Shadow Tactics – Blades of the Shogun takes the real time tactical strategy genre to Japan and emphasizes stealth over head-on confrontation. Scheduled for a console release somewhere in the middle of 2017, we can already look at the PC version that is out now.
The shift to a far east setting means that Shadow Tactics borrows heavily from the popular Ninja legends we’ve seen in many other videogames. Stealth, striking from the shadows and swift moves are important, and coordinating your moves with your team members is a key to success. One team member’s skills should act as complimentary to another one’s, like a sniper taking out a guard who is blocking the advancement of one of your ground-based units.
Shadow Tactics has been compared to games like XCOM, but its real-time style of gameplay is much more similar to the classic Commandos titles. Or, more recently, the heist-themed Crookz. As in the latter example, you’re able to plan ahead and issue multiple commands in a sequence and watch them play out.
Although older games like Commandos were fairly linear, modern games like Crookz offer far more ways to complete each mission. Shadow Tactics takes this concept a few steps further, with extensive playing areas and long missions that offer plenty of approaches. A mission can be daunting at first because of this, but the reward and replayability more than make up for it.
Starting out, you only control one character who has a well-rounded set of skills and is a great starting point for the introduction of other characters later on. The way the game eases you into its intricate dynamics is very well done in general – tutorials are clear and easy to follow, and new elements are introduced gradually and organically (through additional characters to use).
Even in your first mission – with just a single character – you already have multiple ways to approach your goal. The number of solutions available to you increase tenfold as you progress, mainly due to the skills that are unique to each character. Once you gain access to Takuma, the game’s sniper, you’re suddenly able to take out enemies without even getting close to them, radically changing the dynamics of the game.
The same can be said for the other characters, whether they’re spy-like (using costumes) or street smart (like a kid who can lure enemies into traps). Basic moves like creating noise/distractions are fairly similar and can be used by nearly all characters, but it’s the special skills that help you get by the AI forces that occupy the game’s massive levels. Knowing who to use where and when is essential, since the AI is generally very strong and doesn’t let you get away with attempts at just running through a level quickly.
Because of this, levels tend to take quite a while, making this a very different game than the recent XCOM titles. Those were partly designed for quick plays, with plenty of bite-sized missions, whereas Shadow Tactics is best suited to those who are willing and able to sit down for a lengthy session. If you’re a console owner then you probably don’t have too many options like this, so you’ll be happy to know that Shadow Tactics is coming to Xbox One and PS4 as well next year.
Shadow Tactics is an excellent new entry into the strategy/tactical genre. It would certainly benefit from having a range of shorter missions to choose from as well, and unfortunately there is no level editor that would allow the community to create some either. That’s really just nitpicking though, as the game that is already there is a high quality tactical stealth game worthy of any genre fan’s attention.