Skulls of the Shogun takes a tongue in cheek approach to the game with fun banter between General Akamoto and his enemies. Tied in with the cartoon style artwork and animation you may be falsely led into thinking the game is not taking itself seriously. This couldn’t be further from the case as after the tutorial levels things can get very tough!
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General Akamoto can take part and direct troops made up of three main unit types. Infantry have great defense stats but limited range, ideal for the front line. Calvary have average attack and defense but a wide range, perfect for sneaking in, attacking and retreat. And finally, archers who have high attack but poor defense. Keep your units close together to create an impenetrable Spirit Wall which blocks enemies from passing or attacking beyond it. It keeps your weaker units stay safe and lets the infantry take the brunt of it. With careful planning you can efficiently take down the enemy as the units are very balanced in strengths and weaknesses, much like a game of paper, scissors and stone.
Like all good strategy games Skulls of the Shogun performs in a turn based fashion. Both sides have five scrolls which equals the number of actions they can command per turn. Taking control of a unit will use up one scroll, you can move the unit and attack then use the remaining movement to retreat for example. Other actions include eating dead opponents skulls to regain health, eating three of which will turn your unit into a more powerful Demon. Rice paddies can be haunted to earn rice which is spent at Shrines to buy extra units. The five actions per turn can be very restrictive. I found myself at times with several units but I can only control five of them per turn. If you like to play with the strategy of safety in numbers and overwhelm the enemy you may find yourself at a disadvantage and need to rethink your strategy.
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There are two styles of missions to complete; make your way to a specified area and the second is to kill the enemy leader, both take on differing strategies. The first usually sees you starting on the back foot taking on a larger number of enemies, but remember the more enemies you kill the more skulls you can eat and make your units more powerful! The second mission style is about trying to kill the leader as soon as possible, as killing him completes the mission. Again skulls are important to give you the upper hand, eat them at every opportunity as it is key to winning the mission! After the first chapter, things can get quite difficult and missions will start to take multiple attempts to complete as you work out the best strategy. This game is intentionally difficult so don’t be surprised to have a few controller throwing hissy fits 🙂 A casual difficulty is available and does make things a bit easier.
If the single player becomes too much of a challenge you can head online and play against up to three other opponents in a multiplayer battle. If you have the Windows 8 and/or Windows Phone versions of the game you can also pick up and continue from where you left off. I was unable to try this feature as I only have the XBLA game to review but it sounds like a great idea.
There is no escaping the difficulty level, but if you have the patience to learn the strategies and hone them, you will find Skulls of the Shogun to be great little game than can stand up to others in the genre such as Advance Wars.
A challenging but very enjoyable turn based strategy game offering several hours in single player and many more on multiplayer.
Cartoon style graphics suit the humour of the game and work well.
Nice sounding themes throughout which keep the action going