The history of Japanese feudal warfare has been the subject of many books and movies (mostly Japanese productions) but its representation in computer games has been almost nonexistent, especially in the area of RTS games. In what would seem to be a perfect fit for the RTS genre, games based on Japanese 16th century civil war have only been represented with last year’s Shogun: Total War. Well there’s another entry in the genre – Magitech’s Takeda. This RTS game lets you experience the battlefield strategies used by the 16th century Samurai warlord, Takeda Shingen, who is considered to be one of the greatest tacticians in Japanese military historyMagitech takes a very deliberate approach with the gameplay of Takeda – it’s all about the battle. Okay, you do have to select your divisions, which consist of spearmen, swordsmen, cavalry, archers and eventually riflemen. The quality of a division is represented by stats such as leadership, skill, experience, morale, bravery, and battlefield accomplishments (enemy flags taken and enemy officers killed). The pre-battle screen has a slot for dropping the divisions into, along with a window that shows battlefield placement. The neat thing is that you can scroll through the different formations and see where each division is positioned via a lit-up area within the battlefield window. There is also text window that briefly explains each formation (only problem is that the stylized and small font makes it tough to read if you have an average size monitor). You can always refer to the game manual to get information on each formation, but it sort of defeats the purpose of having it on-screen. Except for this minor blemish, the pre-battle screen is well designed and helps to keep preparation time to a minimum. That’s pretty much it – there is no micro-management of troops within divisions and resource management is completely absent. This is good if you’re the type who just wants to get into the battle without a lot of preparation but hard-core RTS gamers will most likely yearn for more after going through a few battles (more on this later).The battles are pretty cool to watch and its fun to control your divisions but after a few skirmishes, it becomes rather apparent that one feature is sorely missing – an adjustable camera zoom. You have a bird’s eye view of the battlefield but unfortunately this bird never changes altitude. Hence, you end up constantly moving your mouse pointer around the battlefield to locate your various divisions. There is a mini-map but it’s small and only represents troops with colored dots – not easy to use if you’re timing that order for a cavalry rush. Like anything else, you adjust to the fixed camera distance but you’ll still end up muttering under your breath, “If only I could zoom the camera!” What makes it all the more frustrating is that the head-to-head battles and movement of troops is what Takeda is all about. You just expect to be able to zoom in to see your troops clashing or panning out to watch your army’s formation at work.There is a quick battle mode, which is represented by historical battles and the other single player gameplay is campaign mode. The historical battles are good for testing the waters since there isn’t a tutorial, or it you’re just interested in seeing what a classic battles was like. The campaign mode lets you experience what Takeda faced during this period of his life with scripted questions that give you a choice of answering either yes or no. Feedback is given to your decision such as your generals’ morale being negatively affected but it’s hard to tell how much this skews what otherwise is effected by what’s done on the battlefield. The campaign mode tracks your success and rewards you accordingly, with increased division attributes (leadership, skill, experience, morale, bravery, and battlefield accomplishments). The multiplayer mode consists of head-to-head competition over a LAN or the Internet.The 2D graphics look good and the environmental effects such as drifting fog and changing daylight add a nice element to the battlefield experience. The soldiers are small (d**, no zoom!) but they’re detailed enough so you can just tell what type of troop they are. Orders are issued with a drop-down window with troop selection performed by clicking either on a General within the control panel or dragging your mouse over your troops. The control panel also contains a command box that is used for issuing orders to your entire army. It’s here you can find a battle drum for boosting the morale of your entire army. Nice touch!Once you get used to bouncing from battalion to battalion, you eventually pick up on the nuances of the battlefield tactics and this is where Takeda excels. Pound an enemy battalion with your own battalion of swordsmen, then let your cavalry loose on them and watch the dust fly as your armed horsemen finish the job. There are multiple tactics that can be used and the troop AI acts accordingly. Takeda goes to great lengths in reflecting battlefield morale and fatigue similar to the WWII RTS series, Close Combat. If a battalion starts to take heavy losses, individual troops will start to retreat on their own and all you can do is watch them flee. One tactic to counter this is to use the regroup command before your battalion gets into real trouble.The only drawback to the battles is that they can end relatively quickly and after rushing through a few, you end up looking for more in the game. This is not a problem if you’re into experimenting with different tactics during battles but some gamers want to be able do more by changing the troops themselves, whether it’s with different personnel or weapons. This can’t be done in Takeda and many hard-core RTS gamers might view this game as being RTS-Lite, because of it.Takeda does a good job of handling the battlefield experience of warfare set during 16th century Japan but it misses out in enhancing that experience with its lack of an adjustable camera zoom. Gameplay depth is also limited since the focus is on battles and the tactics that go along with them. This might satisfy casual RTS gamers but the hard-core ones will need to look further to get their Samurai fix.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.