Nobunaga’s Ambition Awakening Preview – Unifying Japan Under One Banner

Oda Nobunaga. If you’ve dabbled at least once in Japanese history, chances are you’re familiar with his name. After all, being one of the leading figures of the Sengoku period definitely earned him a place in history. And his legacy has spawned countless types of games, with one such being Nobunaga’s Ambition. This series is one of the pillars that make up the legacy of Koei Tecmo’s CEO, Kou Shibusawa. Today, we’ll look at the latest game in the series, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening.

In Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening, the objective is simple: Unify Japan’s Warring States under one banner. Simple in theory, but in practice? Well, first, you start by selecting a scenario and which clan you’d like to begin with. Of course, your clan starts small, so you must construct all sorts of facilities to help improve commerce and increase your number of soldiers. Once you’ve decided on an action, you must wait in real-time to see what happens, and you can speed up time’s passage. Once the gauge on the top left completes a full circle, you’ll move on to the next month.

As the months advance, you’ll receive offers from other clans and your retainers, and following those actions requires Gold and Labor. It took a while for me to get used to the simulation mechanics of this game because the UI was severely unintuitive. And even if you leave the game to do its thing, you don’t get a clear signal if progress is being made or your time is wasted. If you’re not used to RTS games in general, or if Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is your first game in the series, it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening sometimes.

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Once an enemy is sufficiently weakened, an option called Siege will appear on the Map, where your soldiers will have to defeat the enemy forces to destroy their citadel. But if you think a large number means they automatically win, think again because you have to consider the stamina of soldiers. After all, 5000 tired soldiers won’t do anything against 2000 that have a spring in their step. And if your Morale, represented by the gauge on top, falls to 0, you lose no matter what, as your soldiers are too demotivated to continue.

Still, if tactical play is not your thing, a feature known as Demo Play exists, this will make the game completely controlled by the AI, and you’ll just watch and see what happens. There’s also the option to edit your save file, so if you would instead just cause chaos, you can give yourself a vast amount of resources to just joke around and see what happens, which I find amusing to do. However, I should note that this will disable all achievements in both cases. A fair compromise but fun regardless.

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The difficulty is also completely customizable, and you can play at your own pace; getting good at effectively dishing out commands to your Army can be a monumental task that might take more hours than you’d want to know. Furthermore, the sheer amount of customization in Nobunaga’s Ambition is mind-blowing, to say the least. You can either follow the historical events or just wing it and do whatever you want.

Strangely, the game contains English voice acting, but there is no option to switch it to Japanese. Look, I have nothing against English voices, but for a game in Japan, I would much prefer to see Oda Nobunaga speak Japanese, not English. Furthermore, these voices are generic, for lack of a better term. They do not fit the characters at all. This also extends to some of the portraits, which are reused repeatedly. For a game that touted its many unique portraits, it sure isn’t doing an excellent job showing that variety.

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Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is looking to be one, pardon the pun, ambitious title to carry the 40-year torch that the series has cultivated, now on more modern platforms, and a competent game for the RTS community. That said, the English voice acting could’ve used some work, and the UI, arguably the most essential part of any game, could be a bit more intuitive.

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is coming on July 20, 2023, for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.

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