Nobunaga's Ambition: Iron Triangle

Pumping Iron

Well, it's been a year or so. Guess it's time to go unify Japan again. It's just odd that, even after two decades, taking land by force, negotiating truces and gathering resources is still so damned fun.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 5, 2009
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Our resident Mr. Awesome, J.D. Cohen, summed up the Nobunaga's Ambition series perfectly. "Nobunaga has been trying to unify Japan for 20 years now. You'd think he would have figured it out by now." I believe I've figured out why Captain Oda still hasn't gotten it down yet (y'know, beyond the fact that the games have continued to sell well enough that the inevitable sequel apparently gets greenlit the second the last game ships): it takes foreeeever to unify Japan -- long enough, anyway, that he probably tired of doing it after a couple months and decided to give it a shot again a year or so later.

No, wait, that's me.

I know, I know, it probably sounds like I'm just ripping on the series, but that couldn't be more true. I love these games, just like I love the Dynasty Warriors. It's a sickness, really, but that just means this isn't going to be another review that simply spits out the "hurrr, it's the same as last year, drop it by .5 and let's call it a day!" line. In truth, there's plenty of similarity between this and last year's game, Rise to Power, but in contrast to the minute changes that are made year-on-year for some of KOEI's other franchises, things have actually been streamlined quite a bit here.

This doesn't exactly mean Iron Triangle is an instantly accessible real-time strategy affair -- the tutorial alone will probably take you a good hour to run through from start to finish (I actually had to restart it once because I got pulled away and completely forgot what the first half of the lessons were supposed to be teaching me), and even then the tutorial isn't even close to a replacement for the manual, which I ended up busting out and using almost like a reference book once I crossed the boundary of where the in-game tutorial's basics ended. Once I'd put in the time, though, bits of the previous game (particularly why I loved it so much), came rushing back.

This is not a game you play for a half hour and get a sense of accomplishment. In fact, in a half hour, you'll probably only harvest resources once, since you can only gather food and cash from your fiefs' farms and shops (and variations thereof) after three months of in-game time when the seasons change. Rather than being a slow, plodding experience, however, this actually allows you to take your time in doing things like drafting troops (which you can only do during the Winter and Summer seasons), moving troops around, researching upgrades to your different unit types or emplacements, or building tons of stuff.

See, everything in Nobunaga's Ambition requires officers. Building stuff? Yep, officers. Moving troops? Need at least one. Drafting new troops? Ditto. Negotiations? Uh huh. Subterfuge? Yuuuup. The idea is that you dedicate your best leaders to help carry out all the tasks, and since some of them are better at, say, talking with others then they are at building things, there's a bit of juggling that needs to be done. The game makes the whole process fairly easy by just clicking down the right analog stick, which auto-selects the best three officers for the gig, but you're free to whomever you'd like to do it. Guys with better stats will get the job done faster, of course, but if you want to send Nobunaga to build himself a fort all by his lonesome instead of leading him into battle, you're more than welcome to.

That's probably not the greatest strategy, however, as your officers often have their own skills that can be used in battle -- stuff like routing the enemy, attacking with a big hit that can kill off hundreds of troops in a single hit, woo some of the enemy over to your side and so on -- and these can be comboed into each other if you combine them properly. These battles, in contrast to the last game, all happen on the main map rather than breaking down into another screen. The same goes for sieging bases, which is now nothing more than an order you can give your troops, allowing them to either attack the base itself, destroy it and then attack all the troops inside (a great way to lose tens of thousands of your troops) or, if you have enough squads to surround all of a base's gates, you can simply wear down their morale and capture the whole thing in one fell swoop.
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