by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Supply and control
Large armies are expensive, however and upkeep for regular forces increases rapidly when you go past the support limit. Support comes from the provinces that you have direct control over, and the buildings you have built in them. While it is true that controlling more provinces will allow you to have a bigger standing army, it’s probably not the way to go.
You see, Sengoku actively motivates the user to give provinces to others in a number of ways. As a Daimyo, keeping all the spoils of war to yourself will royally *beep*-off other leaders in your clan who may then plot to break off from the clan and form their own. In addition to making them happy, you also gain honor from giving away conquered lands, which in turn is needed for many diplomatic actions such as waging war or exchanging prisoners and keeping your clan members respectful of your rule. Most importantly, though, is an imposed province control limit. Once you cross the limit, your people will grow restless and you will find yourself dealing with internal uprisings far more often than dealing with outside threats. As the number of provinces you can safely control is limited, so is your standing army.
A Europa-engine game wouldn’t be complete without an intricate diplomatic system. Sengoku expands upon the existing systems by adding a court and ‘hired help’. The court comes in the form of three clan members that are appointed to act as Master of Ceremonies, Master of Arms and Master of the Guard. They can be used to improve towns to boost their economy and taxes, raise additional taxes, and restore order in a troublesome province. After your Master of the Guard frees up a guild slots, specialized guilds can be built that increase happiness or give bonuses to your army regulars. Your Master of the Guard can also search out Ninja clans. True to their mystique, Ninjas aren’t always easy to find unless you have upgraded your towns with Theatre which increases the chance of finding a Ninja tremendously. More powerful Daimyo’s will be approached by Ninjas without intervention from the … which has the fortunate side effect that you spend less time micromanaging this aspect of the game as your clan grows and requires your attention to be elsewhere.
Ninjas can then be sent on a variety of missions, ranging from protecting against attacks by other Ninjas, to discrediting characters in other clans and destroying buildings in enemy territory. The addition of Ninjas as ‘Medieval Special Forces’ sounds great on paper, but their application feels a bit pointless. Ninja actions cost money and even in larger empires both war and province upgrades put a heavy strain on the treasury. In addition, the sheer amount of targets in the form of provinces and characters make even successful attempts feel rather fruitless.
Daimyo's can also start plots against other rulers. Setting up a plot is as easy as selecting a target and your intentions from the menu. You then go and find others to invite to your plot to strengthen it up to the point that it is safe to execute. In theory, the plotting mechanic could be a lot of fun to play with. For example, inviting other clans into a plot to war against a target too big to handle alone can really broaden your options for attack. In practice, however, few rulers will say yes to your proposal and it gets tedious trying to find people to join your plot rather fast.
The same? Not quite
Anyone who has played one of Paradox’ grand strategy titles will recognize Sengoku as a ‘Japanese twin’ to the game or games they have played before. Neither a new era nor a different setting can change that, simply because the gameplay mechanics remain almost completely the same. But playing Sengoku you will get the odd feeling that something is different, in a positive way. The menus feel less clunky through the addition of smooth animations, the map can now be fully rotated and you can zoom in and out at leisure, even up to the point that the entire map of Japan is fully visible.
These changes in the engine give Sengoku a far more organic feel than any of Paradox’ previous grand strategy titles, making it – without any doubt – the best Europa-engine game ever produced. It is a pleasure to play and will make you wish that Paradox would revisit their older games to port them over to the new engine.
But at the same time, you don’t. You really have played this game before. Sengoku left me wondering why I couldn’t click on a province to actually – see - my towns and upgrade them from there, left me wondering why I couldn’t improve my road network to increase army speed and the economy, and left me wondering why I didn’t have more control over my armies. This makes scoring Sengoku difficult. The lack of innovation on the gameplay side won’t discourage any of the hardcore Paradox fans; they will love Sengoku for everything that it brings. If you have never played a Europa-engine game before, then Sengoku is the absolute best place to start but if you have and are looking for something new, Sengoku is simply not different enough to make it a fresh experience.
Full camera control, best Europa-engine game ever.
Improved engine doesn’t disguise the lack of innovation over Paradox’ other grand strategy games.