PC Game Review: Takeda 3
The third time is a charm for this Japanese Sengoku Jidai strategy game.
Background information on Magitechís previous games
Before I start with my review, I think a bit of gaming history is in order. Hopefully this will help to explain the evolution of the series and some of the detours along the way. Magitech Corporation was founded in 1993, by Ming-Sheng Lee. In the fall of 2001, Magitech released its first game title, Takeda in the North American market.
The single-player Campaign Mode is the heart of the game. It consists of a series of battles that take place according to a complex non-linear plot based on the real events of Takeda Shingen's life. The player's path through the plot tree depend on the outcome of each battle, and on the diplomatic and strategic decisions he or she makes in response to game events. The campaign was very linear and players donít get to produce their own units. The reviews were fairly average though the game developed a modest following.
Strength and Honor:
The second game by Magitech was released in 2004. Strength & Honor is very much different to Takeda as it offers a turn-based strategy map of the same type as the one players can find in Rome: Total War or Spartan. The gameís big difference was already in the different use of characters whose attributes change over time (ambition etcÖ) making it a different experience. The German edition of the game suffered from being released more than two years after its original release and the fact that in-game texts were badly implemented/translated.
The sequel to Takeda was was published in 2005. It takes the concept of Strength & Honor and lets the player decide how he wants to proceed on the strategic map. The gameís AI is one of the finest I have met so far and I have yet to win a campaign, let alone expand my territory to more than 6-7 castles.
Released at the beginning of 2007, Sangoís design is very similar to the one of the original Takeda, as it takes the player on a very linear campaign.
This game was released in May 2008. Sango 2 again followed the same concept as Strength & Honor and Takeda 2. Players control their campaign on a turn-based strategy map and lead their battles in a 3D battle mode. Itís the same games engine that has been used for Takeda 3.
People who have played all these games (probably only a few; I never played Takeda or Sango) have seen that each game has become more and more complex as the series continues. Especially on the character level, the games have reached some rarely seen depth (as seen for example in Crusader Kings) even though the job options are not as varied (governors, generals, ninjas) but we can always hope these issues are addressed in future games.
All warfare is based on deception.
As noted above the game is named after the famous Samurai Lord, Takeda Shingen (1521Ė1573). He is said to have become almost invincible in all battles without relying on guns, because he studied The Art of War. The game centers around 16th century Japan during the Sengoku period, when a patchwork of city-states were characterized by civil war fueled by rival Daimyos. These Daimyos all made a showing of bowing to the Emperor but otherwise were free to engage in politics and warfare. The playerís job is to keep fighting and annexing other clans until he has united Japan. In Takeda 3, the player takes command as the Daimyo (feudal lord) of one of the 25 historical clans of feudal Japan. The player conducts diplomacy, manages his castles and territory, and commands his armies in combat. The ultimate goal is to become the next Shogun (Commander of the Forces of the Emperor). There are three time periods to choose from: 1548, 1561, or 1575. In the last scenario, the use of Teppos (riflemen) is very frequent and makes the conquest of castles defended by Teppo Divisions very hard.
Two Games in One
Takeda 3 continues the trend of giving players two games for the price of one: a turn-based strategic campaign (called World Mode) and a real-time tactical mode (called Battle Mode). The turn-based map is a detailed 2D map of Honshu (the main Island of Japan) and the only movements the player sees are clouds passing by, which is a nice touch.
Installation & Technical Issues
The installation of Takeda 3 went well. The game runs without the DVD in the drive. Another good thing is that the game comes with an autosave function. I had only a couple of freezes in my long campaign but fortunately the autosaves worked perfectly. The player can choose between three difficulty levels. The only problem I had is that sometimes my screensaver would start even though I was playing but returning to the game with alt/tabs usually allowed me to get back to the game easily.
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
The documentation that comes with Takeda 3 is extensive by todayís standards. Unfortunately it comes as a PDF but considering the price of the game itís clear that printing a printed manual would be costly. This is a big game and there is a lot of material to cover; the manual spans 66 pages. The manual addresses virtually all aspects of the game and once in the game, every single screen is explained again through some well done help pages (F1). This is actually one of the best in game help I have ever seen.
