Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a real-time tactic game focused on stealth and infiltration taking place in Japan during the Edo era ( which I always found fascinating ^^) You use a cast of characters each coming with their own set of skills and specialty. For example one of them is a frail, young girl but fast and excellent at laying traps, another one is a bulky, tough samurai, unable to walk thin ledges but is unparalleled on close combat, one is a crafty spy able to wear disguise, another one is a full-fledged ninja, deadly with his shurikens etc..
It’s basically a revival of the old commando games genre, famous for their mechanics based on line of sight, hiding in various places and concealing slain enemies. But where STBOTS really shines is it take that genre, update it and improve it on nearly every levels !
The game is now in 3D and so fully rotatable, which add a ton to it. It introduces new mechanics to the genre ( night missions or snowy regions for example) that significantly modify the gameplay.
It’s a pretty hard and patient game. You have to formulate plans, explore and weight the possibilities the environment has to offer, time correctly the return of a patrol, sometimes scrapping an action that was too bold and impossible to execute without raising the alarm and come back to the drawing board. Some parts toward the end almost feel like a puzzle where you have to find the Achile heel of an incredibly well defended fortress and, once you found it, make your way little by little.
It could sound tedious but it's actually very satisfying to play and captivating
There is noting like executing a complex, simultaneous action and watching it unfold, dispatching three guards in one instant, just before a heavy patrol comes back and you dragged away all the remnant of the battle the second they turn the corner. That put a grin on my face on more than one occasion XP And sometimes it's the complete opposite, with the game throwing your plans completely out of the windows with a guard you didn't expect at all becoming a little too curious with his friends following two meters behind him... and then you have to improvise, quickly
The AI can be surprising, and enemies are a lot smarter than in old Commando games. They can notice missing guards, organize impromptu search parties, spot your footsteps in the snow and decide to follow them etc. Raising an alarm is also a huge deal. Every guards becomes instantly more wary, new patrols appears and guards get out of nearby buildings, rushing toward your spot. it can get messy very very fast.
Another area the game unexpectedly improves a ton compared to its predecessors is the story ! STBOTS’s story is actually pretty solid and the characters are attaching and moving. It might not be the scenario of the century but it’s clearly involving and becomes a driving force behind the player’s action. You finish a level partly because you want to see what will happens next ^^
The game has its flaws of course. For example the different type of enemies are a bit limited and some mechanics feel a little too systematic at times. For example there is a map where a fortress is being besieged and there are barricade to barricade ranged battles. Enemies are in the middle of a war with loud gunshots bursting every seconds and yet when they see YOU or the corpse of one of their comrade YOU slew in the middle of ten others who felt during combat, they become crazy and raise the alarm
There is also some slight control problems to click on the ground when the camera is not facing the right angle..
So in the end I’d say the game comes short of being a masterpiece but it’s still a very good and solid one that I enjoyed a lot
It was a late great surprise of the year ^^
So if you like stealth and infiltration games, or you are a nostalgic fan of the old commando series, I really recommend it ! I don't think you will be disappointed
And you ? What are the games you are awaiting this year ? :3