Nobunaga’s Ambition is a strategy title that feels more like the tabletop game Axis & Allies than the PC’s Starcraft. Everything that isn’t battle is turn-based, there is very little combat, and the rule set is immense. You’ll need to read the instruction book, play through the tutorial, and wish for more help because the learning curve is huge. Once mastered, Nobunaga’s Ambition is a great title, but most won’t have the patience to figure things out.
Nobunaga’s Ambition takes place in feudal Japan when Nobunaga Oda was trying to bring the entire country under his rule. There are multiple scenarios available, and each takes place during a different time period within the feudal era. Difficulty is relative to your chosen daimyo and the time. Choosing Nobunaga, for example, isn’t always a free pass to victory as he starts one scenario severely outmanned and outgunned.
Most strategy games today focus almost exclusively on combat. You won’t find a tactic like the Zerg or Zealot rush here. What you’ll find is one man counseling other men on how to best maintain his farm land, decide when to send out a spy who will be back in four turns with information about the neighboring daimyo, or negotiate with a rival warlord. Nobunaga’s Ambition is slow, but the game is complex enough that the time to think and strategize is a blessing.
The few times combat appears it is handled in real-time, but compared to the rest of the game it feels extremely sloppy and inexact. There is an autoresolve feature that streamlined combat and removes the Dynasty Warriors Light feel, and I heartily recommend using it. Every other aspect of Nobunaga’s Ambition feels like a chess or go match and automating the combat keeps that feeling alive through all aspects of the game.
Sadly, Nobunaga’s Ambition really shows just how old the PS2 is. Characters are small and undetailed, landscapes are muddy, and the remainder of the game’s graphics serve to transmit information to the player without taking any attention from the task at hand. As a lover of strategy games I can appreciate just how much information is packed on each screen, and how difficult it can be to communicate so much without resorting to walls of text. Sound, like graphics, are lackluster. If deep strategy won’t pull you in and keep you enthralled then there really isn’t a lot for you in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rise to Power.
There’s a lot to do in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rise to Power, and it will take a long time to learn. But if you love turn-based strategy and occasionally need a break from Civilization IV then Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rise to Power is the game for you.