Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 04.01.2016

Review for Nobunaga

Developed and published by Koei Tecmo, Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is a deeply overwhelming game from the moment that the adventure begins. Set in Feudal Japan, the fractured nation is at war with each other in this historical simulation. With nine lengthy campaigns spanning hundreds of hours of play, this is an ambitious turn-based strategy title where Daimyos lead their clans to conquer the nation through a mixture of diplomatic relations and the brute force of an army. Sphere of Influence was received well by Ian in the PC review, so how does it fare with a fresh pair of eyes on PS4?

While it is an expansive adventure, where nothing is impossible, Nobunaga's Ambition does not shy away from how much information is required in order to play the game. For newcomers to the series or the genre, this title is not easy to just pick up and play; however, it does reward patience and understanding of how the mechanics work, and once mastered, Sphere of Influence can be an extremely fun way to spend a few hours trying to conquer nations.

Due to the expansiveness of the game mechanics, Sphere of Influence attempts to showcase all the features that are required to be used in the campaign. The tutorial does its best to try to fit in all the information needed to play; however, it succumbs to the fact that there is just too much to explain, and lot of it can be lost in a series of jargon or otherwise poorly explained text boxes. While the tutorial delivers a range of objectives strung together by beautifully drawn cut-scenes, trial and error is the key to figuring out what all the tools can do. However, the pause menu also features a handy library, which is available at any stage throughout the campaigns, as it holds all the information taught in the tutorial.

Screenshot for Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence on PlayStation 4

There are nine campaigns on offer in this turn-based strategy title, which chronicles the uniting of the clans set during the Sengoku period, or the 'warring states' period in 16th century Japan. While the main story follows Oda Nobunaga in his quest to unite the nation, any of the other clans available in each campaign are also available for selection. Each clan has a series of unique quests and objectives, which build up to conquering the realm. The quests highlight the real historical happenings that need to be re-enacted in order to proceed, if the player so chooses.

A Daimyo is the ruler of a clan and, as such, they make all the decisions in regards to how to further their clan, as well as eliminate their foes one by one. However, a Daimyo cannot rule on their own, thus they are required to assign their officers into certain tasks in which they can oversee until the conclusion of the job. Some of the jobs may involve building a new road between neighbouring kingdoms, constructing new buildings or upgrading defence walls of a kingdom. Each of the officers has a variety of statistics and skills, which enable them to complete certain tasks in a quicker time span than others, so learning where each of the officers' strengths and weaknesses lies is paramount to succeeding in the Daimyo's conquest.

Sphere of Influence is turn-based, with each turn taking a month to perform the tasks assigned. At the beginning of the turn, the Daimyo have to orchestrate a series of tasks to be completed. At first, the tasks are limited to the amount of officers that are at the Daimyo's disposal. For instance, if there are three officers available, then they can overlook one task each. As the campaign opens up further, more officers offer their services. Upon ending the turn, the month will then play out as all the other clans make their turns, also. At the end of the month, a meeting takes place with the Daimyo and his officers as they recap the progress of all the assigned tasks, as well as key moments that have played out in the map between other clans. Then the next turn begins, and the Daimyo will select the next batch of tasks that they deem necessary to complete.

Screenshot for Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence on PlayStation 4

While building an army is paramount to conquering the realm, brute force alone is not enough to win the war. The Daimyo is required to partake in diplomatic relations with other clans in order to further themselves in the conflict. While forming and strengthening relations can be time consuming, it does come with an added bonus later on. Once an army has gone to combat with a rival, allies can send reinforcements to aid the controlled Daimyo in order to turn the tide of battle.

Disgruntled officers from other kingdoms may betray his Daimyo, or join an opposing kingdom. Therefore, it is a top priority to keep the officers happy by bribing them with treasures in order to keep their allegiance. Merchants pass through the town to sell these treasures for a high price, forcing the Daimyo to try to earn a profit through selling their rice takings or improving the crafts in order to increase the stockpile.

The battles between armies are the only portion of the game played out in real time, although it can be paused at any time in order to better plan strategies in order to win the battle. While there is no control over individual units, a regiment of soldiers can be given orders. Although a group of soldiers has a number, as to how many men are within that group, numbers alone will not win battles. Two armies of 500 men each can easily deplete an army of 1500 men if the two groups attack from both sides with the pincer attack. Therefore, learning some battle strategy is also highly important in uniting all the clans.

Screenshot for Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence on PlayStation 4

Due to the enormous scale of the game, pacing can be an issue in trying to find the motivation to venture further. It does take a few playthroughs to learn the ropes and the game mechanics, and even then, Sphere of Influence may not be fun to play. However, once it all clicks, it can be an absolute blast to play. Every little detail in the game requires a bit of deliberation as to how it should be performed, because every decision made, regardless of how minor or major it may seem, has a cause and effect that ripples into how the kingdom evolves in the future. It is because of this that patience is required, as some decisions will not bring about immediate results. Sometimes, planting the seed and then growing that seed in order to see results can be a lengthy process; however, the game does a great job in rewarding those who are patient to see them through to the end. In the instance that some may feel overwhelmed with all the decisions, the officers provide suggestions to the Daimyo as to what needs to be a main focus for the next turn.

While pacing, as well as the influx of information that can be difficult to divulge, is a hindrance on what is otherwise a great game, the user interface is the other major opponent. For a title that was clearly built for PC, the user interface is not user friendly on the PS4. The screen has three different menu bars, and trying to access certain menus without the use of a mouse really deters the fun. On the maps themselves is a cursor that is mapped to the PS4 controller, and scrolling through the map to see what is out there can be a painful task at times. Even worse than venturing out into the map is trying to go back to where the controlled clan is, as the HUD map leaves no indicator as to where the home base is.

Screenshot for Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is such a ruthless game that aims to do so much; however, it doesn't serve as a great starting point to newcomers of the turn-based strategy genre. Although it has a cruel and heavy tutorial that overwhelms, as well as a user interface that makes no sense on a controller, beneath the cracks is an otherwise impressive game with an enormous scope. Each clan has its own set of quests and objectives, meaning that replaying the same campaign as two different clans will deliver two widely varied scenarios. The harsh reality is that Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence rewards patience, but quite a lot of patience is required in order to make the most of what is a difficult game to recommend to others.


Koei Tecmo


Koei Tecmo





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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