Reviews Skulls of the Shogun

Published on February 8th, 2013 | by Ben Gray


Review: Skulls of the Shogun

Review: Skulls of the Shogun Ben Gray

Summary: Featuring stripped-down RTS mechanics and cross-platform play between Windows devices, Skulls of the Shogun initially offers an interesting premise. But can it deliver?


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The complexity of the strategy involved with real-time strategy games is often off-putting for newcomers, overwhelmed regularly by experienced players who’ve had their fair share of practice, and there’s no hope for improvement. What Skulls of the Shogun provides, is a good restarting point, simplifying the genre and introducing new mechanics that make sense from the onset, and whilst still challenging, you’ll stand a much better chance of not just succeeding, but enjoying yourself. It brings me back to why I enjoy some games; because they’re fun. Immediately, this bite-sized RTS conveys well-written humour that distracts you momentarily from the serious consideration of tactics and possibilities, giving you breaks in the action to laugh for once, instead of being silently glued to the screen in high anticipation.  Skulls of the Shogun is in no rush; you are not pressured into making your move under a timer, and one of the multiplayer options even allows you to send turns between each other (think Words with Friends), which is a brilliant addition for folks who aren’t always available for hour-long sessions. That said, Shogun does also cater to the hardcore; whilst slowly introducing you to the game’s mechanics, it considerably ramps up the challenge to match – take for instance a level in the second section of the game, where after a few moves, a wave of enemies begins to tail your troops – and that’s excluding the threat you must quickly eliminate ahead. Skulls of the Shogun Whilst Shogun has all the essentials for your typical strategy game; different units with different abilities, turn-based gameplay and so on, it introduces new mechanics in simplistic yet interesting ways. Bunching units together creates spirit walls that prevent knockback, perfect for when near cliffs to avoid an instant demise; eating the skulls of fallen enemies – whilst gross, it enables your units to regain health and upgrade to demons in the process; and potions scattered in bushes around the battlefield that in some scenarios can mean the difference between a win or a loss. The accessibility and introduction of new concepts to the game is smooth and gradual, and is inviting for newcomers like myself who would normally lose all hope after failing the first level an umpteenth amount of tries. Content-wise, there is plenty to enjoy here; a solo campaign with five major sections, each with four or so levels within, spanning across various environments beautifully realised in the game’s cartoonish art style. Matching its witty writing, it provides the perfect backdrop to a strategy game that reinforces the saying “’less is more”, at least where gameplay is concerned. Alongside the campaign are several multiplayer modes; the turn-sending mode I mentioned earlier, which is a fantastic concept, but seems to be the only mode to utilize the oft-advertised cross platform functionality of Shogun (even then it’s only between Windows platforms). Local and online multiplayer feature and function as you’d expect, but I would have liked to have seen as much innovation in the multiplayer aspect as there is the singleplayer. Skulls of the Shogun For 1200MSP, Skulls of the Shogun does deliver and is worth playing alone for their take on the RTS genre that will pleasantly surprise some. Catering to all parties, I’d even go as far as to say that it’s one of, if not THE best, RTS game on XBLA. Minor hiccups such as a difficulty spike and half-hearted multiplayer are quibbling, but ultimately do little to ruin a humorous, enjoyable game. Let’s just hope that cross-platform play becomes more than just a one-off.

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