Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening Review – Sengoku Simulator

Nobunaga's Ambition: Awakening Review - Sengoku Simulator

The Japanese seem to have a tendency to love history. So seldom do we see Western games based around historical events and places, let alone whole franchises based on specific time periods. Yet, Japan releases a swathe of Dynasty Warriors, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition games. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is the sixteenth title in the very long running series, but it still surprises me how many strategy fans haven’t heard of it.

You play the role of daimyo, the feudal lord of your region. It’s your job to divide work out to your officers, and there’s a lot to go around. Officers run parts of your army, manage diplomacy with other daimyo, build and manage your domain and handle many other things. They are the lifeblood of your lands so make sure to treat them well, lest they may find solace in your enemy’s lands.

If you come into this thinking it’s an RTS similar to the Total War series, you’d be mistaken. Most of the game loop is based around management of your territory, rather than actual combat. Combat is important, but the amount of things that need to be considered before you try and invade is colossal. Do you have enough armies? Is your relationships with your neighbours solid, or do you have enough treasures to buy them off? What events are happening in the next months you need to be aware of? All of this needs to be considered, else a sure-fire win against one enemy might leave you open to counter from a previously unknown one.

Sieges and historical battles give you more control of the army, but it’s still relatively high level. You control where your armies go on the battlefield, but their pathing is limited to roads. There are still plenty of strategic options. If the daimyo is present, you can control where each of your officers move their armies and can focus on more advances military manoeuvres such as pincering troops, taking key locations or setting up to take advantage of terrain features like ridges to set your archers on, or creating landslides to hit enemy armies. You could even go for the enemy’s war camp, which if destroyed will cut off their ability to retreat.

This is a game where every choice has huge consequences and by choosing not to use all your resources in a turn, you’re going to fall behind and become easy pickings for the enemy.

It’s a dense game, flooded with choice and outcome. Even for me though, a fairly big management fan, sometimes the sheer amount of things to do in a turn became overwhelming. A lot of time could be spent finding efficiencies, but due to the games sheer glut of mechanics the tutorials can be a bit lacklustre. Perhaps it’s just my style, but I found a lot more use in watching YouTube videos from people who had imported the game and were explaining things than the original in-game tutorials. Mileage may vary here though, but I was very lost until I watched a few videos and mostly learnt via trial and error.

Difficulty is important though and can be changed and fiddled with to your preferences. This is a hard game, and there’s no shame in decreasing the aggressiveness of the AI, or changing how much yield you or the enemy get from their harvests. There are lots of options to play around with even before you start the game.

Once you have started though, you then choose a clan. The game is fairly Nobunaga-centric, and it will even recommend other clans based on their historical relevance, difficulty, position etc. Realistically, you can play as any clan if you want to change up how a scenario plays out.

Through the Event List, you can customise your experience further. These events are all based on Japanese history, but you can turn off individual events if they sway against your current clan too much. Don’t want a planned revolt to happen? Turn it off. All of the events have conditions that need to be met and they’re spelled out easily so you can aim for them to ensure they happen.

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is a meaty game. In terms of just systems alone it’s probably one of the most complex I’ve played. This does tend to bog things down sometimes but if you’re looking for a hefty experience or have an interest in Japanese history and the samurai, there’s plenty of fun here. In comparison to previous games, I still think Sphere of Influence did the best job but that doesn’t mean Awakening is without merit. This is a great entry into a long running series.

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening was reviewed on PS5 with a code kindly provided by Koei-Tecmo.

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