Skulls of the Shogun Review
Are you a huge turn based strategy fan but unfortunately you don’t have that many hours to spend on a game? Or maybe you are a player who never tried this genre but you want to find a game to ease you into it? Then keep on reading, because developers 17-BIT might have the answer to those questions with Skulls of the Shogun.
Skulls of the Shogun is an indie turn based strategy game that has as its setting the samurai afterlife. In it, you take the role of general Akamoto who, after his assassination on the battlefield, reaches the gates of afterlife. There, he faces a few problems : He needs to wait in line to be judged in order to gain entrance into the first season of the afterlife. The problem here is that the line has an approximate wait time of 512 years and that won’t do.
The second problem is that another character has stolen his identity and goes around posing like he’s Akamoto. Not only that, he also sends troops after our beloved samurai. A general won’t accept this though, so he fights his way out of the waiting line, he gathers loyal soldiers by his side and moves to conquer the afterlife.
In the game you control four main units. Your infantry will be your protective forces, they have high defense and as a result can sustain a good amount of damage. Cavalry are your long distance runners, they can move greatly, hit and then run back to cover. The archers are your damage dealers but they have the least amount of defense. Position them in places that provide cover and snipe enemies from there. Finally, you have general Akamoto, or Mr. Moustache as he is lovingly called by his fans. He is your most important unit because, if he dies, then it’s game over. On the other hand, he is pretty powerful, hitting twice and doing good damage, so you should utilize him as carefully and as best as you can in your strategic plans.
There are also a couple of pretty important mechanics in the game that can turn the tide of a battle. When an enemy loses his health points he dies for a second time, leaving his skull on the ground. If one of your units moves there and eats the skull, they gain more health points. If the same unit eats three skulls, then they become a demon with double the actions and more damage. Then, there’s the spirit wall. When you move two or more units close to each other, they form a protective spirit wall that prevents enemies from passing through.
Say for example that you have a few enemy skulls on the ground and you want to bring your general to eat them. You can position your infantry units in such a way that they form a spirit wall, put your archers behind them, also part of the wall and you have a beast of a defense. It can sustain damage from the enemies, your archers can snipe single units thinning the enemy line and you have plenty of time to eat the skulls and become an unstoppable force.
There are other mechanics in the game, like the ability to haunt shrines in order to summon monks. They can only heal your units and sometimes add some buffs, but they cannot attack. You can also haunt rice farms and gather rice every turn. When you have enough, you can summon a unit of your choosing to take part in the battle. Also, at later maps you can find some enhancing potions on the ground that can raise your movement or attack. Pretty interesting additions that can spice up the gameplay.
Skulls of the Shogun can be played both with keyboard-mouse configuration and gamepad. Both work great, so use whatever you prefer. The problem I faced at first was in the actual movement of the units when I clicked on the map with the mouse. It seems that clicking doesn’t do that great of a job of recognizing the exact unit I want to use. That may be because there aren’t any hexagons or squares that separate units and items on the ground. The movement is free and many times, because of the spirit wall mechanic, you will have many units very close to each other, resulting in missclicks and doing wrong actions. The solution I found was to use W,S,A,D to use through my units and also move them on the map and just use the mouse to carefully attack.
What I found very enjoyable in Skulls of the Shogun was the witty and humorous dialogue and banter between characters. While general Akamoto actually tries to act like a general, with all seriousness and firmness a figure of his stature should have, all the other characters make fun of each other. The way they talk is more deserving to teenagers that live in the 2010s than actual samurai of medieval Japan. I believe that this contradiction of eras, the ancient samurai setting and the modern day banter works beautifully combined together. And the smart writing helps.
In my opinion, Skulls of the Shogun is a nice introduction to turn based strategy games. It has the right amount of units to keep things interesting and strategies flowing, and also it doesn’t become overwhelming. Each map doesn’t last long, which is a big deal if you don’t have much time in your hands, but it’s not that easy either, especially at later stages of the game. Its visual style is nice and the music has that eastern melodic feel, even though it became monotonous after a while for me.
You can buy Skulls of the Shogun on Steam for the price of 9,99€.
If you are looking for a turn based strategy that can be both casual fun and also offer you a challenge, then definitely check Skulls of the Shogun. Its mechanics offer many strategy options for fans of the genre and they don’t become overwhelming for new players. Choosing units with the mouse might be a bit problematic at first but you can work around that. Finally, the humorous dialogue and banter between characters makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.
+Equally deep and casual gameplay
+Mechanics that offer many strategic options
+The dialogue and banter between characters
–Choosing units with a mouse can be problematic
Score : 7,6/10
~Dimitris “Dimi Kaye” Kalyvas