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Review: Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence

Sep 03 // Kyle MacGregor
Nobunaga's Amibition: Sphere of Influence (PC [reviewed], PS4, PS3)Developer: Koei TecmoPublisher: Koei TecmoRelease Date: September 1, 2015MSRP: $59.99 My journey began by acquainting myself with Sphere of Influence's comprehensive (perhaps a tad too comprehensive) tutorial, before jumping headlong into one of the title's nine historical campaigns. There, players have the opportunity to act as one of Japan's elite families during the country's "warring states" period in the 16th century. Whether you choose to recreate history as the Oda clan or blaze your own trail, the aim remains the same -- to unite the fractured nation. How you get there will require a careful synthesis of conflict, management, and diplomacy, as the path toward bringing dozens of warring territories under a common banner requires a multi-pronged approach. This begins with building up a small province, developing it into a rich, bountiful launching pad that can support a growing empire. The backbone of the realm is the labor force, which is, of course, limited in supply. Daimyos must allocate their workers to projects mindfully, whether that means paving new roads, constructing new buildings, improving fortifications, focusing on trade or food production, the list just goes on and on. Rest assured, manpower is always at a premium. That line of thought extends to the nobility as well as the commoners. With only so many officers to go around to carry out diplomatic missions, govern territories, lead military units, and oversee civic projects; managing the ruling class is of the utmost importance. Individual leaders have varying skills, and knowing how and where to employ them can make a drastic difference in how quickly and effectively a clan enacts the wide swathe of policies these officers must take charge of. [embed]305046:60241:0[/embed] If that sounds incredibly intricate and exacting, well, that's because it is. Despite being a game where the end goal is conquering (or subduing) an entire nation spanning dozens of factions and hundreds of settlements, Nobunaga's Amibition doesn't shy away form minutiae. No task, from appeasing the local hill tribes to planting an orchard or setting up a suggestion box for citizens to voice their concerns, is too small a concern to deal with. And in the aggregate these sorts of seemingly minuscule moves tend to pay dividends when clashing with neighboring daimyo or getting them to join your coalition. It isn't all about raising armies and sending them off to battle. Not that combat isn't a large part of the game, because it most certainly is. After players finish managing their towns, the experience switches from a turn-based affair to a real-time one, where armies will march off to besiege enemy villages or clash with hostile forces on the battlefield. The battles play out automatically (as depicted above), but can be controlled manually, with players taking control of each individual army as a unit on the battlefield. This facet of the experience might seem a little primitive in comparison to some of its genre peers, but it's not entirely without depth. While there isn't much in the way of unit variety, each commander has his or her (no, you needn't marry off all your daughters to forge political alliances) own abilities that buff their troops with improved defense, melee attack, and a myriad of other temporary strategic supplements. Skirmishes aren't always a numbers game, either. I've frequently found myself using guerrilla tactics, surrounding a large battalion with several smaller ones and harassing them from all sides. This negates their numerical superiority, since a block can only attack in one direction at any given time, while forces with smaller, more plentiful detachments possess the ability to be more nimble. Throughout the experience, players are treated to historical vignettes, which not only follow key events pertaining to your chosen faction, but other clans as well. If significant affairs are happening across the country, chances are you'll be given a front row seat. These aren't always assassinations and coups d'état, though, sometimes they're a tad more trivial, pertaining to the romantic lives of clan leaders or the arrival of western missionaries spreading Christianity in certain provinces. There's a lot going in Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence, to be sure, and much of it is done well. After pushing through some initial bewilderment associated with coming to grips with its mess of elaborate systems, I discovered an experience that rewarded the time I put into it in spades. Its pace may be too plodding for some and it certainly seems somewhat backwards or dated in relief with other modern strategy games, but Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence still remains an ornate and absorbing title that kept me engaged for hours on end and surely will continue to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Nobunaga's Ambition photo
Sublime Sengoku-era strategy
My first experience with Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence nearly broke me. I collapsed into a heap over my keyboard, weeping softly, wondering just what I had got myself into this time. Even as a seasoned strategy gam...

