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Platforms: PC| PS4| Developer: Koei Tecmo Games Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Release: June 05, 2018

Being such a long running series, Nobunaga’s Ambition, as well as its Chinese based sister series, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, has been one of the workhorse franchises for Koei Tecmo. Deep and engaging, folks who pick up one of these titles can expect a title focused solely on wiling away the hours simultaneously stressed and relaxed. The titles majestically tap that “just one more turn” addictive cycle that chews free time the way Jack Nicholson chews the scenery in The Departed. They are truly magical. They also have a tendency to be inconceivably inscrutable, mired in the muck of menus upon menus to accomplish the most basic of tasks or gather needed information. The latest release, Nobunaga’s Amibition: Taishi, seeks to address these concerns, as well as introduce new mechanics to keep the simulation of the true history this title represents intact. The end result is that of one step forward and one step back due to the removal of elements present in the last title.

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Taking place in the Sengoku period of Japan, the title invites the player to choose one of many different scenarios, selecting a real life daimyo from the period, running a clan, and hopefully, uniting Japan under one leadership. As a title, it’s so steeped in the minutiae of the period that it could serve as a companion to a college level course about feudal Japan. The player must engage in diplomacy, subterfuge, trading and judicious use of force in order to succeed by outwitting or befriending all other competing daimyos in order to thrive and conquer. Imagine Firaxis’ Civilization games with a more focused bent.

The primary improvement that Taishi brings to the table over previous iterations comes in the form of accessibility. The last title in the series, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension, was a dense brick of a game with a confusing menu structure and an opaque veil over the moving parts.

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Yes, it did have a tutorial system in place, but it was subpar and managed to only add to the confusion. It was to the point that learning to play the game properly was a challenge in and of itself. Taishi sidesteps this issue. It also features a tutorial system. This time, though, the instructions explain what the functions do clearly and with detail. This goes a long way to easing the player into the process of farming and beating those plowshares into swords when needed (that’s how the colloquialism goes, right?)


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Closing Comments:

With the fifteenth entry in the Nobunaga’s Ambition series, Koei Tecmo could have taken the easy route of piling more things on to please long time fans while leaving the uninitiated in the cold. Instead, they took the strategy of reworking the entire user interface and tutorial to let the newbies have some fun, which works extremely well. Anyone who has been intimidated by the series but has always wanted to check it out has an excellent place to start. It’s harder to recommend to long time series fans, though. Items that have made their way into the games have been excised again, making this feel less like the ultimate culmination of the series, but another reboot that’ll be built out in subsequent iterations. The new features, particularly the Resolve system, are cool, but the title still manages to feel incomplete. For those elite, it’s best to wait until the next version.