Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension (PS4) Review

I don’t even like history, man.

Grand strategy is a genre I’ve known about for a long time, since the 90s when I first saw some screenshots of “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms” games.

My thoughts back then from looking at those screenshots closely resembles how I feel about them to this date- “Ya, no thanks.”

However, one of the best, and sometimes worst, parts of reviewing games is that I end up covering titles that I would never have touched otherwise.

In that way, I have managed to discover entirely new genres I’ve come to enjoy, and on the flip side, reaffirm my distaste for others.

As for Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence, this is a case for the latter.

I just want the game to be easy, why is this so hard?!

Each of the numerous campaigns in Nobunaga’s Ambition begins by picking a character who holds a certain amount of power and influence.

Based on their rank, they might be in charge of a single small village or an entire region filled with multiple castles. In that regard, the objectives of each of the characters and how they progress through the campaigns vary wildly.

While this freedom to choose from a large number of campaigns seems nice at first, I found myself restarting the game multiple times, as I ended up starting with a character that had way too many things to handle, and lacking the basic knowledge of how they got to such an influential position in the first place, I felt completely lost and more out of my element playing a video game than I have ever before.

A new tutorial was presented every time I encountered a new mechanic, and while completely necessary, it was a non-stop barrage of tutorial windows popping up every few minutes for my first few hours with the game.

Worse yet, even though the explanations were sufficient for the most part, I was rarely able to put things I learned into practice before I had to learn something new, and the process continued until I ended up forgetting something vital.

It felt as I was in math class all over again, and every few minutes I was tasked with learning a new concept without having to practice anything I learned before, and if I can’t add properly, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be doing any multiplications.

This process of getting lost and restarting with a different campaign went on for a few hours until I finally landed on a character starting from the very bottom, and it’s here when the game started to take shape.

Honor is the most important currency!

Working for a lord and handling a list of objectives to help a cause was a relatively simple matter compared to being a lord myself and overseeing an entire kingdom.

Building new facilities to generate iron, lumber, gold and more came relatively easily even though I’m certain I wasn’t making the best use of the space I had available.

If I were to list all of the mechanics that I was exposed to in Nobunaga’s Ambition, this simple review would turn into a novel, so I’ll save myself and the readers the trouble by saying that there is a lot to min-max here if the player so chooses.

Notably, I quite enjoyed the open-ended nature of the objectives, as even though I was always given a full list of them, I was under no obligations to meet them all myself, as there were also other AI characters working under the lord, trying to accomplish the same goals as I was.

It was a competition of sorts to see how many of these objectives I could finish so I could gain as much honor as I can so that the lord will promote my standing in the kingdom.

When I wasn’t clearing the land for new development or building new facilities, I was at war helping out the cause.

What is this, a war of ants?!

Oddly enough, contrary to the rest of the game, the combat felt rather simple, requiring very little micromanagement as the AI did most of the work as I issued some commands here and there to help turn the tide of the battle.

Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise though, as if the combat was as complex as managing a kingdom, I would surely have never won a fight.

Even though this is coined as a “Historic Grand Strategy” game, there wasn’t much to the story in the campaigns, and reading the various little dialogue bubbles were more difficult than it needed to be because of the tiny text size.

*squints eyes*

At least the character illustrations were quite well done, and they have an aura of regality to them, as though they could have been cutout from official historical documents.

That’s some good artwork!

I find myself in an odd situation where I felt miserable playing Nobunaga’s Ambition, mostly because it’s just not the kind of game that I enjoy. However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but be impressed at the level of depth and polish in the overall experience. Still, it remains that this game did nothing to make me want to delve deeper into the genre of Grand Strategy.

Fun Tidbit – The historic Japanese character, “Nobunaga Oda” has appeared in more than 20 games, including a Pokémon game, “Pokémon Conquest”. My personal favorite cameo is in Onimusha 1, where he plays the main antagonist.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Complex and ridiculously deep
  • Gorgeous character illustrations
  • Overwhelming to play
  • Boring war scenarios
  • Tiny text
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.