The 16th century marked the Sengoku
period of Japanese history – the age of strife. Vast armies fought for place and
power, with the battles often primitive.
Armies deployed onto the battlefield,
horse-led charges into the teeth of spears, and bowmen. Close in, the battle
turned to skill with sword. It was a while later, in the 1540s, that the rifle
made its appearance and altered the method of fighting. Though large armies
still marched onto the battlefield and charged at one another, death often
visited from a distance.
Takeda, a PC release from Xicat
Interactive and Magitech, is a real-time war game that incorporates many
elements familiar to war gamers, including strategies, formations, morale, and –
above all – a keen sense for knowing when to attack, and when to hold back.
Timing can deter the difference between victory and defeat.
The game set-up goes like this: the
Takeda family rules a small mountain province (Kai) in Japan. You have just been
named the Protector of Kai, Lord of the Takeda family. There are those in the
nation that believe you too young, too inexperienced to be the leader of a clan.
To the immediate north lies the province of Shinano. The Suwa, Ogasawara and
Murakami families jointly rule Shinano. They doubt your ability to lead and join
armies to invade and capture villages on the Shinano-Kai border.
Your first task as ruler of the Takeda
is to repel the invaders. You will have to capture a mountain pass that will
allow you egress into Shinano, where you will take the battle to those who
Sounds simple, and, at first, it seems
so, but this game can turn on a dime. What seems like certain victory, or
defeat, can be reversed in a second. An enemy that seems so aggressive can
suddenly turn and run.
The actual game begins with an
overview of Japan, on a stylized map. The scenario is set up, and then the gamer
is whisked to the formations screen, where he (or she) will determine which
leaders will position troops where on the battlefield. Should the Protector lead
the centerline, or swing out to the flank. Perhaps holding the troops in reserve
would suit the Protector better.
Once you have determined battlefield
locations, the game shifts to an overview of the field of battle. The tiny
troops are lined up, ready for orders. You can set formations, order a
deliberate attack, regroup, retreat, stand your ground, or even send the entire
army in a helter-skelter all-out attack. With the command given, the soldiers
march into the battle. You may hear the whisper of arrows, and see troops fall
to the ground. As the armies engage, spears and bows give way to swords, and the
clang of metal on metal. There arises a great hue and cry as death visits.
Scrolling around the map is quite
easy. Running your cursor to the edge of the map moves the view, or you can
navigate with the tiny position map in the player interface that runs along the
There are several ways to play the
game. You can play a campaign, engage in an historical battle, or challenge
other players in a multiplayer game either connecting through a LAN or the
Internet. While the single-player game is interesting, the multiplayer provides
much more of a challenge.
Graphically the game is solid. The
actual battles are carried out with a three-dimensional feel, and the
animations, and environments are well rendered. However, rather than
automatically adjust your screen resolution to the parameters of the game,
Takeda requires game players to set monitor resolution to one of two options
prior to launching the game.
The game AI seems a little suspect at
times. There were instances when the Takeda army had walked into the fray, was
all but surrounded and the opposing army was holding troops in reserve. Suddenly
the battle shifted and the enemy was routed. Sending the reserve troops in as
the Takeda clan was being hacked down, with nowhere to run would have meant
certain victory for the enemy. It seemed strange that the computer commander
would wait until there was nothing but a reserve unit left to send it into the
The game sound is also very solid. The
musical score captures the feel of the period, and the battlefield sounds are
exactly what one would expect from this type of game.
Takeda is certainly not as difficult
as EA’s Shogun: Total War, but it does a nice job of finding the ground between
the two, and providing a solid gaming experience.
It is rated Teen for violence.
The game can take up to one gigabyte of
hard-drive space, but installs relatively fast.
The scenario maps can provide players
with a lot of information if they know what to look for, and how to read the
strengths of the various clans. The initial formation setup is easy to use, and
the battle scenes play out quickly. Once you begin a battle, the game moves
seamless until an outcome is determined.
The graphical elements feature a variety
of styles, but each compliments the other, and the game actually looks very
nice. There is nothing threatening here. The set-up screens are kept simple and
user-friendly, and the battle scenes are animated quite well.
The musical score is very good, and the
battle sounds are exactly what one expects.
The player interface is kept simple, and
players with any previous experience can leap right in and play without having
to spend much time pouring through the manual. The options are somewhat limited,
and the AI seems a little weak in places.
Certainly this style of war game has been
done before, but Takeda manages to incorporate several elements into a package
that has something to offer just about any game player.
This is perhaps the game’s strongest
element. While the game AI seems somewhat weak in places, battling with another
human introduces unpredictability into the game.
This is a very solid product. The use of
formations, morale and knowing when to send units into the battle is key to
success. Yes, the AI is suspect, but overall this program is enjoyable.