When I first got called up for Sengoku, I honestly had no idea what I was in for, the only thing I did know, was that it was from Paradox, and after my last Paradox title King Arthur, I had a feeling I was in for some more hardcore strategy, and I definitely wasn’t wrong in my assumption!
Sengoku, from the moment you start the game, screams hardcore strat. The whole make-up, the whole feel, its been built in every way to be a strategists dream.
If you’ve ever had the desire to manage and conquer Japan in its Samurai era, this is your calling.
“The year is 1467 and civil war has broken out. The authority of the Ashikaga Shoguns has collapsed and it is every man for himself in the provinces. Honor and duty vie with survival in the delicate dance of power, conquest and betrayal as you attempt to unite the land of the Rising Sun through a combination of deal-making with foreign powers, sending your powerful samurai armies into battle against your enemies, and unleashing shadowy Ninja clans under the cover of darkness to assassinate your rivals! “
Sengoku takes place on a scale map of Japan, with the various filters and options you have come to expect from any strategy title. The interface is nothing intuitive, but its effective, and the whole experience all runs very smoothly even on minimal specification pc's. On a system of 4-5 years old there was no issue running at full settings, and the map itself is very well rendered, units and flags etc are nicely drawn and animated, all flowing in real time when you allow it, and halting when paused if the action gets a little to intense for you. The map is a complete 3d representation, and you can manipulate and zoom to any detail you wish, it serves its purpose well and feels surprisingly modern for a game so hardcore and oldskool in most aspects.
The first thing I did find daunting, there is no tutorial. While a lot of aspects are quite generic to those familiar with similar titles, and previous Paradox games, those that are newer to the genre or checking out their first strategy title, may find things a little rough. Sengoku certainly doesn’t hold your hand, which im sure the more hardcore are now cheering about, but it makes the learning curve quite steep. Whether that’s a pro or a con ill leave down to your play-style and mentality, everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this, personally I welcome it but I do see both sides to it.
After spending around 20-30 minutes, reading the various hints from the quite detailed hint system, and clicking every button in my exploration, I felt very at home in Sengoku, almost as if id played it for weeks already, so they’ve certainly got something right in the feel of the game.
Some parts, Army management in particular for me, do feel a little clunky, but I put that more down to my lack of experience with more hardcore titles than a design issue, and im sure it will again be down to personal taste and opinion.
Gameplay itself is a surprising balance of both fast and slow qualities. While zoomed out watching the overview of Japan, what seems like a quiet day, is infact a whirlwind of battles and sieges, and you can literally watch the mailbox fill up per second with reports from your various territories as battles go under-way and require assistance and guidance. You will have no shortage of things to do in Sengoku, ever, that I can guarantee. There are no moments of twiddling your thumbs waiting for that next thing to tick in, Sengoku is brutal and intense and you will have to keep your wits about you.
The underlying systems, upgrades, personnel, army management, all the usual you would expect are quite straight forward and well done with the theme of the game. Appointing your heirs, the hiring of Ninja clans for extra support, the external diplomatic relations you can form, and your constant effort to become shogun, really put you in the middle of feudal Japan in all its glory. Even down to the use of your children, marital diplomacies, improving relations with other clans, there’s no aspect of society that isn’t covered. Sengoku is in every aspect a wonderful simulation of its time, and a historic marvel for strategists.
I always feel like im doing something wrong when I can write a review and not have anything bad to say, but in Sengoku, aside from the lack of tutorial, and the couple of personal interface distastes, there was nothing that actually took away from the gameplay, nothing that bothered me enough to even remember without sitting here and pulling it apart, and that to me, is a successful experience and something Paradox should be happy with and proud of.
I’ve said it a few times, but ill stress, Sengoku isn’t for the faint hearted, and if you’re not looking for a hardcore strategy title then it wont be your cup of tea. The entire focus is strategy, management, and diplomacy, and you’re almost playing on a gameboard for its entirety, albeit a rather pretty one.
Sengoku is an impressive title, if you’re a fan of hardcore strategy, you will not be disappointed, and id certainly recommend it anyone looking for more of a strategic management experience at a deep and rewarding level.
Hardcore Strategy all the way through
Very well rendered yet highly accessible by all
Deep immersion factor through intricate systems
Lack of tutorial may scare less experienced users
Easy to get sucked in, time consuming