Saber Rider photo
Saber Rider

Another indie developer is interested in creating its own amiibo


The Saber Rider dev
Sep 03
// Chris Carter
As we all know by now, Yacht Club Games is getting a Shovel Knight amiibo for use in the Wii U and 3DS editions of the game. But in an unexpected turn, it is responsible for every bit of its release, including manufacturing. ...
Nintendo Download photo
Nintendo Download

Nintendo Download: Gunman Clive HD Collection


Also, Mario Golf 64
Sep 03
// Chris Carter
The Gunman Clive HD Collection is easily the highlight today for the Wii U eShop, and you can get a full look at what to expect here. Also on Wii U is Vs. Excitebike, and Mario Golf 64. That Excitebike rel...
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

This is why you should input a fake birthday in Metal Gear Solid V


Look how happy he is
Sep 03
// Chris Carter
Like a total chump I put in my real birthday date at the start of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, so I won't be seeing this extra for a while. If you did the same, you'll probably want to catch this Easter egg above --...
PAX 2k15 Montage photo
PAX 2k15 Montage

Look at all the fun we had at PAX Prime 2015!


Scoville Returns
Sep 03
// Mike Cosimano
Boy oh boy, we had a blast and a half at PAX Prime 2015. We played some games, saw old friends, and got very sick. Very, very sick. I am dying. Please send a gun with one bullet so I can escape this mucus hell of my own creation. Anyway, that's what's going on with me and I still managed to edit this video for your enjoyment. Keep those hand sanitizer dispensers pumping, friends!
Arkham Knight photo
Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight PC patch pushed early, seems to work


Still not fully live yet
Sep 03
// Chris Carter
You all know the story by now -- the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight launched, and for most people, it straight-up didn't work, or bugged out at the attempt to run it on higher settings. Thankfully WB pulled the game...
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

Spoiler: This final chapter was cut from Metal Gear Solid V


Watch it after you beat the game
Sep 03
// Chris Carter
Evidently, there's an extra chapter to Metal Gear Solid V that was cut from the game. It's not playable in any form, contains incomplete assets, and you can only watch it on the Blu-ray extra that was included with the S...
Mortal Kombat X photo
Mortal Kombat X

It looks like four more characters are coming to Mortal Kombat X


'Who's Next?'
Sep 03
// Chris Carter
Mortal Kombat X might be canceled on PS3 and Xbox 360, but that isn't stopping NetherRealm from developing more DLC! Ed Boon sent out a tweet yesterday indicating that there will be four more characters coming, ominously prom...
Pokemon Championships photo
Pokemon Championships

Pokemon World Championship attempted shooting suspects denied bail


Will stay in jail for four months
Sep 03
// Joe Parlock
Last month, two armed men were arrested for allegedly threatening a mass shooting at the Pokémon World Championship. Now, Kevin Norton (18) and James Stumbo (27) have been denied bail, meaning they will be required to ...
DestrUKtoid photo
DestrUKtoid

DestrUKtoid Episode 18 - Lemon Entry


Torso Troubles
Sep 03
// Laura Kate Dale
The UK, it exists and Destructoid now has writers there. Great British Pounds. Eastenders. Steptoe and Son. The Destructoid UK Podcast (DestrUKtoid). This week UK Editor Laura Dale is joined by Joe Parlock and Vikki Blake to talk way too long about some awards show, then tell some jokes and discuss showering with dad. Have a listen on iTunes or direct download.
Moonrise photo
Moonrise

Undead Labs' early access Moonrise is cancelled


Servers shut down on December 31
Sep 03
// Joe Parlock
Remember Moonrise? It was that almost-Pokémon game from Undead Labs, the developer of State of Decay. It released into early access back in May, promising a tactical new take on the monster-collecting genre. However, i...
Dishonored 2 photo
Dishonored 2

