Nobunaga's Ambition Awakening Interview with

I’ve played Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening. You’re going to love this game.

Get your thinking caps on, samurai!

8 mins read

Nobunaga’s Ambition is more niche than the top strategy games out there that jump to mind immediately when you think about the genre. Civilization and Total War rule the roost, of course. However, there are also the likes of Crusader Kings and Age of Wonders, which have rapidly become major properties in the genre. Nobunaga’s Ambition is more niche than these, but it’s the genre’s grandfather, turning 40 this year. The new one, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening, is, on first impressions, brilliant.

Related reading: Our interview with the producer and director of the game.

The 16th title in the series, Awakening doesn’t do too much to rock the boat, however, it is subtly streamlined and refined in ways that make it much more accessible. One of the key features you’ll immediately love is the ability to delegate. You can appoint your retainers to key posts and head up regions in your domain. Once in charge, they’ll make decisions about what to develop in the area. That way your nation continues to improve automatically at the micro level even while you focus on the larger, empire-building decisions, military commands, and clandestine plots. For beginners, this overcomes one of the largest hurdles that Nobunaga’s Ambition has often faced – an almost overwhelming onboarding and being faced with so many local decisions that it’s easy to forget about entire swathes of your territory.

There’s also a nicely streamlined menu interface this time. This makes it easy to drop into the right spot when you want to execute a strategic decision. You’re also inundated with good “advice” from your retainers and, especially early on as you learn the game, you can basically follow their recommendations in full to have your nation running like clockwork.

Nobunaga's Ambition Awakening Preview 1

Of course, when you’re more confident that you understand the game’s systems, you can ignore this advice and shape your empire the way you see fit. At higher difficulty levels, the AI will certainly test your ability to think creatively.

For all the above, one of the things I have always enjoyed most about Nobunaga’s Ambition is not so much the strategic mechanics, but rather the storytelling. Throughout the game, you’ll be able to view key moments as they happen to major clans and personalities, presented through some really appealing art. These stories are all drawn from the real-world history of the time, and though you can change the course of history (for example, by not having Nobunaga Oda’s clan fall with his death), there is nonetheless a “documentary” quality to the game that gives it weight and authenticity.

That also means that there are fundamental imbalances across clans. For example, my favourite clan, the Hojo, are not a lightweight group that is easy to roll, but they do face some fundamental challenges in that there are some frighteningly powerful rival clans surrounding them. What’s more, the Hojo leadership and military leaders are not quite as effective as those in the Takeda or Oda ranks. Changing history so that the Hojo emerge as the dominant force is a fascinating challenge. If you really want to challenge yourself, it is also possible to command some shockingly weak clans, which historically only controlled a tiny slip of land before being absorbed into a much more powerful clan. That is always a fascinating challenge, especially if you’re going to command a clan that faces an invasion almost immediately upon starting the campaign.

Nobunaga's Ambition Awakening Preview 2

Awakening is also a game that recognises regional stories and conflict in a way that makes your participation in them still feel meaningful. For example, the north of Japan was never really dominant across the entire nation’s politics, but Masamune Date was incredibly influential within that specific sphere of control. Shikoku island, meanwhile, never produced a clan or leadership that challenged for power over the emperor, but if you play as Chōsokabe Motochika, you’ll have little trouble uniting that one island under your rule. And then you’ll need to scramble to prepare for the inevitable invasion from the heavy hitters from the “mainland.”

Related reading: Our review of the previous Nobunaga’s Ambition: Nobunaga’s Ambition Taishi.

Because there are all these regional conflicts going on, even as the big guns in central Japan jostle for the title of shogun and the de facto rulership over the entire nation, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening gives you a good chance to delve into the histories and stories less frequently told from the era. It’s not a history textbook, of course, but it is one of the most accessible sources to wrap your head around the key names and moments from the era, which you can then study further if you’d like to.

I’m still learning my way around the real-time combat, as well as the way that sieges and the like work. What I can say is that it’s all presented really nicely in a game that is in every way gorgeous. In true 4X strategy tradition, combat is by no means the be-all and end-all of the experience in Nobunaga’s Ambition. I do feel that this game is perhaps weighted a little too heavily towards empire management, since diplomacy and economic systems are also quite simple, but I am still very early into things and there may be nuances I’m missing there.

Nobunaga's Ambition Awakening Preview 3

The long and short of it is that Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is the most impressive effort by Koei Tecmo to find a wider audience for this series. Yes, it has been around for 40 years, and yes the 15 previous entries gave the series a certain “hardcore” reputation, but this new title is an opportunity to put all of that aside. If you enjoyed Civilization or Total War, I reckon you’ll want to give this one a whirl when it launches in a few weeks on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

  • Can you create fictional retainers like past games? I would often create several dozen in both ROTK games and Nobunaga and have them appear randomly in territories.

  • Previous Story

    The catch-up coffee: Monday, June 26, 2023

    Next Story

    July 2023 Podcast: Final Fantasy XVI deep dive, and do old games “age”?

    Latest Articles