Skulls of the Shogun, developed by 17-Bit, is set in a feudal Japan with an undead twist, that is, all the Samurai and whatnot are undead. The game is described by one of the devs, Jake Kazdal, as an "arcade style turn-based strategy game." The developers claim that they were influenced by Advance Wars, but wanted a less rigid form of gameplay. What sets this game apart is that it doesn't use a grid, instead going for analogue controls. Additionally, the developers didn't like the "rock, paper, scissor" system seen in the aforementioned Advance Wars and many other strategy games, instead opting for three different and flexible core units with pros and cons that can be used against any other units, depending on how they're used. Additionally, the property based parts of Advance Wars have been streamlined for simplicity and to go with the faster "arcade approach" the developers are going for. This is the first game ever which allows cross platform multiplayer play between Microsoft's Windows 8/RT, Windows Phone, and Xbox 360 platforms. An updated "Bone-A-Fide Edition" of the game was later released for Steam and runs on all version of Windows since XP.
The game is very different from turn based strategy games in terms of unit control, that is, the game removes the grid system and gives the player direct analogue control over the unit. Units can do multiple things, they can haunt structures or rice fields, attack enemy units, and defend allied units. As far as restrictions on what players can do, this game follows an action point system, that is, everything a player will do will cost a scroll, be it building, moving, attacking, haunting, or otherwise. Prior to setting up the game a player can change the match type, pick the number of armies (players), set a time limit per turns, choose the starting race, and pick a map to play on.
Properties are much different then the typical factories and cities found in other turn based strategy games, instead, there are three structures: rice paddies, shrines, or summoning areas. Rice paddies are where the player gets the main currency of the game, rice. A player can burn an action by making a unit "haunt" the rice paddy, giving resources, but also burning up the rice paddy. And so, in effect, the resources in the game are finite. Shrines are used to summon special monks who are units with special abilities and spells they can cast, one that was demonstrated was the Fox Monk, which is defense based. Unlike other turn based strategy games with unit building, there is only one unit building in this game. A summoning area where players can use rice to summon units.
There are 3 classes of controllable units.
- [6 Health 6 Attack 3 Defense]
- Cavalry [6 Health 5 Attack 2 Defense]
- Archers [6 Health 6 Attack 1 Defense]
- Infantry [6 Health 5 Attack 3 Defense]
Unlike other games, there isn't a set balance of a unit against another, that is, there's no rocks, papers, scissors categories. A cavalry won't always be the best thing against infantry, and archers won't always beat cavalry, it lies more on how a unit is used and managed by the player. However, those are just the core units. As said above, there are special Monks which can use special spells. Additionally, there are the Generals, which are the centerpiece of every game. If the General dies, the game ends. The General, however, is also a very capable unit, and every turn he's not used he gets more powerful.
When a unit is killed, its skull drops, which another unit can devour. A single unit can eat up to three skulls, which boost abilities - the first skull boosts defense, the second skull boosts offense, and the third skull turns a unit into a completely new, more powerful and strongly upgraded one, in the form of a Demon.
The UI is very simple and straight-forward, and designed to be as easily accessible as possible. Commands are displayed in the corners of the screen (depending on the person, as once it was in the bottom left and the other time it was shown on the bottom right.) On the opposite side of the commands is where a long scroll is displayed with statistics during an attack, of how much life a unit has, how much damage will be dealt, and how much damage will be taken. Additionally it displays the amount of rice, units, and the round. Otherwise, unit health is displayed by a flag that the unit carries with a bar showing health.
You are a famous and prestigious Japanese military general, but in one of your largest fights, you are betrayed and killed. You wake up on the ship of the dead, learning that the man who betrayed you has also died. However, he has taken credit for your accomplishments, and has went on to serve the shogun directly. You then get angry and seek revenge, leading your loyal post-death army to take down those who betrayed you.
Currently, up to four-player local multiplayer support has been announced, and possibly the same for network multiplayer, and of course, a single player campaign. In the multiplayer modes, if one of the players drops out of the fight, an AI will take over his/her army, thus making it possible to continue the match.
Versus offers different multiplayer game modes such as:
- Skulls Anywhere - In this variation of versus players find themselves sending turns back and forth at different times. This mode is played against friends using Windows 8/RT, Surface tablets, and also Windows Phone. This mode imply s that there will be long duration between turns since the variety of devices is large.
- Skulls Online - This mode offers a straight up online game mode with up to 4 players via Xbox LIVE.
- Skulls on the couch - This mode is the game's local multiplayer mode with up to 4 players locally.
On July 29, 2013, Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition for Steam was released. Unlike the initial Windows Store version of the game, this edition can run on Windows XP, Vista, and 7 in addition to Windows 8. Also unlike the initial releases on Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and the Windows Store (for Windows 8 and RT), which had cross-platform play between all devices, Steam users will only be able to play against other Steam users.
Bone-A-Fide Edition includes everything from the original game along with the following:
- A new mini-campaign entitled "The Forgotten Isles"
- Six new multiplayer maps
- A new Monk character
- Developer Commentary
- An experience/player ranking system
- Collectable Emblems
- Steam Trading Cards
PC System Requirements
*These requirements only apply to the Bone-A-Fide Edition for Steam, not the Windows Store version for Windows 8 and RT.
- OS: Windows XP (SP3) or later
- Processor: Intel Celeron 440 2.0GHz / AMD Athlon 64 3300+
- Memory: 512 MB RAM
- Graphics: Shader Model 2.0 graphics card, Nvidia GeForce 7300 / ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 or better
- DirectX: 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 600 MB HD space