While some flashier, more well-known game franchises have been kicking around for 15 or 20 years, there’s one series of games that has been quietly delighting strategy enthusiasts for an astonishing 33 years, Nobunaga’s Ambition.
Koei’s Nobunaga’s Ambition series manages, repeatedly, to take a weighty subject and turn it into an entertaining strategic challenge.
Debuting on PC back in 1983 and subsequently spawning sequels on numerous platforms culminating with Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence, it has come back to PC, and rather excitingly, NVIDIA SHIELD via GeForce NOW.
The game is set in 16th century Japan, a place divided by warring factions led by feudal warlords, or Daimyo. One such lord was Nobunaga Oda, a real historical figure who over the course of his career set into motion the unification of all of Japan, and it is this ambitious achievement that you have to replicate in the game.
Here, you have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of military officers comprising real historical leaders and clan princesses, or alternatively you can create your own officer from scratch.
Having done so, there are three main strands to the gameplay. First of all, you have to take care of your own territory. By creating and maintaining farms and building a transport network, you can feed your people, make them more prosperous and invest in a broader range of businesses. This will enable you to increase your standing and gain the respect of neighboring clans.
This brings us to the second important aspect of the game, diplomacy. By creating a solid and successful society, you are then in a much stronger position to influence those around you. Rather than simply trying to batter rivals into submission through military means, forging alliances is equally important. There are several ways to expand your borders by peaceful means. Strategic marriages between clans is one way, as well as using diplomats to create alliances, treaties and trade agreements.
Not everyone will want to play ball, though, and that’s where military force comes in. Building fortresses enables you to increase the number of troops you have and fortify your existing territories. As you build your strength and wealth, you can erect castles which in turn greatly expand the number of fighters and officers at your disposal.
Success can only be achieved by the player who can manage to simultaneously juggle and master all of these skills, maintaining stability at home, nurturing diplomatic relations and defeating unruly rivals.
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence is a thought provoking, complex and fascinating challenge for those with the mental fortitude to channel their inner Daimyo.