Nobunaga's Ambition has been a popular strategy series that's been running in Japan since the original game released on Japanese PC's in 1983. The series is focused on building up your own nation state during the Sengoku Jidai period of Japanese history and has over 25 releases under its belt. It's never managed to strike a chord with Western audiences but both Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence and its newer version Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence - Ascension have gotten a release stateside on Steam. I've enjoyed the odd game in the series here and there and I'm a sucker for historical strategy so I jumped on the chance to play it. There's one weird sidenote I have to get out of the way up front, however. For some reason Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence Ascension doesn't go by its English title on Steam so if you're looking to purchase it the title you will have to search is Nobunaga's Ambition: Souzou Sengoku Risshiden. The PS4 version uses the English title and the game is fully translated into English so I really have no idea why this is the case, but it's something to be aware of.
Another thing to be aware of is that Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence - Ascension is less of a sequel to Sphere of Influence and more of an expansion which makes it very difficult for me to recommend people who already played Sphere of Influence, especially with its hefty 60 dollar price tag. Most of what's different here lie in the settings and customizability and a wealth of new content, and the engine and core gameplay are unchanged. However, for those who have not yet dipped their toes in the Nobunaga's Ambition waters, this is the superior version of the two. There's also a wide breadth of content to keep you busy here. Featuring more than 2,000 real officers from the Sengoku period for you to play as your inner history nerd will have no want for more representation of the period, or content to play through. You can play as Nobunaga himself, starting from the tiny kingdom he inherited from his father to become the most powerful man in Sengoku period Japan. You can play as the lady daimyo herself Ginchiyo Tachibana. Want to play as the great unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi? Go for it. How about the first shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu? Why not. Hell, you can even play as the easter egg character Adolf Hitler should it suit your fancy. Most of these characters play fairly similarly to each other but there are special events for key historical figures and just finding these moments will probably give you at least 50 hours of gameplay.
As with Sphere of Influence the focus here is on running your nation state more than waging warfare. The combat is incredibly simplistic and amounts to little more than moving attachments of soldiers into advantageous positions and playing rock paper scissors with them, and there's nothing wrong with that. It means you can spend less time and brainpower on expanding your territory through conquest and more time on improving and maximizing the potential of the territory you already hold. This also places more of a focus on the individual officers as characters and their relationships with each other. Your influence and honor with individual officers will influence how they feel about you, and how much they are willing to do to you. This also creates a gradual curve from micro to macro management as you play because the more influence and prestige you have with officers within your nation state, the more tasks they will complete for you without any input. Depending on which officer you select and in which time period this can also create a nice narrative arc as you steadily rise in power from a simple vassal lording over a small town to a warlord vying for power with the most prestigious families of Japan.
The mission system is a key feature here which will help keep you on track with what you need to be doing to expand your influence. You will be given a set of objectives to complete for whichever officer ranks above you. As you complete them you will gain influence and prestige and be given more tasks. This is a nice way for new players to be given a guiding hand on what exactly they need to be doing to rise in power, and also a convenient feature to use to rise in the ranks more rapidly for experienced players. There has quite clearly been a focus on historical accuracy here too. Nobunaga slaughtered the warrior monks at the Siege of Mount Hiei, so if you would like to reverse this outcome of history you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. It's not impossible to alter the outcome of historical events here, but it certainly is difficult. I didn't find this to be a problem though as there are so many characters and so many events that even just experiencing the exact historical outcomes of everything would have given me hundreds of hours of gameplay.Overall Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence - Ascension is a great strategy game but it's difficult for me to nail down what market it's shooting for. If you aren't interested in Sengoku Jidai history or strategy games it isn't going to change your mind. If you are interested in those two things, chances are good you already played the original Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence. If you happen to find yourself in the small overlap of people to whom neither of those statements applies then I can wholeheartedly recommend Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence - Ascension but I have a fairly good feeling you aren't which is unfortunate. I would like to see more of these games making their way to western audiences but I can't see them selling well enough with Tecmo-Koei's current release strategy to justify that.
Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence - Ascension was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Steam.
A great Sengoku period strategy game with thousands of unique historical figures that sadly doesn't offer much beyond the previous release in the series.
- Over 2,000 Playable Characters
- Renewed Focus Leads to Strong Narrative
- Hundreds of Hours of Gameplay
- Very Similar to Last Release