Review: Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence (PS4/PS3)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3 (Digital only)

Extras:

  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (PS4 4.5 GB) (PS3 6.3 GB)
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Tecmo KOEI America
Developer: KOEI
Original MSRP (PS4): $59.99 (US), €59.99 (EU), £49.99 (UK)
Original MSRP (PS3): $49.99 (US), €49.99 (EU), £39.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence aims to be a historical simulation, but can that be any fun for many gamers? I sit down with both PlayStation console versions to find out.

Gameplay:
I thought it best to jump straight into the tutorial and I’m very glad that I did as there are so many menus, choices, and commands it still feels overwhelming, even after playing for a couple of hours. Throughout the long tutorial even my own tutor kept trying to perform seppuku, not because of my decisions I should point out. I ordered for an Inn to be built-in a suitable district, formed an allegiance with a nearby town, and enticed an eight-year-old child to join our clan with candy, I kid you not.

Thankfully my tutor didn’t disembowel himself and I finally got to deploy my army. The options in this section alone are daunting as you can choose the officers, amount of soldiers, whether to bring horses or guns, and more. Thankfully it kept most options grayed out just like in previous parts of the tutorial so you don’t end up getting lost in the maze of menus.

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When a battle begins the units appear as what can only be described as a T-shaped tetromino. Clicking on a unit allows you to order their line of movement and even attempt to flank the enemy. You can zoom in to turn the basic shapes into actual troops and watch them enact your orders. Changing and adapting your strategy on the fly is essential when facing a larger enemy force. Alternatively you can just sit back and let the A.I. do their own thing which might not always work out as well. Each lord can learn abilities which can then be taught to others and used in battle. These increase the strategy and usefulness, plus knowing when to perform these moves can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Almost every single scenario you can play in the game is based on historical information and the many quests you can also undertake were things that actually happened. Failing these doesn’t mean game over, but instead changes how the rest is played out. This is where many people will become overwhelmed as you can do so much and everything has consequences, many of which are small but still can turn the tide in a fierce standoff or sour a long-standing relationship with a neighbour.

You can hire rōnin that are passing through your land and appoint them as castle lords or put them to work whilst giving them gifts to increase their loyalty in the hope that they don’t defect later on. Enticing disloyal samurai from other castles can prove very advantageous, especially when you attack that very same castle and these troops allow you to stroll on by, or in my case, wait till my back was turned and attack. Luckily I had a few thousand troops just behind who took a matter of seconds to wipe them out.

… a massively addictive game …
You can easily become lost in the minutia of day-to-day jobs – increasing conscripts, crafts or agriculture, improving a castle’s defences, arranging a marriage, the list is almost endless. I found myself spending an awful lot of time just managing my towns and castles and forgetting to send out my armies and engaging in huge game changing wars that caused ripples across the entire nation.

I feel that KOEI, the developers of Nobunaga’s Ambition have intrinsically woven and crafted a deep empire building simulation and invigorating war game into one very deep and profound historical recreation. Sadly its pace is achingly slow in the first hours of the game and might put off some players. Those that stick around will be consumed by a massively addictive game.

Differences with the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions are minuscule with the DualShock 4 touchpad control of sliding around the map and selecting menu options being the only thing noticeable, unless of course you count the graphics. Both versions are near identical and so deciding which one I preferred was a tough choice but seeing as my PS3 will eventually be boxed away I would have to go for the PS4 game, even if the price is slightly higher.

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Visuals:
Playing on the PlayStation 3 is great. You can zoom in and out of the massive map and engage in huge battles just like the PlayStation 4 version with only cleaner textures and sharper edges not making an appearance on the older machine. I just want to reiterate that the battles are immense and epic in scale. When you get up close, the scenes of battle are an awesome spectacle to behold and it feels very personal and satisfying when they win as you worked long and hard to shape and mould every moment up to that point.

… a gigantic triumph of the simulation genre …
The graphics on either version are still nothing to write home about and I feel the PlayStation 4 version has been held back which is a shame. Being able to move about the landscape quickly and without fuss is very welcome and the large battles are nice to look at when you zoom up close.

Audio:
There really isn’t much to write about for this department, there is some speech and music but it all takes a back seat to the simulation. When you engage in battle the music does step up a gear and it sounds good but aside from that the usual audio track is enough to send me off to dreamland.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence has the insane task of trying to quickly teach newbies one of the deepest and intricate simulations I have ever played. It has a long and daunting tutorial that does an admirable job of teaching you the basics but it might lose a few gamers along the way.

Those that stick around and the fans of this very particular game will find a gigantic triumph of the simulation genre with so much control that after playing for a week I still have more to discover. The attention to historical fact is another marvel which makes this game even better. For those that just want to re-enact famous battles all day long might need to look elsewhere as you have to work long and hard for those.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • JustJohn

    Great review Chazz,

    Been a fan of these games since the NES days.

    Still haven’t bought a PS4 yet, and the backlog is filling up. Will add this game to the list.
    When I was playing them on the NES, I would use pencil and paper so I could write down and keep track of my Generals.

    In the meantime I’m still going through the 96 episodes of Romancing the Three Kingdoms on youtube.

    • ChazzH69

      Thanks, I hope you enjoy it when you eventually get a PS4. I’m about to review another game that you might like so stay tuned to PS Nation to find out more.

      • JustJohn

        Now that I herd the latest podcast and the PS3 version is digital only that will definitely be a PS 4 game.

        I will stay tuned Chazz.

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