Harvey Smith points out things we'd missed in the Dishonored 2 reveal trailer


Revenge really DOES solve everything!
Sep 03
// Joe Parlock
Every time I remember Dishonored 2 is coming, emotions my normal grumpy demeanor are simply not used to emerge. Emotions I have never felt before like… like… sheer excitement. Playing as Emily Kaldwin being a b...
Sanitarium photo
Sanitarium

Sanitarium is a game that might help treat tuberculosis in the real world


Made by third year Scottish students
Sep 03
// Joe Parlock
Here's another thing to add to the already long list of good deeds gamer have done: they're now helping treat tuberculosis. Sanitarium is a game developed by Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland. The game challenges player...
Assault Android Cactus photo
Assault Android Cactus

Assault Android Cactus leaves early access on September 23


Now for the sequel, Fight Robot Grape
Sep 03
// Joe Parlock
I’ve been keeping track of Assault Android Cactus since 2013. The twin-stick shooter has been in early access all this time, and has evolved into a pretty dang fantastic game throughout the process. Now, developer Witc...
Club Nintendo photo
Club Nintendo

Remember Club Nintendo with this special coin


Earnable in Europe
Sep 03
// Jordan Devore
When I think of commemorative coins, I think of overpriced patriotic junk peddled during TV commercial breaks. Supplies are extremely limited. Call now! This is way better. It's a silver-plated Club Nintendo Goodbye Coin that...
Huge, bulky, cool photo
Huge, bulky, cool

ASUS' liquid-cooled laptop has a huge badonkadonk


Dat ass *bites lip*
Sep 02
// Jed Whitaker
ASUS announced what very well may be the world's first liquid-cooled laptop, the GX700, and it has some junk in its trunk. Currently not much is known about the laptop, as ASUS has only shown pictures of it and not released a...
LawBreakers photo
LawBreakers

Here's a long video showing what LawBreakers really looks like


22 minutes, if you want all of that
Sep 02
// Brett Makedonski
We sat down with Cliff Bleszinski at PAX Prime last week to talk about his studio's new game LawBreakers. We chatted about the gameplay mechanics and the free-to-play model. There's still more to come from that intervie...
amiibo quest photo
amiibo quest

Can this Australian man find every amiibo in one day?


And he didn't even try that hard
Sep 02
// Brett Makedonski
Even though amiibo are becoming less and less rare in the United States, you still can't expect to walk into a store and find most of them on store shelves. That's not the case in Australia. The Land Down Under is somew...
Backward compatibility photo
Backward compatibility

Deus Ex: Human Revolution likely sneaking to Xbox One's backward compatibility


But we might not like the process
Sep 02
// Brett Makedonski
Square Enix and Eidos Montreal are concentrated on the release of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided early next year, but that doesn't preclude it from turning its attention to games of the past. With Microsoft's E3 reveal of Xbox...
Slowpoke song photo
Slowpoke song

The Slowpoke Song has been translated


Sing-along
Sep 02
// Jordan Devore
My 3DS gets so little use that whenever I do dig out the system, I forget that I downloaded that ridiculous Slowpoke theme. It goes "yaa!" whenever you scroll through your games and apps. "Yaa. Yaa. Yayayaya." It's great. Also great? The newly-dubbed Slowpoke Song.
Sonic on Piggy Island photo
Sonic on Piggy Island

Sonic's next adventure takes him to Piggy Island


NOT some messed up erotic fan-fic
Sep 02
// Steven Hansen
Something has happened to Sonic. It's been happening for years. Sonic is a weird porn figure, the subject of countless adolescent Deviantart drawings and erotic fan-fics by kids still figuring themselves out. Also, us, when w...

