Developer 17-BIT’s Skulls of the Shogun is a simple strategy game that has both amazing visuals and a great sense of humor. Originally released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2013, the game featured a ten hour campaign that told a fun, tongue-in-cheek story about a fallen Japanese general. In addition to the single player content, the game also sported a multiplayer mode that was playable for up to four players locally and online. The latest version of the game, the Bone-A-Fide Edition, adds more new content that wasn’t part of the original release; including new levels, a new campaign, and much more.
The strategy of Skulls of the Shogun’s gameplay is simple to get into, but a good challenge when diving deep into the game’s single player campaign. Each level is a separate scenario that has elements of the story told through humorous dialogue between characters. The basic tutorial, which is cleverly woven into the story, takes players through all of the important abilities and strategies for each level of the game.
Players control an undead General Akamoto and a group of skeleton warriors he encounters while trying to fight through legions of otherworldly samurai. In the Bone-A-Fide edition, there is an extra side campaign that follows Much like other strategy games: turns are taken between the player and CPU by commanding units to move around and attack foes on the map.
Planning a course of action with your units is important to achieving victory in each scenario. Despite the humorous looks, the CPU will be relentless in defeating you should it have the opportunity to do so. Without a proper plan, you will find all of your friendly units defeated in battles. Even more so, units have the ability to eat fallen enemies and increase their strength. This is both an advantage and disadvantage in battle for both allies and enemies, as it could be the difference in victory or defeat. Other aspects that come into play later on in the campaign open up all sorts of possibilities for battles, including the ability to haunt rice fields for resources, grabbing healing potions on the ground, and using shrines to summon more friendly units.
Multiplayer is pretty fun when played locally with friends. You can have both free-for-all and team deathmatch skirmishes for up to four players at a time, along with a selection of other modifiers for each level. To make things interesting, you can set a short time limit for turns to make things move at a quick place. It may take away a lot of the strategy element that comes from planning moves before execution, but it is still fun to play with other people when everyone is scrambling to make the best moves they can with their army. It’s very comparable to something like speed chess, only in a video game form on PlayStation 4.
Online play is kind of hit or miss. Sometimes you’ll have difficulty finding a match with anyone in both Ranked and Player matchmaking online. When you are lucky enough to find someone to play with, things can get very annoying with long wait times between turns and even some disconnection issues that tend to occur now and then.
While the online functionality is a nice touch to this edition of the game, it just has a bit too many issues when trying to get into a match online. If you want your multiplayer fix with Skulls of the Shogun, you would be much better off calling a few friends and playing multiplayer locally.
If you’ve never really taken a liking to other complex strategy games before, give Skulls of the Shogun a chance to change your mind. The strategic elements are streamlined enough to understand very easily and get into the flow of each game, while at the same time, being deep enough to reward well thought out strategies against opponents.
The humor may be a bit tongue-in-cheek for some players, but you won’t help but smile at the timing and cleverness of the dialogue and story. Online play may not be the most fun, but the multiplayer is definitely enjoyable when playing local matches with friends.
Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition is a fun game on PlayStation 4 that is definitely worth checking out.
This review was based off a purchased digital copy of Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition for the PlayStation 4.