Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Review RPG Codex Review: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

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    Tags: Daedalic Entertainment; Mimimi Productions; Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

    First there was Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines and its sequels. Then there was Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood and the Desperados series. Now, a new game has taken the throne of the unlabeled "character-based puzzly real-time tactics" genre. Announced back in March and released last month, Mimimi Productions' Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun shocked the jaded hearts of Codexers by proving that a genre-defining modern classic was something that could still happen in the year 2016. Although not an RPG, the Codex is always glad to post reviews of cerebral titles like Shadow Tactics, so when Ludo Lense (who also reviewed the not-quite-RPG Hard West just over a year ago) volunteered to write one up, we gladly accepted. Here's an excerpt from the finished piece:

    Possibly the best way to describe the game is “Desperados-style characters with large Commandos-style maps”. The player controls a squad of Japanese period stereotypes as they go about their daily lives by ending lives with various sharp implements and high velocity projectiles. Indeed, ST is very heavy on the murder aspect. This is mainly because death is the only way to permanently neutralize guards. Of course, you can sneak about, but patrol paths are rather long so wouldn’t it be more convenient to just shank a few fellows, even if they are innocent civilians? ST makes no moral judgement on your kill count (unlike Desperados where killing civilians immediately fails the mission) but simply accepts it as another path, the easiest path.

    Indeed, a big part of what makes the game tick is the badge system. The game comes with three difficulty settings and nine achievements per map called badges. These badges more or less contextualize different playstyles. Most maps have badges like no civilian kills or no kills at all. When trying to acquire them, you can see how the game's levels have this very thoughtful multilayered design which takes into account wildly different ways to play through them. My only objection is the existence of the Easy difficulty setting. It is basically a Story Mode and this type of experience doesn’t really work with such an approach. This might sound condescending, but the game is designed for you to struggle at times. There are many tools and techniques at the player’s disposal to get past different situations, and you are bound to find the proper “key” to progress forward if you try. Only the other two difficulty settings, Normal and Hard, allow for badges to be acquired, so the game does discourage the use of Easy difficulty.

    The biggest innovation that ST brings to the table is verticality. A large part of the cast are basically Olympic-level gymnasts. This involves being able to jump from rooftop to rooftop and use their hookshot at predetermined locations to scale different levels of buildings. There is no mission where you don’t have an agile character, so the developers clearly knew this was an important part of the game that makes it unique among its peers. Indeed, the missions lacking in verticality are by far the weakest of the bunch. Two in particular show just how dependent the game is on this integral element. One takes place on what is arguably the game's smallest map, a tiny village with almost no hiding spots which is an exercise in tedium, and the other requires carrying a body through a war camp. Obviously it is challenging, but stripped of different levels of elevation the whole experience becomes much weaker. It is not “hard fun” as it were. On the other hand there is a mission where you have to break into a keep behind enemy lines which I personally found to be by far the best due to how height connected the map.

    Complementing this vertical element are environmental modifiers that are progressively introduced to the player. Snowy areas where guards will follow your footsteps, night maps where torches can be put out but are relit by guards, puddles formed by rainfall that make a great amount of noise when stepped in, etc. There are enough such variations and scripted moments to keep feeding the player's interest at a steady pace. The game has around a dozen maps. Two thirds of the way through, it stops introducing new gameplay elements but enters into a kind of graduation mode, where the difficulty amps up and you'll need to exhibit some degree of system mastery to survive.

    On top of this you have AI and enemy variety, which is where ST is tangibly weaker than its predecessors. The game has only three different enemy types, each with its own AI pattern. The devs did squeeze a lot of mileage out of them and I was surprised by how many different configurations they were able to create, but in the end I couldn’t help but feel that additional enemy types were necessary to mix things up. It is a matter of variety, not necessarily quality. The AI is the only part of the game where a random element is introduced. Enemies that are searching or alerted while looking for your characters shift their view cones haphazardly, which can make a world of difference when it comes to being spotted and starting a fight. For enemies, death is a binary affair with no numbers popping up. Your attacks kill or do not. The player characters are a bit different in that they have a set number of hit points, but they are wet paper towels except on Easy difficulty. Given that alarms spawn a large number of guards, all of whom have hitscan weapons, holding your ground isn’t really an option because ammo is quite limited. This is a clear step up from the infinite ammo in Desperados, where waiting around a corner and pumping your enemies full of lead was an all too effective tactic. Stealth is the name of the game in ST, which fits nicely with the ninjutsu theme it sells itself on.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
     
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  2. Fairfax Arcane

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    Indeed. Game deserves more success and recognition.

    Great review. I didn't know the japanese dub was so superior, I'll use it in my next playthrough.
     
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  3. ᚱᚨᚷᛖᚠᚢᛈ Educated Queued Shitposter

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    No word that the badges appear after the mission is won on Normal. Combined with the fuckery that the game is not designed for a complete NO KILL path AT ALL on most of the 13 maps. There are idiotic badges like "Dont kill anyone inside the compound", like what, I havent killed anyone but I could have killed outside?

    No word on how pretty it looks (cept for the disgusting outlines) and that there is no decent AA available, since Unity.
     
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  4. DemonKing Magister

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    I'm enjoying the English VO so happy sticking with that - I think it goes well with the "Japan but not really Japan" setting and Hollywood overtones.

