Shadow Tactics – Blades of the Shogun Reviews

488,831 (300,890)
TA Score for this game: 1,416
Posted on 04 August 17 at 00:45
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Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Developed by: Mimimi Productions
Published by: Daedalus
Release Date: August 1st 2017
Price: £39.99 - Physical & £31.99 -Digital

The year is 1615, the location is Japan. It is the Edo period, and the land is unsettled, at war. Unlike the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series where you just button mash to hack and slash your way through each stage, Shadow Tactics is a much more subtle and engaging experience. Tactical stealth is key and vital to your success.

Five heroes are at your disposal as you put your honour on the line to serve your Shogun. Hayato, a lone ninja who wields a shuriken and katana. Niven, a Samurai who dual wields blades and a bottle of Sake as a distraction. Yuki, a young female thief with a whistle for distraction and a spike trap. Aiko, a female master of disguise and subterfuge. Finally, Takuma. An elderly and wise man who is a master of firearms with his pet Tanuki, Kim's by his side. Each member has their own strengths and weakness in comparison to one another, yet they compliment the other members of the group so well. No matter what team line up you have to take on a mission, you will find that it works.

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Shadow Tactics offers up 13 levels, and the first obviously being a tutorial of sorts just to allow yourself to familiarise yourself with the game and how it plays. Having already been released on Steam, my first thought was the control scheme. How would it feel to play and would it work? Given how much there is assigned to the Xbox One controller, you'd be right to think it may be a shambles. But, fear not. The layout is perfect, and if your forget what button does what early on, all you need to do is pause the game and the layout is there in front of you. No need to trawl through menus looking for help.

Progressing through the game, it became quite clear that Mimiki Productions had no intention whatsoever of letting you breeze through Shadow Tactics. Oh no. Shadow Tactics is a brutal and unforgiving game that will punish you time and time again, for the smallest mistake. Forgot to check your surroundings? Tough. You're going to get caught. And you will repeat this until it's been drummed into you. Despite this, once you manage to overcome an obstacle, that sense of achievement and satisfaction that fills you with elation, will have you fist pumping the air. Yes it's tough, even on Easy dificulty. Not impossible mind you, but it's not a game that you will fly through in a couple of hours. Unless your are a God at stealth games.

One thing that struck, was that I was playing an ID@Xbox game running on the much complained about Unity engine. As far as I'm concerned, it's how you utilise this engine, and what you can get out of it that will show you how well it can work. Not only that, but Shadow Tactics is stunning to look at. From dark yet colourful Matsuya City, to the snow covered Mount Taurus, and more. Your eyes will be rewarded by some of the most detailed and beautiful artwork you will have seen in 2017. Quite simply put, its breathtaking. Even though you visit Mount Taurus on two separate occasions, the fact that they are during different seasons make it feel new when you arrive.

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An option should you choose to use it, and I strongly recommend that you do as it's vital to your progression, is Shadow Mode. Once activated with your D-Pad, you can set up a multi-kill attack to kill several guards at once. Or just move them in a group. A tool that once you have mastered, will see you surging through the enemy with greater ease. Although it's not a sure fire way to success. You can still be caught by vigilant guards, whether they be static or patrolling. You are able to see their view cones, but only one at a time. Although with your marker you can check them out at any time as you plan your attacks and route through each level. You are literally forced to plan each decision you make meticulously. One wrong move and it will spell your doom.

Every level has badges for you to unlock and you will only know about them once you either unlock them during play, or after the level has finished. Fancy completing them on Hardcore difficulty? How about a Speed run? Well, you're going to have to do these if you want all of them. No easy feat, but some serious bragging rights if you do manage to complete these tasks. The no death runs will certainly test your skills to the maximum. Personally, I don't know how I would cope given I decimated all enemies on each and every level. The gung-ho gamer in me can't help it.

The narrative for each of the characters and NPC's is written to perfection for everyone. Emotion, anger, wisdom and reasoning can be felt as you venture further on your journey. Sacrifice, loss and revenge
all play a part, keeping you hooked from beginning to end. Shadow Tactics seems to have it all and then some. Not once does it take its foot off the gas, always interjecting sporadic conversations during gameplay between your team.

Highly detailed scenic views await you in Japan. You're able zoom the camera in and out, showing off the hard work that has been invested. Either will show off the games best feature. Although that's quite a claim given the quality. With a Diablo-esque isometric look to it, you're not confined to one view point as you're free to move the camera at will. No frame rate drops were encountered, and no tearing either.

The musical score that accompanies Shadow Tactics sets the mood with easy listening instrumentals, picking up the tempo when battle commences or you're caught unaware. Characters are fully voice acted, and almost all are convincing in their part that they play. I did find Yuki to beannoying at times, but she is one of the best characters to use with her whistle and spike trap combo. A nervous young girl that really comes into her own as the game progresses.

Aside from having to get used to moving the camera yourself, Shadow Tactics plays like a dream. Each button has been assigned the correct action, and it feels so smooth to play. Shadow Mode is something I never knew I needed to experience. Essential to advance further at times, and so easy to use once you master it. Quick save and quick load are so fast, you will barely notice which, given how often you will need this is a God send. Easy to learn but hard to master.

Replay Value
Whether you pay for Digital or Physical, you will get your money's worth. Not a game that you can complete quickly, and if you want to attempt to earn each badge, then you will be playing for many hours to come. I averaged around the 2 hour mark for every level as I tried every route through each level. Learning guard patrols, who I could take out first etc.

There are some generic perform X action X amount of times with regards to kills. Some story progression, and then plenty of miscellaneous achievements to keep you busy. Fancy killing the developers? Then you're in luck. They are placed in each level, and only noticeable if you hover your marker over them and find a name. A cool achievement to be sure, and once that is fun to go for. A solid list that will get you doing everything along the way. But earning all them medals? Good luck. And if you do manage to unlock that achievement, you have earned my respect.

To wrap up, Shadow Tactics is for me, the best game I have played in 2017 and deserves to be a contender for the GoTY award. It would be a crying shame if people pass this game up. Don't let the price put you off, it is worth every penny. Especially if you enjoy stealth based games with a hefty dose of tactical warfare in Japanese history. If there is any decency left in the world, then Mimimi Productions will continue to release games for our favourite console.

The graphics
The music
Shadow Mode
Varied cast of characters

Price may put some off
Yuki can be irritating at times

A copy was provided for review purposes.
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