Released almost five years ago Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun became a huge hit for the real time tactics genre. The game combined stealth and strategy elements as you controlled a group of warriors whose goal was to deal with threats from the shadows without arousing suspicion. While I never played the original game, I really enjoyed the developers follow up Desperados III which took the gameplay and applied it to a wild west theme. Releasing next Monday on the fifth anniversary of the original game, the developers have decided to return to the world of Shadow Tactics with the standalone expansion Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice. While I never played the original game I was excited to try out the expansion as I was a big fan of their other game and generally like the real time tactics genre. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is a great example of what an expansion should be as it gives fans more of what was good about the original game even if they might wish it was a little longer.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is a sort of side story to the events of original game. It takes place towards the end of the story of the original game. The expansion delves more into Aiko’s past. Aiko’s former sensei, Lady Chiyo, appears and threatens Aiko and the rest of her companions. The group must work together to uncover Lady Chiyo’s evil plot and stop it before it puts many people in danger.
If you played the original Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun there isn’t much to say about the gameplay of the expansion as it is exactly the same. In fact the game basically feels like more missions for the original game as you have access to all of the characters and their abilities from the start of the game.
For those of you who never played the original game or it has been a long time, you basically play as a group of characters who all have their own special abilities to help you evade or eliminate enemies that stand in the way of your objective. The game is at its heart a stealth game. Being spotted doesn’t lead to a game over, but it will summon a lot of enemies to your current position which will be hard to deal with as you don’t have an easy way of dealing with a bunch of enemies at the same time. Instead you are better off trying to avoid enemies’ detection by sneaking past them or knocking out/killing them before moving on. To accomplish this each character has a number of ways to kill/knock out enemies as well as distract them. In many situations you need to coordinate several characters’ actions at the same time to kill/knock out multiple enemies at the same time or to have one cause a distraction to create a path for another character not to be spotted. The ultimate goal of each level is to complete a number of objectives and then get all of the characters to a designated area.
Heading into Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice I am actually going to have a different outlook than a lot of players as I actually haven’t played the original game yet. I was mostly intrigued by the game because I really enjoyed Desperados III which was made by the same developer. I wanted to bring up that I never played the original game to show that while it is an expansion, you could easily play Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice without having played the original game. The game is a standalone expansion so you don’t even have to own the original game. I would probably say it would be better to play the original game first for a couple reasons. At least at first I found the story a little hard to follow mostly because I knew nothing about what happened in the original game. The gameplay took a little while to adjust to, but wasn’t overly difficult due to having experience with Desperados III and other games from the genre. The game does have a number of scrolls scattered around that slowly teach you the game’s mechanics when you need them which should help people who never played the original game or kind of forgot how to play it.
While I haven’t played the original Shadow Tactics yet, I have to say that I still loved Aiko’s Choice. I probably didn’t get as much out of the story and there was a bit of a learning curve, but the expansion works because the gameplay is just so satisfying. Mimimi Games is just so good at the real time tactics genre. The genre is not going to be for everyone, but I really enjoy it. The game feels like a mixture of a stealth game mixed with a strategy game. You need to remain stealthy but you also need to think carefully and plan out your next moves to succeed without being detected. You can survive being detected, but the odds are not in your favor. There is just something really satisfying about being able to pull off an impressive plan to either sneak past or kill multiple enemies without being spotted. Fans of the original game or this genre in general will likely love the expansion.
I think one of the main reasons that the game succeeds is that a lot of effort seems to have went into the level design. The expansion doesn’t feature a ton of levels (see below), but what it does have is great. The levels are quite large which includes multiple objectives and a lot of enemies that you have to overcome. Each level has its own sort of “gimmick” which forces you to approach it in a different way. While you have access to basically all of the characters from the very beginning, the game puts in parameters which limit your use of certain characters in some situations. This forces you to think of ways to deal with situations other than using the character that you would generally prefer to use. The game does a really good job giving you interesting scenarios where you have to plan out how to use multiple characters at the same time in order to distract and then deal with enemies. Pulling off complex plans is really satisfying and makes you feel good about your planning. I haven’t played the original game so I can’t directly compare the expansion’s missions to the original, but I think fans of the series will really enjoy them.
Just like with most games in this genre, the game relies on quite a bit of trial and error. You might have a good plan on how to deal with enemies, but executing it might not work exactly how you expect. Timing can be critical in some situations and you need to have several characters work together in unison to pull off some of the moves. Therefore your plans likely will not go as planned on your first attempt. The good news is that the game includes a quick save and load system which allows you to quickly load your previous save if you are detected or your plan falls apart. This makes it easy to experiment as the punishment for failing is just a short load time to return you to your previous save.
I would probably say that Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice’s biggest issue is its length. The expansion basically consists of three main missions with mini missions inbetween mostly used to push the story forward. Three main missions likely won’t sound like a lot at first. I do wish the game had more as I was really enjoying the game and think the story could have supported more missions. Three main missions is a little deceptive though as the missions are quite large which fans of the series are probably already familiar with. If you rush through a mission and are really good at the game you may be able to complete a mission within 20-30 minutes. Missions are likely going to take considerably longer though as you will likely take your time and have to deal with quite a bit of trial and error. The levels will likely take around two hours each and likely longer depending on the type of player that you are. The levels also have alternative paths and different challenges to complete so there is replay value in the game. Thus the game’s length is generally not that bad. I just wish there was more missions as I was really enjoying the game.
At the end of the day Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is basically what you would expect it to be. It is basically more Shadow Tactics. The game doesn’t really introduce any new playable characters or mechanics. It just provides you with more levels utilizing the great gameplay from the original game. While new mechanics would have been nice, fans of the original game should still really enjoy the expansion as it is more of what was enjoyable about the original game. It maintains the same fun and satisfying gameplay utilized in some new levels that are really well designed. Honestly the only real complaint I had with the game was just that I wish it was longer. The game only features three main missions and some mini missions that are mostly used for the story. This still gives you quite a bit of content, but I just wish there was more as I was enjoying the game so much that I wanted more.
My recommendation for Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is really simple. If you didn’t care for the original Shadow Tactics or don’t like real time tactics games, it is not going to be for you. Fans of the original game or the genre though will likely really enjoy Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice and should strongly consider picking up the expansion.
Buy Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Mimimi Games and Daedalic Entertainment for the review copy of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.