Shadows Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a type of game I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s a stealth game where you control several specialists with distinct skills to complete an objective, all taken from a top down isometric point of view. I thought these types of games died in the early 2000s and we’d all moved to first / third person stealth games like Dishonored and Hitman, but apparently they’re still wanted, and I’m all for this. It’s good to see tactical stealth games that require stealth, and not just ‘stealth but only if you feel it’ games.
However within the first few seconds of the loading screen I got skeptical. “Made with Unity” it told me, and I initially thought of every bad shovelware game ever made for the Wii and how many poorly made games have been made with Unity, but as soon as the game started I was happy to see a familiar screen. Commandos was a PC game released in 1998 set in WW2 where you control several commandos to complete an objective from a top down view. Shadow Tactics plays pretty much the same and it was a joy to see this type of game make a return, and I was excited to survey the missions, and figure out the best plan of attack.
Commandos (Below) with Shadow Tactics (Above) are both very similar games
In Shadow Tactics you control 5 specialists during the Edo period In Japan against war waging rebels. Missions vary from killing an specific enemy, stealing plans, rescuing villagers or retrieving an enemy. Each specialist has their own abilities and skills. The main Samurai, Mugan, can take out 3 enemies at once, and carry 2 bodies, but cannot climb vines or swim. Whereas Yuki, a thief can lure enemies and carry a trap for them to walk into, but can also climb vines and swim, but can only drag one body very slowly. Unlike Commandos where you point and click where you want the commandos to go, in Shadow Tactics you actively control them which makes it much easier, and you can swap between them when you need to.
The most satisfying part of Shadow Tactics is surveying maps and figuring out the best way to move forward with the specialists you’ve got (For most missions you only have 2-3 of them). You can use the in game tools to see an enemies vision and figure out how to take them down one by one without them noticing. What’s even better is ‘shadow mode’. Shadow mode lets you set actions for a different specialist and allows you to execute their moves with a push of a button. This is extremely satisfying to take out one enemy while another who is about to alert the other guards get taken out from above with another specialist you set using shadow mode. Using a combination of your teams abilities you string together a series of take outs and slowly move forward towards the objective. Looking at the start of a map wondering ‘how am I going to do that’ and cutting to an hour later where every enemy from the compound has vanished is a very satisfying experience.
Graphically the game is nothing spectacular. As the view is far from the characters there is no facial animations or any of that, but it’s not an issue. Each map is easy to navigate and you can easily tell where each characters is and every map is varied from palaces, prisons, villages and countryside. The characters are each distinct in their own way and their voice acting helps to the story. The story itself is nothing amazing, but I found myself more and more interested in it. Each character adds their own quality to it and I started to genuinely care about the outcome of the game, and the fate of the characters.
Shadow Tactics is a breath of fresh air in what I feel is a stagnant genre of ‘stealth when you feel like it’. Most other games allow you to disregard stealth after been caught or run in when there’s only a few enemies left. Doing this is Shadow Tactics will get you killed, so planning is required to complete the objective. When doing research for the game though I found it’s only problem. The game retails for around £30, and while it’s a solid game, it just seems a bit too steep for what I’d consider an indie title. Something around £20 and I’d be more inclined to recommend this game to anyone, but at £30, I could only recommend it to fans of classic strategy and stealth games. But this doesn’t change the fact that Shadow Tactics is a great stealth game and will hopefully push more people to make games designed for actual stealth.
A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by Daedalic Entertainment.