Listen up armchair strategists! The world of Feudal Japan is falling into chaos with the shogunate unable to reestablish order in the realm. It is up to you to take up arms and bring your clan to prominence and establish a new order in these uncertain times in Sengoku, the latest epic grand strategy game brought to you by Paradox Interactive.
Set on a detailed 3D historical map of feudal Japan with over 350 provinces to control, Sengoku features a territorial improvement system where you will assign clan officers various roles in order to build up your economic and military infrastructure. Divided between the town and castle, players are able to develop and improve infrastructure in each town. In addition, you can establish guild manufactories in order to supplement either your economy or your military, depending on the province’s role in your strategy.
City management is very simple as players can assign vassals to oversee improvement in other provinces, allowing you to concentrate on those territories under your direct control. Although the game itself is set on a detailed map, save for the castles, cities do not appear on the maps. Though not a game changer, it would have been nice to see towns around the castles of each province.
Characteristic of Paradox grand strategy titles, players can control one of many noble clans in existence during the period. For those veterans looking for a real challenge, Sengoku lets players select individuals who may be vassals of a larger clan; this allows players to potentially rebel against a clan in order to form its own faction. Though this may seem like a tempting way to play, it is perhaps one of the most challenging playthroughs in the game, making the replay value very high.
Sengoku includes management of internal clan politics where you can reward other members and vassals with money, titles, and domains for them to rule. Your clan ruler must also gain honor through conquest and diplomatic influence such as marriage into a more powerful clan. However, if your or vassal’s honor falls to zero, either character will have to commit seppuku in order to save the future and reputation of the clan.
Though basic in concept, the honor system plays a big part in the game as it affects foreign and domestic relations as well as the clan’s credibility in trying to expand its influence through the rest of the country. However, the downside is that if players choose to play as clan with lower honor, it may take awhile before you can perform actions as it takes a long time for honor to generate. Despite the snail’s pace of growth in honor, the game tends to provide opportunities for special events and missions to appear, which can improve a daimyo’s standing as well as speed up honor generation.
As you expand your influence through an intricate system of diplomacy including marriage and hostage exchanges, and subversion by hiring ninja mercenaries, players will also need to raise armies throughout the various provinces in order to aid in military conquest. The battles in Sengoku are very rudimentary at best and are fought at the whim of the AI. Though players are not in direct control of battles, it is crucial to pick good leaders and analyze terrain factors of target provinces, which play important roles in wars. This may be a game breaker for casual strategy players looking for a Total War-esque style of game, but in the grand scope of the game, combat is only one piece.
Overall, Sengoku is a very diplomatic and military focused game. Curiously missing elements from the game are some form of naval warfare and transport, technological/scholarly research, and in-depth economic management, which appear in other Paradox strategy games. Without these essential elements, Sengoku feels somewhat incomplete as a traditional Paradox grand strategy game. That being said, Paradox veterans may feel a little unfulfilled. However, this could be a positive for those looking to get into a grand strategy game as there is less to manage and learn from the outset. Though a slow paced game, its ability to eat away countless hours is there thanks to its varying ways of gameplay style and subsequent high replay value.
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Available on: PC
Developed by: Paradox Interactive
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Release date: September 13, 2011
EG Score: 3 out of 5 / “Worth Trying”