Sengoku is an upcoming grand strategy game from Paradox which takes place in feudal Japan in 1467. It is quite a monster of a game, rather like the Hearts of Iron games, but surprisingly more complex.
The aim of the game is to become Shogun, the ultimate ruler of Japan through one of two scenarios. The Onin War pits the Hosokawa and Yamana clans against each other while The Kanto War puts you in the midst of a blood feud between the Uesugi and Ashikaga clans. You chose who you want to play as and get into the game. Then it all goes a bit wrong with an unwieldy inferface and a poor tooltips.
It is immediately obvious that this isn’t going to be a game for the laid back player, I started and was more lost than I was when I first played a Hearts of Iron game. Indeed just looking at the different maps views sent my head spinning. After a few attempts at fumbling around I retreated to the comforting embrace of the manual.
The depth of the game is immediately obvious and should serve to stop anyone comparing this to Shogun 2: Total War, this is a Paradox game and thus is an entirely different beast. Starting the game with little knowledge and understanding of how Japanese society worked during the period covered by Sengoku put me on an immediate back foot, but taking the time to read the manual gave me a greater understanding of the different roles to be played by the various positions you can appoint people to in the game.
After my initial failures I started again, this time with a small obscure clan hidden away in the top corner of Japan, with less provinces to look after and no initial enemies I was more able to find my footing and explore the options a bit more. While Sengoku is largely real-time based, you are readily able to pause time when you want to fiddle around with the various diplomatic, clan and various other options. With a small backwater single territory clan there is little need to pause time as you don’t have much you can control, but for larger clans with numerous provinces under their dominion it looks set to be an essential tool.
Developing your provinces is not a matter of selecting what you want to build and queuing the orders up, you have to send one of your three advisers into the area to improve the Castle for defensive bonuses, the Village to increase the tax rate or to open up the option to build army improving structures through guilds. With construction taking many months and only one development allowed in a province at a time, it looks set to be a process requiring careful planning in order to maximize the benefits of developing an area. Further, your advisers are able to travel to the provinces of other clans to try and improve diplomatic relations or to sow the seeds of discontent.
Don’t expect to get involved first hand with battles when Sengoku comes out in September, all the fighting is done automatically by your units on the strategic map. This is a game which certainly takes its’ cue from the Hearts of Iron series with the depth to the game, but you won’t be finding a Total War clone when it comes out. It looks set to be one for the long-term gamer who has the patience to delve into all the options.