If I had to quickly describe Nobunaga’s Ambition to someone completely unfamiliar with the series, I would say that it is pretty much the Japanese version of the Civilization series. Only, a bit more complicated, and confusing. However, for fans of history, and those that like tactical depth, there could be a lot that would interest those people in Nobunaga’s Ambition.
The main story in Nobunaga’s Ambition plays out a little differently depending on which clan you choose in the games Recommended screen on opening the New Game button. However, interestingly, if you choose to go back, you are taken to a menu where you can choose an era and character to play through. It’s honestly a little confusing how this works, as you would expect to kind of choose an era –and then– choose a clan. Also ideally, it would be clear that you are playing a specific scenario when choosing a clan on the first screen, rather than having to go back and choosing a scenario from the list.
Anyway, the game is actually rather light on story content, instead focusing strongly on the gameplay of the title. After beginning a scenario, you could be convinced that you’re not even really playing a game for its story, but instead are playing a game for its period and gameplay. And really, the gameplay in this is really the entirety of the game. Like, really. Learning how to play the game is, in itself, a game.
And honestly, that isn’t even really necessary. The best way to play this game is to just let the retainers make all the decisions for you. At most, you may want to manually take control every so often to make it feel as though you’re actually doing something useful, but outside of that, there’s no real point. The game doesn’t make this process of non-automation more appealing either, the in-game menus are complicated as heck, and way too overwhelming. Once you work out which of them are actually useful, the two pages of menus feel like they could have been reduced significantly, or made more useful elsewhere.
Visually, this game looks like it was made back in around 2004. As a historical civilisation simulator, I wouldn’t really expect it to have photorealistic graphics and so the visuals do work for what the game is. However, this game does feel aged straight of the box, which doesn’t give too good of an initial impression.
I did really like the character artwork and the overall designs within the UI. However, as previously mentioned, the menu’s are a mess to navigate and no amount of good artwork will fix that. However, fans of the samurai era will definitely really enjoy the art from this game.
The audio in this was pretty unremarkable, and with the game closed, it’s hard to remember any significant track that really stood out to define the experience. While video games are visual experiences, sometimes the audio really helps to make it just a little more complete and can even make a badly made game slightly more enjoyable.
There are some voice clips however, which does show some effort went into the audio. I just wish that it was more memorable. Even the combat noises were pretty generic and nothing to really push this experience into a memorable one.
Overall, I just really didn’t enjoy my time with this game. I feel like the hours spent trying to learn it were for nothing when the game will always do a better job at playing itself for you. It almost feels as though if you don’t spend hundreds of hours trying to progress, it was designed to be played for you with how obtuse the UI is. If you’re a fan of these kinds of games, you’ll probably love this, but for me, this is too similar to other games that do a much better job.
This review is based on the PC version of the game which was supplied to us by Koei-Tecmo for the purposes of review. It can be purchased on Steam for ~$60.