October 15, 2010 7:36 PM | Michael Rose
When I first posted the above trailer last month, we didn't really know much about Skulls of the Shogun other than it was a very pretty-looking Advance Wars style strategy game. I got the chance to play it at the Indie Games Arcade recently, and oh wow... now I must talk about it more. I really must.
Each team is made up of various undead skeleton creatures, of all which have special roles to play. You've got archers for long-range attacks, soldiers for getting in close and personal, healer guys for keeping the rest of the team alive, your king who must be defended at all costs... so basically, all the usual suspects in a strategy game. Yet it's all the little details and tactical decisions that make Skulls of the Shogun so much fun. Each player can only move five units during a turn, so deciding which to shuffle around is important. Units have a circle of influence in which they can toddle around, smashing anything in range.
Structures and fields scattered around the land must also be interacted with. Any unit can haunt a building, gaining you rice each turn - this can then be used to buy more units for your cause. Now we get to the game-changing part - kill an enemy, and they'll drop their skull. Every skull bagged will give a unit extra health and attack, but collect three skulls and your unit will explode with darkness and become a demon unit. Demon units are stupidly powerful, and can completely change the flow of battle.
There were plenty of times during play that I thought my team of the undead were goners, but Skulls of the Shogun isn't ready to drop someone out of the game that easily - fighting back when you're clearly the losing side is a struggle, but completely doable, especially if you can catch the other player off guard with some backhanded maneuver. The action is pretty slow-moving, yet it's always exciting to both watch and play.
Yet again one to watch out for from the Indie Games Arcade lineup! We're looking at a release sometime early next year for both Xbox Live Arcade and PC. Make sure you listen to the Indie Games Arcade podcast special we did a couple of weeks ago to hear Borut Pfeifer of Haunted Temple Studios talking about the game.