When Skulls of the Shogun was released originally on Xbox and Windows platforms, it was an entertaining entry into the turn-based scene. It was fun, but ultimately didn’t stack up to others in the same genre. With Skulls’ release on iOS, the game still keeps all of the same fun, but most of the same issues from its original release, too.
In Skulls of the Shogun, you play as General Akamoto, a recently fallen warrior who is making his way into the afterlife. After arriving in the afterlife, Akamoto is told that he has to wait hundreds upon hundreds of years in order to reach the true afterlife, and this severely pisses him off. Akamoto then decides he isn’t going to wait at all and decides to fight his way to the front of the line, recruiting followers and killing all those who stand in his way. While this tale may seem semi-serious, it’s actually a quite lighthearted story with lots of humor and one-liners that had me chuckling as I arranged my forces.
The game is a fairly by-the-book turn-based strategy game, but with a much easier learning curve. Some turn based games throw everything at you when you play, but Skulls doesn’t overwhelm with countless character types and augmentations. To some this may be a detraction, but the simplicity could make Skulls a great entry point to those interested in the genre.
Commanding troops is easy on iOS, you touch them, and drag them to the location you deem fit. Want to attack someone? Simply touch them when commanding your soldier and they’ll chip away at their health, which is displayed on flags worn by both friend and foe. A death of a solider can cause the tide of a battle to turn, but while Akamoto is one of your most powerful units, if you lose him, it’s game over.
Upon defeating enemies, their skull drops. So what do you do with their skull? Well, you eat it, obviously. Doing so gives back health, and upon eating three skulls, your soldier can turn into a Demon, which gives the unit two turns per round. It creates an interesting choice when playing: do you have all your soldiers eat the skulls of fallen enemies so they’re all healthy, or do you have smaller numbers become powerful Demons that can move twice? It’s a simple mechanic, but ultimately one that can determine victory and defeat.
The decision to not have a grid like most turn based strategy games may not seem like a big deal, but it turns out to be a slight problem when you decide where to place your army. With a grid, it’s much easier to place your units in precise locations, and you’ll know for certain what enemies can reach you, as well as what benefits local allies provide from being close to each other. The issue with how Skulls has soldiers moving around is that it lacks any sort of precision. In games like Fire Emblem or Advanced Wars, it’s easy to distinguish where your troops may be, and while the more float-y troop management is easier to control on iOS devices, it can lead to unknowing mistakes that could cost you a solider, or worse – the battle.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Skulls of the Shogun is its use of cross-device asynchronous multiplayer, titled “Skulls Anywhere.” Essentially, you can play Skulls with anyone on PC and other iOS devices. This barrier-breaking feature is something all games should strive to have, because it means no matter the platform, friends can play together without having to agree on one device. With the campaign already taking double-digit hours to complete fully, the multiplayer addition gives even more hours of play, and with the game being only five bucks, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and an addicting multiplayer that will keep you coming back for more.
Skulls of the Shogun is undoubtedly fun. Its take on turn based strategy is simple and unique, but the lack of ultimate precision when moving units makes it a weaker experience. Its move to iOS is nearly flawless, and it captures everything as perfectly as other versions prior have done. Moving units with your finger feels natural, and after playing on both iOS and PC, I actually preferred my experience on my iPhone. The cross-platform multiplayer is a fun add-on, and makes the game’s availability to play with friends on other platforms an incredible (and hopefully trend-setting) experience.
This review is based on a review copy of the iOS version of the game Skulls of the Shogun Bone-A-Fide Edition by 17 Bit Studios.
- Asynchronous Multiplayer
- Great Humor
- Movement Issues