General game information
Game name: Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension
Release date: October 25, 2016
Price: US$ 59.99
Genre: Grand strategy game
Developer: Koei Tecmo Games
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension feels like the natural evolution of the first Sphere of Influence title, letting gamers work their way through Japan’s tumultuous past, forging alliances and cementing the reputation of their family. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence saw players ruling a clan with most of the groundwork already done, and the path to glory was far more constrained than the open ended approach featured in this sequel. In Ascension, gamers start as lowly vassals to a feudal lord and work their way up the food chain, something that feels incredibly rewarding after dozens of hours of hard work.
The beginning of the game already shows how much choice and variety can be enjoyed during the journey, as there are more than two thousand different characters that can be chosen as the player’s ingame representation. After this step has been completed and gamers become bannermen for a local lord, their first assignment is relatively simple, taking care of a small region of Japan and generate enough resources to meet the clan leader’s demands. From time to time, players will get different requests which, if completed, will reward them with resources and productivity boosts. This early section of the game also prepares budding clan leaders for the future, as they need to think ahead and most of their first orders will not show their impact on the world until later. Here, gamers will learn to keep their subjects happy and their equals friendly, and other bannermen will show up from time to time, offering to complete the feudal lord’s demands in order to gain renown and advance the game’s important events if the player is slacking on the job.
Completing the lord’s demands and developing their land opens up the player’s options, and lets them acquire more territories, which, in turn, can be developed as well, generating even more resources. As time advances, a military option will be unlocked, with the feudal lord calling their bannermen to war against other clans. If the player accepts the call, they will be able to choose how many troops they wish to commit to the war effort, and what unit types they desire to use.
Military actions take place on 3D maps, and when gamers are supporting an attack organized by their lord, they will fight alongside AI controlled regiments. Positioning is key, and gamers may also take advantage of different formations and orders that can boost their units’ attributes when facing some opponents. Armies that do not take into account the enemy’s forces when choosing targets will be decimated in seconds, and battles are never a matter of having more troops than the opposing force. Engaging in warfare on behalf of the feudal lord is one of the best ways to go up the social ladder, and after a few successful battles, the player will probably get swamped with envoys from other clans requesting that they abandon their current master and offer their services elsewhere.
Going up in the world means that the player will soon be in charge of enormous landmasses, which brings even more work to the table. As lords, players will have to engage in diplomacy, manage roads, create new cities and castles, and above all, take care of their subjects lest they decide to change allegiances. Here, more than ever, gamers need to think ahead and plan for the future, since everything they do as a lord has an effect on the grand scheme of things, and a string of bad decisions can ruin hours of careful planning.
This section of the game also allows for interesting “what if” scenarios, because the player may opt to follow events as they happened in real life, or they may choose to forge their own path, conquering Japan on their own and leaving their mark on the country’s history. Being in charge of thousands of subjects feels empowering, and it’s even more satisfying, since gamers were lowly vassals just a dozen hours ago, and now they are in command of their own subordinates, with towns and castles at their disposal. Make no mistake though, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension will eagerly punish careless improvisation at this level, and trigger happy players will find themselves in despair quickly if they start unnecessary wars with other factions.
History buffs will find a lot to love here, as the developers have crafted a title that places historically accurate scenarios front and center. All of the important figures from this period of Japan’s history make an appearance, and thanks to the care that went into designing the game’s story events, even newcomers to the country’s history will find themselves immersed in this trip to the past.
To conclude, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is an excellent grand strategy title which will provide countless hours of enjoyment for fans of the genre. It’s a complex game, and most newcomers will probably bash their heads against a virtual wall for hours before fully mastering its systems, but climbing the social ladder and conquering Japan feels incredibly rewarding.
9/10 – Great.