigate on the thinnest of margins as the lines of sights just scrape by you. Patience is definitely a virtue here. You have to take your time, utilise every skill offered to you, every bush and every hiding spot. These can either be fun or tedious, depending on your constitution. You might have made a crucial error earlier on in the mission and only now do you realise how bad a decision it was. Your men might be out of position, or you took out a guard a little too early. All of these things play a factor. And I guess that’s what brings the tension and suspense. When you do finally complete the mission, you would have earnt it, you persevered and won out in the end. Far more rewarding than you might think.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun has been made with love of the genre, every detail seems meticulous, and all the mechanics mix together into a well-crafted blend of stealth and action. Although your journey through 17th century Japan is slowed down by an unreliable camera and the occasional difficulty spike, you’ll still be moving with some pace. Taking each mission as the puzzle it is and unlocking the secret way through, using trial and error and sometimes some deliciously distracting sake. Brought together with a colourful cast of characters, all with their own motivations and desires. Honour and betrayal highlighting their lives and told to you through story cutscenes and interactions throughout the levels as they work together. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is excellent, you’ll want to play each mission over and over again to experiment with different techniques and styles. It’s worth every penny.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.

Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment Developer: Mimimi Productions Release Date: July 28, 2017 Reviewed On: PS4 Also Available On: PC/Steam

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