Tearaway Unfolded faithfully breaks the DualShock 4th wall

Sep 02 // Steven Hansen
Tearaway used fourth-wall breaking about as much as Metal Gear Solid, which still, with the recently released Phantom Pain, has a character tell you to, "use the stance button to stand up." That you are playing a video game is addressed, here through the physicality of the thing. Your own face in the sky, representations of your fingers popping up in the world. Unfolded's entire opening is new. It plays off the home console's position as a living room box, likely hooked up to a television with some kind of cable network. The two voices that narrate the story switch through a fake cable TV guide, hastily bypassing shows called "Rubbish" and flicking through commercials before coming to the conclusion that there's nothing to watch, that there's no good story. So we'll have to make our own. Actually, it's almost like the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 4. The first new PS4 feature is light. The triggers produced a beam of light in the world that reflects the light emitted by the DualShock 4. It even keeps the same triangle shape and shows up in the world as if you were pointing to the front of the controller like a flashlight. So far it's one of the only useful reasons for that light existing, save for draining battery life and then blinding me every time I tilt the thing up to find the charge port. [embed]308798:60230:0[/embed] The You's -- that's you -- light has different effects, from simply illuminating the new, dim intro to making plants grow to scraping inky newspaper Scraps from the construction paper world to hypnotizing enemies that will follow the beam of light off a cliff. It doesn't have the same punchy feel as poking at them with giant fingers from below, but it does its job of grounding the player in both the game world and real world in a novel way. It's too hell with immersion and that's fine. Due to my lack of the PlayStation camera, I did find myself wanting with regard to my self-portrait showing up in the hole in the sky. Even if on the Vita it was grainy and always the least flattering angle (I never held my arms parallel to the ground when I played), it is missed, here. Same with the ability to, say, reupholster an elk by taking a picture of my cat. Of course, if lower case you have a camera, it's possible to sustain these touches, or if you have a mic at the ready you can record an intimidating yell for your scarecrow. A new gust of wind ability replaces your ability to physically leaf through the environment. Instead of swiping a platform down on the Vita screen, you swipe the DualShock 4 touchpad in the desired direction you want to the wind to blow. Atoi, the messenger you guide through Tearaway, can also throw enemies and items up "through" the TV screen and into your controller, and then you can aim a reticle and swipe forward on the touchpad to shoot the projectile back onto the map, whether to bash an enemy or solve a puzzle. The touchpad is also used for the paper craft segments where you're tasked with making wings for the local butterflies or snow flakes to pepper your mountain climb (I went again with some nice pink cherry blossoms). It works alright, but the lack of real estate makes precision hard. You might consider the companion app, which would give you (or a friend) a larger drawing surface, but, again, I don't want to be fiddling with three extra pieces of technological accessories just to get the same effect the Vita bundled up. Tearaway Unfolded isn't as elegant or holistic an experience as it was on Vita because of additional technical needs, but significant effort has gone to reproducing the same effects in new ways. It's pretty as hell, too, holding its own with anything on the PS4 despite its humble beginnings. New areas have been built from scratch, parts extended, others cut. No more log rolling troubles, which is the only Vita feature that bugged the hell out of me. A lot of care went into Unfolded. It may be another tacit admission that the Vita is dead, but at least this incredible, surprising game did not die with it.
Tearaway PS4 port photo
Challenging PS4 port flashes Metal Gear
Tearaway was the zenith of the PlayStation Vita. While many fine games have hit the platform since, few have been exclusive and original, and none used every inch of the Vita's additional capabilities to as good effect. That ...

Fallout 4 demake photo
Fallout 4 demake

Fallout 4 mock up done in the style of the original games


The first person shooter
Sep 02
// Steven Hansen
Here's a fun reminder: Bethesda has made one proper Fallout game so far (we're discounting Fallout Shelter for impact). Before Bethesda's Fallout 3, which came ten years after Fallout 2, the series was isometric, like many co...