    How do you knock enemies out in this game? I've just been slicing and dicing but I feel a little bad when I take out a civie.
     
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  5. John_Blazze Augur

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    You switch between lethal and non lethal attack by clickin on the little arrow next to your sword attack icon. Theres also a hotkey, I think it was "F", but not sure if it was set like that by default.
     
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  6. DemonKing Magister

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    Ok - never noticed that - thanks I'll check it out tonight.
     
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  7. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    If anyone's still on the fence we have a whole thread about Shadow Tactics. Here's my post where I debunk some of Ludo Lense's arguments, although it seems his opinion changed a bit due to the discussions in this thread: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...ith-ninjutsu-theme.107557/page-8#post-4887736
    Inaccurate, some people might think that Robin Hood was before Desperados or that it was a series. First there was Desperados 1 (Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive), then Robin Hood (no series), then Desperados 2 and then Helldorado (Desperados 3).

    Edit:
    Ludo Lense
    That's not exactly true, in ST a hairpin, a knife and a katana have exact same range (only Mugen's katana has longer range).
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
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  8. Make America Great Again Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

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    :thumbsup:
     
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  9. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Awesome, never heard of this game and in fact I'm awfully ignorant of the 'genre' having always wanted to try. I'll check out the demo at least, seems to be full price $40 right now.
     
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  10. Zombra Arcane

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    In the meantime, play the sequel for $6.
     
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  11. I'm With Her SausageInYourFace for prison Arcane Patron

    SausageInYourFace
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    Never really liked Commandos that much, the whole genre seems to be some kind of misstep and really should've been turn based to begin with.

    Instead of careful planning and execution you get this awkward system where you kinda have to fight the RTS controls and instead of thinking you rely mostly on player skill, on guessing and luck and timing movements just right that would really require very precise turn-based input. Even with good planning the game too easily turns into a quick-save quick-reload fest.
     
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  12. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

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    Play Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive then. I didn't like Commandos either but Desperados is on a whole different level. And yeah, games like these require some luck and swift fingers sometimes (although quick action helps a lot) but that's part of the fun. With TB combat you wouldn't be able to fail basically and there would be no challenge. You have to remember the patrol routes for example and choose the best timing to perform the action on harder difficulty or you can just lower the difficulty. In case you would like to try it you should be aware though that it doesn't work on modern (Windows 7+) windows systems without doing some tweaks. Or you can just install Win XP on VirtualBox and play Desperados there.
     
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  13. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    How do you envision making a heavily stealth-based game turn-based?

    This isn't an RPG, but pretty much all RPGs are real-time when you're stealthing around too (along with everything outside of combat).
     
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  14. I'm With Her SausageInYourFace for prison Arcane Patron

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    Eh, did you guys play Invisible Inc. ?
     
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  15. Make America Great Again Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

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    invisiburu inc

    edit: accursed ninjas (i guess it fits the topic)
     
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  16. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    Yes, I'm aware of Invisible Inc. You think that approach would work with this sort of game? (outdoor large-scale non-abstract environments, not corridor-based, etc)
     
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  17. I'm With Her SausageInYourFace for prison Arcane Patron

    SausageInYourFace
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    Hm, what would it really require much more than cleverly set patrols, some well placed cover and perhaps a larger spotting cone for guards? What am I missing that would be that hard to design? Particularly considering that you'd have a static map to fully optimize as opposed to InvIncs procedually generated ones.
     
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  18. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    Well... With turn based combat I wouldn't be so overjoyed once I've managed to
    22nd Desperados mission (open)
    rescue Doc non-lethal style using only Sanchez and Cooper...
    [​IMG]
    In the end I haven't used Mia and Sanchez did most of the work using stones but it was super super hard to get the timing right.

    But I admit that at the time I was yearning for TB combat :D.

    Edit:
    Being able to store 2 actions per person (instead of 1) would make it easier too and minimize the arcade factor.

    Edit 2:
    BTW, Desperados had nifty little number thingy which showed how many enemies have a spot we check under their observation (which ST lacks).
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
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  19. Make America Great Again Kz3r0 Arcane

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    No love for Star Trek: Far Away Team?
     
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  20. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

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    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
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  21. Jinn Augur

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    This game is definitely one of my GOTY 2016. It's beautiful and extremely well-designed. Some of the most tense gaming moments I've ever had.
     
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  22. MrBuzzKill Savant

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    We need more tactics games like these
    but I don't personally like the cel-shaded look that much
    I'd much rather they went with pre-rendered beautiful fixed backgrounds like the Commandos/Desperados series
     
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  23. ghostdog Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

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    I too would prefer a 2,5D game, because it would probably look better and I wouldn't have to battle with the camera to be able to click that fucking little spot between the tree and the wall...

    BUT,

    this game is still fucking great and people should buy it, we need more of this shit!

    Ludo Lense : :thumbsup:
     
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  24. zool Savant

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    Definitely agree with you (I would kill for a new game with pre-rendered backgrounds made by the same artists who did those for Desperados and Robin Hood) but the ST artists still did a pretty good job - I didn't think isometric-style 3D could look that good.
     
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  25. Zanzoken Savant

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    I remember giving Commandos a try a few years ago and thinking "this would be pretty cool if it was turn-based". Same goes for Syndicate.

    I pretty much lost interest in the genre after that.
     
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