If you go into Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence thinking that it’s just another strategy role-playing game like the massively popular Civilization franchise, you may be in for just a little more than you bargained for.
Do not mistake this as the game not being any good, but that it expands on the traditional norms and systems of the genre in ways that may not be suited to everyone, and this is coming from a genre that already has a niche following to begin with. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is a very complicated and hard game, but only if you let it be.
The fourteenth title in the Nobunaga’s Ambition series, this game takes place during the military-heavy Sengoku period of Japanese history, in which you take on the role of one of the Daimyos of a number of clans spread across the country. From here you have one simple goal; to unite the whole nation under one banner. Yours.
And while combat plays a very important role in achieving this goal, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is as much about the micro-managing that goes into winning a war as it is about the fighting itself. The game demands that you use your brain, and as such requires that you keep track of everything from food production, to utilities, to diplomacy and much much more.
When you aren’t managing everything there is to do in each individual town under your control, you’re either constructing or reinforcing infrastructure or just flat out attempting to establish diplomatic relations with other clans. And all of these are not just optional objectives that you can choose to tackle either, they are a necessity. Just like in real war, you need allies and resources, and proper dedication to these small minute details can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The same level of complexity also extends to the Japanese nobility, with a number of officers assigned to your command at any given time. These officers are the ones who rule your conquered lands, oversee your projects and lead your armies. You have to keep them satisfied or risk losing them to rival clans, just in the same way you can get the officers of your rivals to defect to your cause. The game wants you to see them as more than just pawns that you can send to die for your cause, and as such, utilizes a system that makes them seem more human than most other characters in similar games.
But as you grow in power, so do those who oppose you. And if you do not keep all your enemies and allies in check, over time they may form alliances, or even pool up their forces into a mighty coalition with the sole objective of halting the spread of your influence. It is at the same time daunting and empowering when these things happen, as it truly allows you to understand how big of a threat you are perceived to be in the eyes of your enemies.
It is also here that Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence really shines though. Not just because this dynamism in the gameplay showcases some very clever and intelligent responses by the game’s AI, but because this is how you would expect real life scenarios to play out as well.
And while combat might not be Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence’s greatest strength, it certainly gets the job done. Battles can either take place automatically, or the player can assume direct control of their armies in a fashion similar to that of the Total War series, but much less complex.
Each of your commanders has their own specific set of abilities that provide buffs to your units such as increased attack and defense, and while these alone do not make much of a difference when a fight breaks out, they absolutely help when a battle is fought on equal grounds. And bear in mind not to casually dismiss manually overseeing and controlling these battles in favor of the much quicker automatic system, as proper tactics can help greatly in dominating a much larger army.
Political marriages, assassinations and drama, its all there in Nobunaga’s Ambition Sphere of Influence. And while they may sometimes distract from the greater picture with their accompanied narratives, they truly help make the game much more enjoyable and unique.
This isn’t a game for thrill seekers and your APM may not mean a lot for you here, but Nobunaga’s Ambition Sphere of Influence is an experience that every strategy fan should go through at least once.
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC. It was developed and published by Koei Tecmo Games. This review covers the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence Review (PS4)
Game title: Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is the fourteenth title in the Nobunaga's Ambition series of grand strategy simulation games.
If you are a fan of large scale strategy games with a unique twist, then you owe it to yourself to try Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence.