During our trip to PAX East, MTB writer Jessica Weimar was fortunate enough to sit down and have a hands-on session with the upcoming turn-based strategy title Skulls of the Shogun. Many of you may have no doubt read Ms. Weimar’s impressions of SotS and are now looking forward to the game’s final release like so many of us here at the office. Well it turns out developer Haunted Temple Studios has been kind enough to send us a playable build of their highly anticipated game. Although the build sent to us may just be a pre-alpha demonstration, it’s incredible to see just how promising the title is even in an unfinished state.
While all of our previous experience with Skulls of the Shogun dealt with the game’s multiplayer component, this time around we got some extended time with the single player. In our pre-alpha build, over a dozen missions were available to play that spanned a large course of the game’s story. During these missions players are given a small handful of units with which to progress to the level’s end. Some stages have the player trying to keep their units alive through a string of small skirmishes while others take place upon a large battlefield where the enemy A.I.’s shogun must be assassinated in order to win. Unlike the multiplayer component of the game, there is no timer to put pressure on the player and strategic choices may be made at one’s leisure.
For the most part the battles against the A.I. played out much like our experience with the multiplayer hands-on, but the campaign’s tutorial did teach a few advanced techniques. As was mentioned to us by the guys at Haunted Temple Studios during their presentation, environmental kills do factor into the combat of Skulls of the Shogun. Although the multiplayer map played at PAX was a landlocked one, many of the maps on which the single player fights take place have plenty of cliffs and pools of water into which to knock enemy units. By using infantry units to push enemies into environmental hazards, even the toughest of enemy units can be felled in a single move. Since units killed off in this manner still drop their skulls, even weak infantry or archers can reap the rewards of clever positioning. Also present in the campaign is the inclusion of the spirit wall which is a technique by which units form a wall to protect archers and healers.
Aside from introducing new strategic techniques, the campaign in Skulls of the Shogun also contains a larger variety of maps than what was shown to the public at PAX East. In addition to the swampy areas shown at this year’s PAX, there are a number of maps also based on the seasons of the year. Levels which take place during springtime have cherry blossoms gently floating through the air while winter area maps are covered in ice and thick snow. Although most of the seasonal variation is strictly cosmetic, it does make each map appear quite unique from the next and really adds a ton of personality.
While I certainly enjoyed Skulls of the Shogun when I played it at PAX, being able to sit down and enjoy a chunk of the game’s campaign really cemented my love for the title. We would like to thank Haunted Temple Studios for not only allowing us a bit of extra time with SotS, but also for crafting what looks to be a real strategy gem in the downloadable title market. We here at Mash Those Buttons are looking forward to Skulls of the Shogun when its final release comes sometime this summer.