Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension Review

November 10, 2016

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is a mouthful, and also the sequel to Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence which was released in September 2015. For those new to the series, the game is at its core actually both real-time and turn-based strategy. Each ‘turn’ is considered to be one month, where you perform two different main overhead strategy actions known as the Council, and the Execution.

The Council is where you make decisions as an officer in Feudal Japan, as you tell your Samurais what to do, and where to spend your most vital resource: Labor. This resource was introduced in the original Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence last year, and changed the Nobunaga’s Ambition games forever. Labor puts a cap on how much construction you can perform each turn. The higher your population, the more labor you get.

The first thing I found myself doing in Ascension was figuring out how to change the game to English. It installs in Japanese, and by clicking on the 4th option in the launch menu, and then the last choice in the last row of the settings (all quite confusing, it’s entirely in Japanese), I was able to change the game to English. Unfortunately, Ascension has added the English language as an afterthought, and therefore western gamers may struggle with the initial setup of the game.

Cut-scenes are all in translated fragmented English, and there’s very little English voice acting throughout the game, which leaves your ears to rely heavily on the music and sound effects to enjoy the game, albeit the music in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is exactly what you would expect for a game set in the Sengoku period of Japan.


As mentioned, Ascension now allows you to play as an officer, a feature left out of previous Nobunaga’s Ambition games, but popular in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games that are also produced by KOEI. You can now become the major domo of your clan, and even conquer entire regions to become a Daimyo. This adds a whole new level of strategic gameplay to the Nobunaga’s Ambition games, and will keep you involved in your campaign for even longer.

You are also able to marry characters which is a good way to create allies with other factions, and the married couple will then have children which you can continue the family lineage. Now when you die in the game, you’re able to have one of your trusted retainers carry on your legacy, which means you don’t have to start all over again or load a previous save to try to approach things differently. This new feature will definitely assist with allowing the less experienced strategy players to finish campaigns, although with a different officer.

Building in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, however the building areas are not restricted to hexagons. This makes for some very realistic looking cities, as farms and other structures sweep across the lands of Japan. While expanding is important, it is more important to maintain what you have. A steady flow of money and resources is key to a successful campaign.

We found at the start of basically every campaign we were fast forwarding time to progress the game as there was little to do while waiting for money and resources to build up. It is definitely important however to make sure you earn as much honour as possible each month, as this will assist in you rising through the ranks and eventually becoming a Daimyo.


There are two kinds of battles in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension, Siege Battles and Naval Battles. When you begin a battle it now enters into a map depending on whereabouts the battle is taking place. This can create some epic battle scenes as you send thousands of troops across vast distances, or invade large castles. The combat is fairly straight forward once you are in a battle, clicking where you want to go and who you want to attack, and if you leave the units alone they will decide what to do by themselves, meaning you aren’t actually required to do anything once a battle has begun. We found some battles were quite difficult, but making sure you have built up your units before entering into battles will ensure a higher rate of success.

Visually, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is nothing to write home about. The graphics haven’t received an overhaul from its 2015 predecessor, so aside from the massive-scale battles, there’s really no new features to talk about. The fact that the game pretty much looks the same on PlayStation Vita speaks for itself. If you’re new to the series, the basic layout of game is a map of Japan which you can scroll around. It’s mostly just rendered mountains with very basic textures, but as you develop your city the map becomes a lot more involving.

All the cut-scenes are just art with subtitles and voice actors, so don’t expect any flashy Japanese movies throughout Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension. We did appreciate the artwork, but perhaps some of the story in Nobunaga’s Ambition games could be told without having to break away from the gameplay.


Similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization, or the Total War series, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is a complex strategy game not designed for the faint-hearted or casual gamer. We actually found that there isn’t all that much to lure a casual gamer into replaying any of the campaigns. Amassing an empire and sending armies off to battle sounds like fun, but we found the amount of decisions you need to make in this game almost overwhelming. There are options to allow your council to decide for itself, and to sit back while your armies go to war unguided, however to feel like you are truly conquering the Sengoku period of Japan, you need to take control of every meticulous aspect of the game.

If this sounds like your kind of strategy game and you haven’t played any of the Nobunaga’s Ambition games before, this latest iteration Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is definitely one you should contemplate getting. While the original Sphere of Influence was dubbed a great yet somewhat basic strategy game, Ascension goes a step further to ensure fans of the series have a greater depth of gameplay and can get truly involved in the lore of Sengoku Japan.


- Very deep and involving strategy game, great if you love your Civilization and Total War games
- New features allow for more customization in your own story
- Seamless graphics and user interface makes the learning curve not too steep


- Language barrier can fragment the gameplay
- No English voice acting, minimal English voice, meaning lots of text.
- Very deep and involving strategy game, possibly too complex for a casual gamer
- Definitely not the best in its field on PC, but PS4 owners may appreciate its complexities

Overall Score: