|If you were muttering just the other day "I need more ninjas," Takeda 2 is the game for you. |
ESCmag took an early glimpse of this interesting turn-based RTS and found it to be highly playable. The game centers around 16th century Japan during the Sengoku period, a patchwork of city-states characterized by civil war between rival Samurai lords, all bowing to the Emperor but otherwise free to engage in politics and warfare. Especially warfare. Your job, simply, is to keep fighting until you have no more enemies.
There is no harvesting gold or sending out settlers in this game. You won't be involved with stepping up the technology ladder or building libraries. All that matters is growing in strength, either through shifting alliances, convenient political marriages, or sheer brute strength on the battlefield.
If you don't go looking for trouble, it will find you. There is no "hunkering down" mode, where you continually build up strength while others around you beat each other up. Neighboring warlords continually probe for weakness, and they will gain experience through their encounters that will trump any of your girlie-man, peace-seeking tendencies.
The interface works very well. Rollovers pop up tags to describe buttons, so you won't be lost trying to figure out what buttons to hit. When the palace is placed in "aggressive" mode, your city-state will automatically create new armies when possible. This cuts down on mouse-clicks and keeps things moving toward the real-time 3D battlefield, which is where the game shines.
One drawback that will probably be addressed in the future is the lack of multi-player mode. All you get for an opponent is a very crafty, and unforgiving, AI. New features from Takeda 1 include a "world mode" that lets you enjoy more of the political intrigue of the times. Political marriages can strengthen ties with far-flung cities, and you can send out ninjas to sabotage adversaries. In fact, the more ninjas the better.
I found myself hoping there would be some kind of tutorial or "easy" mode added to the finished product, because once I started trying my luck on the battlefield, I got crushed. All of my first few games ended in disaster, with my forces destroyed.
Still, practice makes perfect, and the manual is helpful. The historical accuracy of the game is particularly evident in the battlefield scenarios. Your first decisions center on picking a formation and choosing your generals for active, reserve, or headquarters designation. Divisions are denoted as Ashigaru (spearmen), Kishi (cavalry), Samurai (swordsmen) Yumi (archers) and Teppo (riflemen, which come later in the game). You then set up detachments, which are basically splinter groups for special missions such as flanking, delaying opponent strikes, or rushing the enemy headquarters.
Once your forces are deployed, you start the battle. You can adjust the camera angle, issue orders to the entire army or individual divisions, move or stop the army's advance, retreat, or beat the morale drum for a momentary boost in effectiveness. What you can't do is stop issuing commands.
Division orders include changing formations, charging, regrouping, attacking, standing your ground, retreating, etc. You have a wide variety of options available, and you may need them all.
Formations are particularly intriguing. Wedge-type formations offer the chance to pierce an enemy's lines, while tightly-packed formations are good for defensive action. Large U-shaped formations let you suck an enemy advance into your center, where you can surround it. You can even lure the enemy through holes in your formation.
As the well-written manual attests, all's fair in war. The use of strike detachments and reserves can allow you to sneak around and flank an enemy. Once the opponent's headquarters is taken, depicted by flags, morale plummets and your enemy will resign. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to placing your seasoned generals on the flank and rushing the opponent's flags, no matter if your gates are in flames and the enemy has entered your palace. Knock those flags down and you win, pure and simple.
The old rock-paper-scissors approach to battlefield tactics comes into play. Cavalry can wipe out swordsmen and archers, but spearmen can stop a cavalry charge. Swordsmen can beat all other infantry from up close, but archers can severely weaken swordsmen if allowed to pincushion them from afar. If you can ever build a division of Teppo (riflemen) you have a huge advantage if you go up against anything but opposing Teppo.
Where Takeda 2 shines is in its focus – the game is all about battlefield tactics. Sure, there's some political infighting and world domination tossed in, but all it really does is add spice to the fights. As you battle and win, your rating improves, and your troops reward you with better skills. Your generals have idiosyncrasies and add additional intricacy to your quest for domination, so you have to keep them happy. But in the end, it's all about the fighting, and how well you control your troops. So in this case, focus is a very good thing.
Everything else works well for Takeda 2. The opening video, the sound track and theme music, and the screen text all maintain internal consistency and provide a feel for Japanese history. Young men come of age and volunteer their services; old men pass away. There is a nice balance to the passage of time, without the constant mad-cap clicking of some games. Battle scenes, with hundreds of individual units shooting arrows and dashing about, have a good feel, and you can record your battle and review it. Now if I could just keep track of my ninjas...