Atlas Reactor's competitive turn-based play shows promise

Sep 02 // Jordan Devore
Atlas Reactor is turn-based, but players have a limited time (30 seconds by default) to lock in their decisions, and everyone's turns are simultaneous. That goes for your allies and enemies. It's quick and chaotic and not unlike rock, paper, scissors. After committing to a strategy, your actions (attacking, shielding, buffing, trapping, moving) play out across three different phases. There's an order of operations to keep things fair, in other words. During any given turn, you have to get into your opponents' heads and try to predict how they'll behave. If you're sure an enemy is going to dodge, don't plan to fire a shot that will inevitably miss -- lay a trap instead. If you're guaranteed to be hit hard and have no escape, set up a shield. It's a system that borrows from fighting games (reading your opponents), tactical games (grid-based positioning), and MOBAs (varied characters, free aiming). The end result is a promising fusion of genres that, at least to my knowledge, has never been explored quite in this way. [embed]308953:60233:0[/embed] "Once you have the basics, it's pretty interesting," said executive producer Peter Ju. "You want to play one level above your opponent. If you play two levels above your opponent, you're just going to out-think yourself and you basically are going to seem like a noob compared to the guy who doesn't do anything." Out of nowhere, another Trion Worlds employee, who was not a part of my demo, chimed in. He said he had far better results early on when he first started and didn't really know how to play. No one could predict his strategy because he simply didn't have one. I can relate. Atlas Reactor is only now entering alpha, and while the core mechanics are set and seem solid, there's still stuff to figure out. Which modes to create, for one. The match I saw was pretty standard: two versus two, first to four kills wins. Based on what players do with custom games during alpha testing, Trion will adapt to their preferences and "make more of that." I liked the sound of lighting rounds, where you have a precious few seconds to plan your moves. As for cooperative play, challenge maps of some sort are planned. "I really want to play XCOM with buddies," said lead designer Will Cook, "but I can't do that. This is the key to that." I'd be down to play with Steven. Between this, Hard West, and XCOM 2, there's a lot of love for turn-based strategy on the horizon. As long as Trion Worlds doesn't mess up the free-to-play aspects of Atlas Reactor -- I suspect it'll charge for skins and taunts -- it should turn out well.
Preview photo
I'm pleasantly surprised
Signing up to see an unannounced title at a gaming convention or expo can be risky. I've never been burned before, but I'm aware my streak could end in an instant. I went into my PAX appointment with Trion Worlds (Rift, Defia...

Shame, shame photo
Shame, shame

FTC comes down on Machinima for 'deceptive' Xbox One marketing


Microsoft absolved of any wrong-doing
Sep 02
// Brett Makedonski
In late 2013, around the time that the Xbox One launched, YouTube content creation group Machinima struck an advertising deal with Microsoft. The marketing campaign would feature videos from Machinima's network of influencers...
Notch Tweets photo
Notch Tweets

Markus 'Notch' Persson posts vague tweets just to fuck with media (Fauxclusive)


Because the media will publish anything
Sep 02
// CJ Andriessen
Markus “Notch” Persson opened up on Twitter this weekend, posting several tweets lamenting that life as an celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be. The tweets became a news sensation as several high-profile webs...
PlayStation 3 game ending photo
PlayStation 3 game ending

Namco shutting down Soulcalibur: Lost Swords


'Gods, please forgive me'
Sep 02
// Steven Hansen
Roughly a year and a half after its launch, Namco is ending its free-to-play PlayStation 3 experiment Soulcalibur: Lost Swords. It was apparently not great and coupled with a bad microtransaction scheme.  Namco even mad...
Kindred Spirits photo
Kindred Spirits

Sexy lesbian ghost game comes to Steam uncensored


Same
Sep 02
// Steven Hansen
Valve has a long, rich history of banning sexy lesbian ghost games from its Steam platform, but Kindred Spirits on the Roof has scored (sex term) a win for the erotic in getting off on Steam without any censorship. Head tran...
Diversity 101 photo
Diversity 101

How many original black playable women have there been in the history of gaming?