Magitech has also seen fit to provide the player with an advisor to assist in the strategic phase of the game (top right). The advisors have a great variety of speeches to share their knowledge with the player. They were helpful, especially when it came to making decisions about which buildings to purchase or upgrade, but in the end they made only basic recommendations, which I ignored since I am a veteran player of other games in the series. New players will probably find them helpful.
Interface / Music
Aside from the 2D strategic map described above, the interface is largely unchanged from previous versions of the series (Takeda 2 or Sango 2). Clicking on a city brings up screens of information. Players can manage their infrastructure via the city view of their cities and build armies. A lot of information can be displayed on the main map (treaties, supply lines etc). Diplomatic actions and the management of personnel can be done through the Palace Mode where you will spend a lot of time. The use of drag and drop is very common in the game (selecting the picture of a character and drop it in another slot) and makes management fairly easy.
The tactical gameís interface has been updated as well, but again isnít significantly changed from previous games. Special abilities and formations are controlled in a series of buttons at the top right corner of the screen. Most changes are cosmetic or reflect updates to the game engine itself. You can now select units and move them with a right-click which is a good thing.
The music of Takeda 3 is acceptable even if not great. Itís enough to give an Asian flavour to the game.
A nice aspect of the game is the option to record battles which can then be viewed again from the main menu. This allows the player to record his most epic sieges and also view the mistakes he may have made.
If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind
a high rampart and a deep ditch.
All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.
The players view their territories, which are displayed with a correct topography of the territory of Japan. Each turn represents a month. The player doesnít manage provinces per se but rather the castles placed at the center of each province it controls. Some castles are placed on key positions and will have to be defended at all costs. Itís really important to continually upgrade the infrastructures of the various castles. For example the player may choose to increase troop levels, improve rice production, or improve the skills of ninjas. Depending on the castle (you donít have the same amount of buildings slots in each castle) players can buy (paying with supplies!) different castle facilities (again, not every possible castle facility (of a total of 13) can be build in each castle). This makes each castle unique and some of them have a huge valor as they allow players to create large armies. The different infrastructures of the cities are displayed on the main strategy map and they can also be raided by your armies (some really need to be raided like the remote towers which prevent any castle from being placed under siege). Another great aspect of the game is that each castle has been reconstructed based on historical plans. This means that each castle conquered will be different. This increases the motivation to lead each siege personally. There are a total of 37 unique castles. Sometimes a clan with a single but well-defended, castle can be a real pain and require a long preparation to conquer.
Once a campaign progresses, players will have to transfer good generals to castles on the borders. Each unit is bound to its home castle and the further you go, the lower is their morale and the harder it gets to supply it. It can be frustrating at times, but itís not possible to transfer units from one army to the other so players cannot just replenish one of their good armies. It can be very difficult to conquer the entire map with the same armies so I had to create new armies along the way (crossing the map with an army can be fairly long). After a battle, an armyís losses will be replaced from the home castle. However this will only happen as long as the supply line is unbroken and the speed will depend on the distance.
A major difference to other games of the genre, is that, when creating an army, not only do you have to chose a marshal for your army but also each division of an army will have its own leader with his very specific abilities. Some division leaders can turn a defeat into a victory so itís very important to take good care of them. When creating an army, you get to choose between Yari Ashigaru (spearmen), Kachi Samurai (swordmen), Archers, Cavalry, and Teppo Ashigaru (gunmen). Players will always have more Yari Ashigaru as their production is cheap. Teppos will arrive only later in the campaigns.
I have nothing but praise for the strategic game in Takeda 3. The strategic game is not only well constructed and highly effective, but also a major challenge. Even at the easiest level of difficulty, empire building is a time consuming task. At higher levels of difficulty the game takes on a ďtwo steps forward, one step backĒ feel where setbacks become more common as you progress with your campaign. Some castles you have just taken will be under attack and, more often than you like, will be reconquered by an enemy clan. Infrastructure investment, army building, trade of special items, good care of your characters, and diplomacy all play a large part in determining a playerís success.
I have one regret though. Itís that only the Honshū Island is depicted in the game. Even though it was the main theatre during the Sengoku period, the other Islands were also important.