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Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun has made a great transfer from PC to PS4 and lives up to the acclaimed original.
With its unique play style and nice graphics, it’s almost guaranteed to be a smash hit. But will the controls make it playable on console? We’ve tested it and came to a final verdict.

Shadow Tactics

What is Shadow Tactics all about? Well, you control a group working for the Shogun, protecting him, his people and killing his enemies. There are five characters and each has their own personality and skills to bring to the mission. There are cut scenes between each level and your characters chat throughout missions. The story itself is quite simple but works as a good excuse for a variety of missions.

In a mission, you have an isometric view of the map and can pan, zoom and rotate the camera as you see fit to plan out your moves. The controls actually take quite some getting used to as multiple actions are assigned to certain buttons and context pays a strong part in which actions you’ll be performing. They do a great job though and I got used to them and can’t say I could ever blame them for my errors.

You control whichever character you have selected directly with the left stick, there’s no mouse pointer obviously, you can crouch, interact with the environment, attack enemies and use items with the face buttons. Left on the d-pad allows you to highlight specific enemies and see (one at a time) what their vision cone covers. That’s right, it’s one of those games in which fighting anyone head on will not end well for you. The cones are actually very large so planning ahead is vital, though the game gives you all the tools you need to succeed.

Cones have two states, closer to the enemy they’ll be solid which means if you enter that area then you will quickly be spotted. Further away the cone becomes faded and here you won’t be spotted if you’re crouched. Finding the safe path or creating your own, is the key to success. Each character has their own tools and abilities, each being useful in different situations.

The Blades of the Shogun

Hayato is a ninja so can dispatch enemies quickly, use a shuriken for ranged kills and distract enemies by throwing stones. Yuki is a thief so is a little slower to get the kill, but has a bird whistle which draws enemies towards it and a ground trap for them to step on. Mugen is a samurai and so the strongest character at your disposal, he can kill multiple enemies at once with his sword wind attack and draw enemies away from their patrols with a bottle of sake. Aiko is also a ninja but one who can wear disguises to hide in plain sight or use sneezing powder to shorten an enemies viewing cone briefly. Takuma is an elderly man so can’t take people out directly but is a master marksman who can take out enemies from a distance with his rifle. He also has a tanuki with which to distract enemies, and bombs to loudly take out groups.

You have lots of options with which to complete your objectives, depending on which characters are available for that mission. Whether you want to go lethal or non-lethal there are multiple ways to approach each encounter. All characters can hide in bushes and use ladders to reach higher areas, while the ninjas can use a grappling hook on specific points and swim undetected if there is a body of water. Takuma can’t carry bodies, the females are weaker and drag bodies to safety, whereas Hayato can carry one body relatively quickly whilst Mugen can carry two bodies while running!

You might think with such well-defined abilities that once you’d mastered them that each level would basically play out the same but that’s where the level- and enemy design comes in. The basic soldier can be manipulated easily with noises or disguises, ‘straw hats’ stick to their patrol so are harder to isolate. Samurai can’t be fooled by any tricks and need to be offed by Mugen or stunned with gunfire before being killed by the weaker characters. The combination of these enemies with overlapping line of sight and moving patrols, on top of level specific hazards like leaving footprints in snow or torches illuminating you keep the challenge high and the gameplay rewarding.

Contents

Shadow Tactics is a pretty difficult game. Only being able to see one enemy sight line at a time means you need to be able to visualize where is safe and often you’ll step out of the shadows only to be spotted instantly by someone you didn’t think of. Luckily the game’s best feature has you pressing the touchpad to create a quick save, so any mistakes can be erased in a matter of seconds. Three quick saves are kept in case you play yourself into a corner. And you have normal saves through the pause menu if you want to create something a permanent one. The game is designed to be played this way too, and as by default, a reminder pops up at the top of the screen to tell you how long it’s been since you quick saved. Yes, that means the game can boil down to trial and error but if you’re good enough you won’t need it. It’s a nice safety net to have, as levels (at least first time through) can take over an hour easily.

With thirteen levels that’s a decent amount of content, but for those who want a challenge, there are also badges to go for. Each level has a speed run challenge and a hardcore difficulty challenge, but there are also level specific ones like not saving, not touching bushes, not touching water or not killing anyone to name a few. These are very difficult but for those who feel they’ve mastered the game but want more, it adds some welcome replay value.

So it’s a well-structured game with likable characters and rewarding level design but it’s probably not much to look at right? Again, the visual and audio design are really nice. Each level looks quite unique, capturing the time period and playing well. The music isn’t too memorable but as you’re spending a lot of time in levels it is nice to have in the background. Voice acting comes in English or Japanese allowing you to go for full authenticity if you choose.

If you love stealth strategy games, then Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is the one for you.
Released first on PC is not a big deal at all. It looks gorgeous and the controls obviously take some getting used to, but the game runs just as beautiful as the original. Just relax and take your time to soak in this superb experience; you will definitely like it!

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 28th July 2017 in the EU and 1st August in North America. Official website >> click here << Limited Collector’s Editions are sold out so check Ebay for that.

About author

Jorge Wolters Gregório

Gamer dad who loves the classics, indies, racers and the occasional shooter. Have been in the industry for well over a decade and am as enthusiastic as ever! #4theplayers