Believe me if I said around 20?
Sep 02
// Jed Whitaker
Jef Rouner of Houston Press has done a bit of research on the amount of original black women playable throughout the history of gaming and found the number to be exceptionally low. Rouner's criteria to count as an original bl...

Review: The Flock

Sep 02 // Zack Furniss
The Flock (Mac, Linux, PC [reviewed])Developer: VogelsapPublisher: VogelsapReleased: August 21, 2015MSRP: $16.99 If you've followed The Flock's development or seen any videos about it, you may have decided that it's a digital version of flashlight tag. This is an apt comparison. The difference is that the flashlight (here called The Artifact) can immolate organic beings upon illumination. Each of the three to five players of the game play as the Flock, a skeletal alien race. These lithe beings crawl on all four limbs when they want to move fast, and can turn to stone when they stay completely still. They can also place decoys of themselves and later teleport back to said decoy once per life. Their final ability is a scream that can increase the speed and strength of nearby kinsmen. When a match starts, each player is tasked with finding the Artifact as quickly as possible. Whoever finds it becomes the carrier, a being with less physical prowess than the Flock. Though you're no longer able to jump, you can now incinerate players who attempt to kill you, since that's their sole objective. While they're busy trying to get the jump on you, you have to shine your light on markers spread throughout the three maps. Using the Artifact is simple. You have to keep moving to keep it charged, which I like since it promotes active footwork. The scroll wheel changes the distance and width of your light; you can have it wide and short-ranged or narrow and long-ranged. While it can be satisfying to scorch one of your attackers, playing as a carrier never feels particularly exciting. The hide-and-seek antics grow weary after only a couple of play sessions. The first few times I played merely flirted with tension. I immediately found the Artifact and began searching for the objective markers, and heard footfalls behind me. I would turn around in a facade of panic and either burn a member of the Flock to death or find a stone statue behind me. You can't hurt the statues, and sometimes it's hard to discern if it's even an actual player controlling the alien gargoyle since these stone effigies are littered across the stages. Wracked with doubt but driven by the need to reach my goal, I backpedaled to where I needed to go. My more clever opponents would use decoys to circumvent situations such as these, but the vast majority of people I played with had no solution to me being able to watch them and move backwards. When playing with a full team, I'd usually be swarmed from all sides and this was less of a problem. Good luck finding enough players, though, as I usually was only able to find one or two people to play with at all times of the day. And that's the entire game. It doesn't take long to realize that aside from a slight variance in player tactics, every match feels identical. If you tell a friend about an especially exciting round, you've told them about every round you will ever play. It doesn't help that no aspect of The Flock seems to have been cooked long enough. I like the look of the Flock themselves, but the Artifact, the carriers, and even the environments exhibit all the fidelity of an early Half-Life 2 mod. If these were placeholder assets for an alpha build waiting for another layer of polish, I would understand, but these are the uninspired end results of Vogelsap's efforts. The stereo positioning of the sound is functional but every effect has an odd, muffled quality about it. Fortunately, the music doesn't suffer from this same issue, but there's not enough of it to ward off monotony. What hurts The Flock the most is that there's very little to do, and none of it is entertaining. With only one game mode and three maps, you can see all that the game has to offer in two hours (and most of that time will be spent looking for willing players). It's difficult to justify paying $16.99 for something that's going to vanish eventually, and it's even more difficult when what's vanishing won't be missed. With over 200,000,000 lives for people to lose, it's going to be approximately forever before we see whatever happens at the end. The Flock is a promising idea dressed in the blandest of clothes. It's damning that I was convinced I was doing an Early Access impressions piece until I looked and realized the game had been released two weeks ago. This lack of content and polish is acceptable when there's an implicit promise of more to come, but aside from a nebulous end segment that may take literal years to reach, this is all The Flock is and will ever be. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Flock photo
Oh, for flock's sake
I'm a huge horror fan, and love to see any kind of innovation brought into the genre. Vogelsap's The Flock has a Big New Idea that I kind of love: there is a finite pool of respawns for all players, and once it has ...


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