One day we were wandering through the Microsoft section of E3 avoiding all the Kinect dancing games and being disappointed by the lack of anything of substance when we ran into Skulls of the Shogun and Ascend: New Gods. Ascend I will talk about in another post, but this is all about Skulls of the Shogun and what makes it one of the most interesting upcoming Xbox Live Arcade games. It is not only for XBLA, it is also being developed for Windows 8 and the Windows Phone by 17 Bit and this is their first title. This is a turn based strategy game where you control a group of undead Samurai and devour the skulls of your enemies in order to gain power. It is not a deep strategy game like Wargame: European Escalation or Final Fantasy Tactics, but it does a lot of things right and many things that I haven't seen before in a non-PC game. Before I talk about it do take a look at this E3 Trailer.
The biggest thing about Skulls of the Shogun for me is how friendly it is to every type of gamer. Each unit isn't covered with statistics and details, instead they just have stats for offensive and defense. The depth is still there for those who wish it, especially once you mix in the different types of monks, all of whom have some type of magic or ability at their disposal, or the four gods. When you move units together they get defensive bonuses, but it makes them vulnerable to any attack that can hit more than one unit. You can also eat the skulls of your enemies once you defeat them on the battlefield. Eating a skull exhausts a unit's actions, but it immediately gives them some bonuses and if they can eat three skulls they unlock their special power. There are also environmental factors in each battle, like ice or cliffs that you can knock enemies off of. Many of the maps also have shrines or building that can be captured for bonuses, like in Shogun 2 multiplayer.
At this point you may be asking what kind of game is this, singleplayer, multiplayer, co-op? It's all of those things and they are doing it in a way I haven't seen before for a console. I know I keep saying and it is all because of continuity. No matter how you play Shogun you can save it and come back, vague description I know, but bare with me. Let's say you want to play the game online with some people and you have to leave, well then you can save it and resume the game later with them. You can also play the game hotseat, since it is turn based, and come back to that whenever you want. They made it nice and easy to play however long you want and you don't have to worry about finishing a game or not in one play session. Furthermore, when you play the game offline you can play it with up to three other players and you only need one controller.
There is a lot I like about how accessible they made Skulls of the Shogun and I'm so used to features to like saving online games or the option to play hotseat, but not from any console game. When you play a map you can make it really tiny for a really short game or you can make it an hour long huge battle. I was initially worried that the game would be too lite on strategy, but after hearing about the game from one of the developers and playing it I was far less worried. 17 Bit has been working on Skulls of the Shogun for about two years and it is definitely shaping up to be one of the best XBLA games of the year when it is released sometime in Fall 2012. They only had one little display at E3, but I'm so glad we ran into them and put this game back on my radar. Thanks for checking it out and here is some gameplay Adam took of me playing the game at E3.
Main Website: http://skullsoftheshogun.com/
-Written by Sean Cargle