PlayStation 4
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Game Info:

Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence
Developed by: Koei Tecmo
Published by: Koei Tecmo
Release date: September 1, 2015
Available on: PS3, PS4, Windows
Genre: Turn Based Strategy
Number of players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Teen for mild language and violence
Price: $26.94
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us this game to review!

The Nobunaga's Ambition series has been around since 1983 and Nobunaga's Ambition Sphere of Influence was originally released in Japan on its 30th anniversary. It didn’t reach Western shores until late 2015. Many of the clan names I am familiar with by playing the Dynasty Warrior games, but the gameplay is much different in this title and the battles are not as epic. Nobunaga's Ambition Sphere of Influence is a very complex turn based strategy game and I HIGHLY recommend going through the tutorial before diving into the several campaigns available. Even after going through the tutorial I was still fumbling through the complex menu system.

I first played through Sanada Yukimura’s campaign despite the title’s namesake Nobunaga Oda’s being available. The character artwork for the Sanada clan is different than the Dynasty Warrior series. Each campaign takes place in various time periods and have you starting off as different classes. I enjoyed working my way from a lowly retainer to a powerful Daimyo.

In order to get promoted you'll need to earn honor by completing tasks assigned by your Daimyo. Other ways to earn honor include efficiently running your territory and winning battles in your clan's name. With enough honor you may be able to request officers or ownership of castles from your leader.

Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence
Highlights:

Strong Points: In-depth and fun strategy game
Weak Points: Complicated interface takes some adjusting to; limited voice acting
Moral Warnings: War violence and dead bodies are left laying on the ground; mild language (d*mn); references to various religions though Christianity is present

The campaigns can be played at easy, normal, hard or extra hard difficulties. There are many options to configure including the lifespan of the leader. You can choose to be historically accurate and have them die at their appointed year or take some artistic license with their age. Another option is to have maiden generals which was probably not likely back then. Fictional heirs can also be appointed to extend the dynasty’s rule if needed.

If you don’t start off as a Lord or Daimyo, there’s not much you can do between monthly council meetings other than fielding villager requests and talking with nearby leaders who are visiting or ones you chose to visit. At the council meeting, resources permitting, you can build on your territory, research innovations, or barter with the trader if you already researched commerce for your clan.

In order to build on or innovate your land, you’ll need to have enough food, iron, gold, and lumber in your stockpiles. If gold runs low, you can tax your villagers, but your popularity will go down as a result. Lumber can only be harvested by a forest and iron ore can only be mined if there is an iron vein nearby. Gold is earned by having shops and traders in your district. Merchants require a lot of traffic and they have to be placed by roads. Farms require faith and water to flourish. Miners need to unwind and request for theaters to be built nearby.

As you research technology, you’ll unlock new structures that can be built. When you have a tea house in your village, nobles from other clans will drop by and sometimes they will send secret messengers to recruit you to their side. During the council, you can decide on who to pay a visit to. As you build up friendships with other clan members, they may assist you in the construction process or even train your soldiers as a favor. Sometimes they may ask for resources or money as a favor. Besides proposals to join other clans you may even get a marriage offer.

Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 76%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls/Interface - 2/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

As war ravages the country, you’ll get status updates on different clans disintegrating and Daimyos passing away. Sooner or later you’ll be summoned to battle. You can always bounce around clans if things are too peaceful for you.

The battles give you two points of view. You can do a tactical overview, or see the battleground firsthand. I preferred the tactical view since the controls were slightly easier to use, though the graphics were nicer in the battlefield view. Like all wars, there is plenty of violence and dead bodies left behind.

Other than the violence there is some language (d*mn) in the dialogue. The voice acting is very minimal and only used in the council meetings. The background music is good though.

The graphics are a mixed bag in this game. I like the character artwork but the rest of the visuals are a bit bland. This game was originally released on PS3 so that’s probably why. The visuals are leagues better than the NES version however.

In the end, Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is a solid entry into this long running series. The daunting interface is not for the feint of heart though. Once you learn the basics, the rest falls into place and you’ll lose track of time before you know it. The retail price is still at $59.99, but it’s bound to entertain you for quite some time.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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