GamingReview: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun - Aiko’s...

Review: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice

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Save-Scumming (Verb, Informal) – The act of saving a video game after every small amount of progress so any mistakes can be undone with minimal lost progress. An act often deplored by the gaming community due to a perception of removing consequence and difficulty from the game in question.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is two things. Firstly it’s the worst named video game I’ve ever seen – it has a title, a subtitle and a sub-subtitle. If you have a sufficient lifespan to type out the title into google and then still have the energy to read a description of the game, it’s hard to see where the title stops and the description begins. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out this is all still part of the title. And this. The other thing that ST:BotS-AC is (yes, that’s what I’m calling it from now on, this review needs to have a statistically significant portion that isn’t the name of the game) is my proposal for the new dictionary definition of save-scumming for when that phrase is added to the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, something I’m sure they’re working on as we speak.

In ST:BotS-AC you play as Aiko and 4 of her shogun friends. Each of the shoguns has a unique set of skills that make them suited to a type of approach to a situation, be it stealth stealth, social stealth or bad stealth. It’s a stealth game if that wasn’t clear. The range of skill sets possessed by the group makes them perfectly matched to work together and complement each other’s abilities. But what sort of situation are they approaching? Lady Chiyo, Aiko’s former master has kidnapped 2 of your number, Yuki and Takuma. It’s up to you to escape the execution she has planned for the remaining members of your party and free your kidnapped friends.

ST:BotS-AC is an isometric real-time strategy game where you control your party of shogun. You generally have the objective of ‘get to this place’ and you need to work out how to do that without alerting any of the enemy guards. Some of your shoguns are better equipped for this than others, for example, Aiko can wear a costume to pass through guards’ cones of vision without alerting them, making getting to a location relatively easy, however, Mugen, the big and slow shogun is as stealthy as Homer Simpson wearing a brass band, meaning getting your whole party to the location is not as simple as it first appears. This is a genius move as it means you’ll need to use your stealthier shogun to clear a path for the less stealthy members of the party, really pulling the team together like a well-oiled machine.

To help you with this objective, you have a bunch of skills to assist in distracting and incapacitating guards. Firstly, the slighter members of the team can hop up onto a rooftop at any rappelling point, getting them out of sight from the guards. From up here, they can throw distracting items to pull the guards away from the less stealthy member’s path or simply drop down to do an assassination. As you would expect, all of the guards are looking at each other to some extent, making it a challenging puzzle to determine the right order to take them out or distract them to ensure you don’t alert the group. The game gives you a lovely present to help level the playing field – you can cue up actions to make sure you time them perfectly. Maybe you’ll use two of your shogun to take out two guards who are looking at each other at exactly the same time. This makes you feel like a stealth god and the whole adventure feel like a well-choreographed dance.

Obviously, when you’re choreographing a dance on the fly, things will go wrong. This is where the save scumming comes in. The game encourages you to save constantly – so much so that there is a counter at the top of the screen that tracks how many seconds it has been since your last save. ST:BotS-AC is one of those games where save-scumming is necessary, as you would have a miserable time going back to the start every time something goes wrong. And things will go wrong: a guard on the other side of the map will catch a glance of the bloody corpse you’ve just made, an assassination might be slightly mistimed so the guard can raise the alarm before they’re silenced by the toll of death’s ominous bell or Mugen might not be as hidden behind that cart as you think he is. Once an alarm has been raised it’s technically possible to switch things up to go loud and beat the level without stealth but this is a LOT harder and absolutely not how the game is supposed to be played. Being able to jump back to a few seconds before you cocked up is a life-saver in this game and something you will do a lot.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is excellent. Gorgeous looking, satisfying as hell and gloriously challenging, ST:BotS-AC will have you channelling the energy of a stealthy shogun in no time. Cueing up your attacks so 5 shoguns jump out of 5 bushes to take out 5 guards at exactly the same time feels so powerful and a 90:10 split of set-up to action makes every action feel weighty, important and gratifying. Being encouraged to save all the time makes the game flow much more smoothly than it could otherwise and removes 99% of any potential frustration. It also feels like the game saying “It’s okay. You can save as much as you want to and you’re still good at stealth. I want you to do it. I give you permission.” ST:BotS-AC should definitely be on your radar if it isn’t already.

SUMMARY

+ A great selection of characters
+ Fantastic stealthy action
+ Simultaneous moves for optimum coolness

(Reviewed on PC (Steam))
Charles Ombler
Hey! I'm Charles. I play games and then I write about them, like some kind of nerd. I can usually be found in my pyjamas with a cup of Earl Grey or over on Twitter: @CharlesOmbler

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