Isometric camera-based games are making a return, as evidenced in the past few years by games such as Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity. However, the unique camera angle is not just restricted to these grand role-playing games. Some developers are using it to present their own ideas. One such example is Mimimi Productions, a 15-developer team based in Munich that is working on a new real-time strategy-based title called Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun for PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
As the name suggests, you’ll be playing in feudal Japan. A new shogun rules the country, ushering what could be a new era of peace and prosperity. However, a new enemy by the name of Kage-sama plans to overthrow the shogun, which could start another large-scale conflict. To that end, the shogun hired five assassins to work together in order to take down Kage-sama in order to keep the peace. At PAX East last weekend, I was able to see some early gameplay thanks to a walkthrough from studio founder and creative director, Dominik Abe.
|Name||Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun|
|Release Date||Q4 2014|
|Platforms||PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
A Unique Set Of Skills
The demo started off with Hayato, a ninja, who was the main focus for Abe’s demonstration of the game’s real-time tactics. As Hayato hid in the tall grass, I could see two guards near him, patrolling a small area. One stood in the corner and performed a visual sweep from left to right while his counterpart paced back and forth. There’s no game mechanic that allows you to stop time within the game, so you have to (figuratively) think on your feet with every encounter. By timing the guard’s pacing, Abe was able to throw a shuriken to kill the guard in the corner when the other soldier was walking away. After that, it was a simple matter of sneaking up behind the lone enemy and choking him to death.
Later on, Hayato ran into an ally, the trapper Yuki. Her expertise lies in setting up traps and luring enemies to her location. With the two characters, you can be more creative in the methods used to take down enemies. Abe showed one scenario where Yuki hid behind a tall rock, which was near a group of soldiers. By whistling close enough to one of the guards, she lured him to her location; little did he know that Hayato was nearby, and he silently killed him before he discovered Yuki.
Plan Of Attack
For more advanced players, there’s a more impressive method of setting up these timed attacks with a feature called Shadow Mode. This allows you to plan your moves ahead of time with a shadow version of your character. Shadow Mode comes in handy when you’re attempting to take out multiple opponents at once. Abe placed Hayato and Yuki behind two guards and then activated the feature to ensure that both characters would perform the specified moves to kill the guards, and then by pressing a button to execute the plan, both enemies were killed simultaneously.
You can also use Shadow Mode as another way to distract guards. In another level, Hayato was accompanied by Aiko, a geisha with a vast array of disguises. She had to cross a large street, but a samurai stood in the way. Even with Aiko’s disguise, the samurai was one of the few units that could see through the ruse and alert reinforcements. By planning Aiko’s path to cross the street, Abe could send Hayato to the rooftops to set up a distraction. Once the ninja distracted the samurai, the plan was executed, and Aiko crossed the street.
Obviously, the key to the game is stealth. You and your band of assassins must stay unseen for the entire level by sneaking around, using the environment to move guards out of the way or taking them out altogether. If you’re spotted, the chances of survival are slim to none.
Right now, the game is still in its alpha stages, but Abe plans to have a closed beta by June. The final product will have 13 large areas with various ways of getting to the next objective. However, these aren’t quick missions; every move you make requires strategy, and you have to think three or four actions ahead if you want to stay alive.
After you finish the campaign, you can always go back and try other tactics. Abe mentioned that there could be a challenge mode added for replayability purposes. This will add layers of difficulty to each level in the form of restrictions. For example, you're not allowed to kill anyone, you can't manipulate the environment, or you're not allowed to use certain paths to get to the end of the level.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun shows some promise based on the short demo I tried. The real-time strategy mechanics are bound to impressive fans of the genre, especially combined with the historically-based setting. A release date is slated for Q4 2016.