Review: Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
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Title: Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (5.3 GB)
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Tecmo KOEI America
Developer: KOEI Tecmo Games
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €59.99 (EU), £54.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I played a previous iteration of this series some time ago and must admit, this one is very similar. So aside from the Ascension moniker have the changes been enough to deserve an entirely new game and not just a patch or some DLC? I am not going to delve into all the old stuff again, and will focus on the new components in this review.

Gameplay:
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is still a profoundly deep empire building simulation and invigorating war game that allows a large amount of historical recreation unless you break from the missions and go your own way. Sadly, the pace remains achingly slow if you are unfamiliar with what to do.

With new features allowing for even more intricate play and subtle changes to such minor details as working as retainers, castle lords, daimyō, and the officers to create and manage castles, cities, and the lands surrounding them with even more freedom than before.

Tutorial information pops up as you play, so the inquisitive newbie gamer should experiment with all the options over a few sessions with the game and let the large amount of text slowly sink in. I still worry that the sheer scale of options and management choices will overwhelm many people.

You can now take control of an officer even during battles. This means you are very close to the action and able to control the fight with even more precision. Siege and naval battles are new to this version too and while I struggled through my early attempts at these interesting styles of warfare, I found them quite complex and tense.

Missions can now appear during a battle using a Combat Quest system. This can sway the victory even more now so keep an eye out for those. The developers at Koei also added the Siege of Ōsaka, which I believe will make fans of this series very happy. I did not get around to playing it as this game is huge.

… you can just watch the historical story unfold …
Having started another game, because I forgot to save an earlier one, I had a go at ignoring everything apart from the battles, just to see how I would get on. Not too bad as it turns out. I did opt for the easiest settings and picked as many of the simpler sieges and battles during the first part of my reign of terror.

You can avoid getting your digital hands dirty and let the computer fight all the battles but most of the fun I gleaned from this game was in the epic skirmishes. Part of me wants a game with just those gameplay mechanics and different armies from across the world.

You can even set it so you can just watch the historical story unfold and sit back without needing to do anything. There are so many options for setting up a game that it’s really quite impressive and somewhat daunting for the casual gamer.

Visuals:
This is not the kind of game that shows off the power of the PlayStation 4 for the majority of the experience. Until, that is, you dive into a battle and witness the massive scale of thousands of people at war. Admittedly, each solider is very nondescript and it can get a little messy when the camera is up close and personal.

… The amount of options and choices the game affords is remarkable …
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 sounds good, but aside from that the usual audio track is enough to send me off to sleep.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension has a stupidly long name but is still a good game for those of you who like an intricate historical simulation and like to tweak every last little thing. The amount of options and choices the game affords is remarkable and I would not be surprised to see some gamers search for help on the internet as there is an awful lot to take in.

Are there enough new things to deserve an entirely new iteration? Probably not, for me at least. Fans of the series will still lap this up but I expect a bit more bang for my buck, though maybe I’m just greedy.

Score:

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

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