Review: Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Raven Wilk, posted Sep 11, 2015, last updated Sep 23, 2015
The fourteenth main entry and originally the 30th anniversary title in Japan. The series is probably most recognized specifically for its spin-off games: Pokemon Conquest, or Samurai Warriors.
Sep 11, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): September 1, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): September 4, 2015
  • Release Date (JP): February 22, 2014
  • Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games
  • Developer: Koei Tecmo Games
  • Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: Computer, PlayStation 3
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Conquest through influence, will you be able to unify Japan in Koei Tecmo’s latest entry in their series of Japanese historical strategy?
Raven Wilk
A Sphere of Influence - Intro

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is Koei Tecmo’s latest offering of their Nobunaga’s Ambition main series, a historical turn-based strategy game set in Japan and based around the era of Oda Nobunaga.

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A Tale of Nobunaga the Fool - Story

Excluding the tutorial scenario, the story is conveyed through major historical events between the years 1534 and 1700, and delivers it with subtlety; mostly comprising of minor exchanges at major events.
Main Daimyos (excluding the one you control, which will effectively be rendered immortal) of opposing clans dying to historical dates for example.
As well as that, you are given optional objectives to follow historical events, and while these reward you, it is possible to opt out of these objectives completely.

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The struggle for power - Gameplay

Nobunaga’s ambition: SoI features 11 scenarios in total, two of which are fictional. (excluding DLC, which add a scenario each). All apart from the first, which acts as a tutorial, can be played through as any of that time period’s available clans.
While this may make it seem scarce in content at first glance, each scenario is lengthy and will take a great deal of time to finish (you can save progress at any time), as the means to finish a scenario is to unify the entirety of Japan. This may be done either through force, diplomacy, or both.
Pacing is initially slow, but gradually escalates as you gain enough resources to slowly take over other clan’s castles, forge alliances with other clans, gain officers, and improve their abilities.
The downside to this is that for every castle you take over, micromanaging monthly council meetings start to drag on, at which it becomes more advantageous to delegate work to castle overseers. This lets the AI make decisions for the areas you select to delegate decisions to.

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Daimyo life - Gameplay Specifics

Most of the strategy will be derived from the turn based portion of the game, after which the game will switch to real time.
Council meetings start at each month and are used to manage the following: castle’s production, build/maintain castles, foreign affairs, appease tribes, and managing officers.

The expansion of each castle relies on three resources, crops, crafts, conscripts.
Crops limit the mobilization of your troops, crafts limit your expenditure, which can be spent on various upgrades, as well as supplies from merchants, like horses and guns, and conscription increases the deployable troop count in each of the castles.

Policies switch the game up, each policy has a perk and a drawback; for example, increasing the ability to recruit captured officers at the cost of lower trust in your officers. Or to make it easier to influence distant clans, at the cost of decreasing your influence with ones that surround your border.

Crafting options allow you to add new facilities in a castle district, (which increase maximum resources) upgrade a castle to increase defenses, repair damage, create new districts and new castles. As well as this, one is able to reinforce roads and create outposts. Surveying a castle’s land shows if an area has any natural resources, and these act as a bonus to districts.

Foreign affairs allow for you to form alliances with other clans, whether for assistance in battles with or without forming a coalition, or to unify clans through marriage. It also allows you to conduct diplomacy and negotiations in the imperial court, after appeasing the court. you can have an officer gain increased stats along with new titles.
Appeasing tribes will make you join them in battles, appease them enough and you can assimilate them into your forces.

Finally, one may conspire with discontent enemy clan’s officers to sabotage battles or even have them join you. Just the same, this can be done to your officers if they grow discontent, so it’s important to make sure your officers are satisfied by rewarding them with treasures you purchase from merchants or by arranging a marriage.
Occasionally, a rōnin or two may appear in the land, and you will also be able to hire them as officers.
Officers are important as all the above actions require an officer to overlook the activity. They essentially act as the main limiting factor, along with finances, for what you are capable of doing within a turn.

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Once one decides to proceed, time begins to flow for a month of in-game time which you can control by either pausing it, which is useful for issuing commands, or use one of the three speed settings
Here you mostly deploy and command troops. If your and your enemy’s troops meet in place they will automatically start fighting, selecting your troops will allow them to go into a battle area where time is greatly slowed down.
Here you position your troops in relation to your opponent, and you acquire two means of attacking.
Ranged bow and arrow attacks are the less damaging of the two, but has the least casualties. Melee is more damaging but both sides suffer significant casualties. Cavalry and muskets being other means of attack act as a special of sorts, and these use a limited resource. The other form of special comes in the form of officer's tactics; in battle, a bar will fill up that allows you to use an officer's skills to temporarily increase your troop's stats.

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Of War And Peace - Presentation

Visually, Nobunaga's Ambition: SoI is fairly minimal. At it's best when zoomed in at the maximum level, the more minute details of individual units may be observed, however this is almost never practical to do since this limits your vision of enemy units. As such it is more practical to keep the camera at least at mid zoom, where you are able to observe troop movement at the price of visual detail.
When using remote play with a PlayStation Vita, the default UI scale is almost unreadable, however, the UI can be changed to fit the whole screen in the settings which is a welcome feature.
The music is beautiful and there is the option to customize what song plays for a clan’s strategy and battle music.
One can also change the dub between Japanese and English, however the voice acting is usually limited to a few words and is otherwise infrequent except for in cut-scenes.

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Supplies - Noteworthy content

As well as being able to play nearly all of the scenarios as any of the time period’s available clans, you can also customize their starting positions and even have them create their own clan using custom officers, of which they have the potential to make up to 1000.
Additionally, it’s possible to change the 1881 in-game historical officers personality and tactics. Other settings allow you to change 271 of those officer’s portraits to cats, and the ability to change 22 of those historical officers to the portraits used in the 2008 Japanese only DS title “Saihai no Yukue”, however those three settings are mutually exclusive.

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Unification - Summary

Nobunaga’s Ambition: SoI is a game where everything but gameplay takes a back seat. That said, aesthetics are somewhat simplistic, story is subtle, and music suits the game’s mood sublimely.
+ Solid gameplay
+ High replayability
+ Customizability
- Frame drops when there are too many castles on screen
6 Presentation
Simplistic, but functional graphics. A beautiful sound track
8 Gameplay
Mechanically solid. Seems deceptively simple at first glance however there's a lot here if you mean to scratch below the surface.
9 Lasting Appeal
Abundant customization options, long lasting scenarios, can be played through multiple clans. Has the makings of potentially one dangerous time sink.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is mechanically, a skillfully crafted game, reciprocating an equal amount of depth as one invests.


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