Skulls of the Shogun

Skulls_Shogun_Boxart
9.0 Overall Score

Fast Paced Strategy | Variety of Troops and Abilities

No carry-over of skills from one level to next

Written by on February 1, 2013 in [, , , , , , , ]

You are General Akamoto and you, along with your army, have conquered Japan. You stand ready to ascend as Shogun when, from behind, a shadowy figure pierces your back with a blade and sends you to the ground.

Skulls of the Shogun begins with this little prelude into the story. Arriving on the Shores of the Dead after your untimely demise, you quickly discover that nobody gives a hill of beans about what you used to be in the world of the living. Instead you have to assemble a motley crew of warriors and battle to take charge of the afterlife. Even in death, your goal is the same as it was in life: to become Shogun, but now of the dead.

This is a turn based strategy game featuring General Akamoto as a master strategist, which is good, because it’ll take all of that skill to battle across the four seasons of the samurai afterlife to reach your ultimate goal. Your armies consist of three basic types of warriors at the beginning of the game, with other magical creatures to aid you later on. In the beginning you recruit infantry, cavalry and archer units. Each has their own attack and defense strengths and weaknesses. Infantry units have higher defense, while cavalry can cross longer distances in a turn, and archers, of course, have excellent range for attack.

As strategy games go, Skulls of the Shogun blends action and strategy together well. In the first few stages of the game, as you attempt to skip the thousand-year wait in line to enter the first season of the afterlife, you learn how to attack, counterattack, avoid counterattack, harvest rice, and summon more units. Each level starts out with a certain set of warriors for you to march across the map. Harvesting rice (by haunting rice fields) allows you to summon additional units from shrines (also by haunting).

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How you cross a map is up to you. Matching up the right units to attack enemy troops will reduce their ability to counterattack. For example, an infantry or cavalry unit cannot counterattack a ranged strike from an archer. Harvesting rice builds your “currency” to summon other troops from the shrines, and staying on a rice field will regenerate two hit points per turn. However, while you are haunting anything, your trooper is vulnerable and cannot counterattack at all. So the process of gathering troops, rice, attacking and ultimately conquering the stage is exceptionally deep.

When you defeat a trooper of the opposing team, they usually drop a skull. You can eat the skulls. Yes, you eat the skulls (but not those of your fallen allies, that would be gross). This gives your trooper or the general a higher hit point maximum and restores HP as well. If your general or any trooper eats three skulls, they become a demon. Your round consists of up to five orders that you can carry out. An order consists of moving into a new position and/or taking an action (attack, eat a skull, or haunt). Demons are allowed an extra action each round.

The campaign is quite engaging and offers a good story mixed with a lot of humor. The game proves to be challenging, and you’ll often replay levels either trying to just survive, or earning a gold skull. Gold skulls are earned by completing secondary goals such as: winning the level without any casualties, ending the level with a certain number of demon-level monks, or simply having a certain amount of rice stockpiled. Achievement hunters (or those who just like to complete any challenge the game presents to them) will be the most interested in earning gold skulls.

Veterans of the turn-based strategy genre will fit right in and enjoy deep challenges to earn golden skulls. Beginners will be helped with an excellent tutorial as each new element is introduced, such as the animal Monks. These characters are more of the magical variety. The fox monk can case healing spells, and if you have him eat enough skulls to become a demon, he can even bring back the dead…from the dead-er? The salamander monk causes destruction, and the crow monk is a troublemaker. Each of the monks have one initial spell, and learn new ones as they consume skulls.

One disappointing aspect is that working your troops up to demon-levels doesn’t carry over from level to level. Instead you start out with a certain number of infantry, cavalry, and archers, then work your way up from the beginning each level. It’s not a game-breaker by any means. Chances are you’ll lose certain units over and over again anyway.

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Multiplayer offers up three different modes. On the couch (up to four players), Online, and Skulls Anywhere. On the couch and online are basically the same. You play deathmatch (two to four armies), or team deathmatch (two armies, co-op). One is local, and the other is online. Online works very smooth and you have five maps to choose from and you can limit the amount of time each army takes per turn. For a speedy game, use the 20 seconds and just try to get all five of your orders done.

Skulls Anywhere is a new concept, with the exception of probably Shadowrun. (There aren’t really any cross platform games.) Skulls Anywhere allows up to four players to play across different devices. So one player can be on a Windows Phone, another on Surface, a third on Windows 8, and finally, of course, one on Xbox Live Arcade. The same functionality that enables you to do this also allows you to pick up and play your single player campaign on any of these devices from where you left off no matter which device it was on. You do have to purchase the game separately for each device, though. So there’s that.

Overall, Skulls of the Shogun is a very fun strategy game and is well worth it at least on one device. Personal preference will decide if it’s worth buying separately for your phone/PC. But this is definitely a game that should be picked up right away. The Xbox 360 version is 1200 MSP, and for a limited time will be discounted for Windows 8 PC, Microsoft Surface and Windows Phone. The Windows 8 and Windows Surface version are now $9.99 (normally $14.99) in the Microsoft Store, and the Windows Phone version is $4.99 (normally $6.99) in the Windows Phone Marketplace. It hasn’t been revealed how long these introductory prices will last, so don’t wait too long to pick up this excellent game.

A downloadable code was provided to The Married Gamers for the purpose of evaluation and review.

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Author: Erik Johnsen View all posts by
A married gamer that spends time editing many of the articles you read right here at The Married Gamers. Erik sometimes reviews Xbox 360 games and writes articles, but spends his available free time from work or hanging out with his family hunting achievements for a higher gamerscore.

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