Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening – Review
Follow Genre: Grand Strategy
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Kou Shibusawa
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: Switch, PS4, PS5, PC
Tested on: PC

Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening – Review

Site Score
Good: Hundreds of hours worth of addictive content
Bad: Tutorials don't cover certain important mechanics
User Score
(2 votes)
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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Prior to playing Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening, the latest entry in Koei Tecmo’s long-running series of grand strategy games, our only experience with the Nobunaga’s Ambition series was the crossover/spinoff game Pokémon Conquest. We quite enjoyed that rather simplistic take on the legendary Grand Strategy franchise, but it’s of course barely comparable to this latest outing. Given that Awakening coincides with the 40th Anniversary of Nobunaga’s Ambition, it was always going to be a milestone in Koei Tecmo’s books, but is this new title a celebration worthy of Nobunaga himself?


Based on actual historical events and figures from history, Awakening puts you in the shoes of a tribe leader from feudal Japan. Your aim is to unite the entire country under your banner. There are several clans to choose from, each with its own story to tell, and many of the events that occur during a playthrough are choice-driven, so things will play out differently for each playthrough. Even so, Awakening isn’t necessarily a story-driven affair. Don’t get us wrong, there is plenty of backstory to be found here, but most of the narrative comes from short story scenes that you actually need to read through, and which ones you get to see seems to be determined through the choices you make as well as through random events. You’ll also need to be prepared to read a lot, as the narrative is delivered through rather lengthy text blurbs juxtaposed against illustrations.


If you’re familiar with Koei Tecmo’s arguably better-known Warriors games, in particular Samurai Warriors, you might see some familiar faces here, as many of the characters that make an appearance here are playable in that series as well. The art direction and character design are nothing short of fantastic, to the point that they felt underutilized, as most of the game is presented through top-down maps and menus. Story scenes are typically presented as still images, and although these illustrations are gorgeous in their own right, we do feel like the overall presentation was a bit underwhelming for how ambitious of a game this is.


We’re having mixed feelings about the voice acting. On the one hand, the voice cast does a stellar job, but on the other hand, it’s incredibly jarring that everything is in English, with no Japanese audio available. Music, on the other hand, is befitting of both the game’s epic scale and the setting. There’s even some customizability here as you are able to choose which tracks are playing as you play, so if you don’t like particular tunes, you simply don’t have to listen to them.


As a Grand Strategy game, Awakening is a title that is less about battles and more about scheming and political intrigue. Make no mistake, battles are still very much a thing in Awakening, but we found ourselves spending a lot more time on the overworld map as we developed the provinces of our budding nation, formed alliances with neighboring clans, and appointed underlings to rule conquered territories for us. Awakening goes into unprecedented depth when it comes to managing your economy and political relations with the other lords that rule Japan. The tutorial covers the basics but even then things can feel overwhelming from the get-go, and you’ll probably need to rise to the challenge several times to get a decent understanding of how everything works. This is by design, as Awakening is clearly a title that is meant to be played for hundreds of hours.

There are three major gameplay systems that you’ll need to master if you want to succeed: War Tactics, Dominion, and Battle. War Tactics is the most interesting and perhaps most complicated of the three. It’s a bit of a misnomer too, and we feel like it should have been called Politics instead. This is where you assign territories to your offspring, daimyo, and other allies, promote them, and try to ensure your provinces flourish without having to take care of them yourself. Dominion sees you take direct control of your territories and decide how they should be developed, and Battle does exactly what it says on the tin. Battles play out in real-time, with you taking the helm and directing your units over the battlefield, as you either attempt to conquer enemy territories or aim to defend your own.

Fans of Grand Strategy games will find plenty to sink their teeth into, although newcomers will have difficulty finding their footing, especially given how little the tutorial covers. There is an amazing amount of strategic depth here, but many of the finer mechanics and intricacies present here are glossed over, even if they are actually the key to victory. Add to this that the interface isn’t always the easiest to navigate, and you’ve got quite the learning curve ahead of you. Persevere, however, and you’ve got an utterly fantastic and streamlined strategy title in front of you. Awakening definitely isn’t for the faint of heart: the game is brutally unforgiving, and we recommend saving a lot because making a single wrong decision can ruin a playthrough. Death comes easy, and there are times when the untimely demise of your warlord comes unexpected, for example, when disease strikes or when a disgruntled family member beheads them during an argument. It’s important to set up a strong dynasty then, by marrying your offspring and ensuring that you have a successor ready in case the worst happens.

What Awakening lacks in elegance, it more than makes up for with how much freedom you get here. At any given time, there is a lot going on: you’re managing your provinces’ assets to ensure you have plenty of rice and gold, spending resources gathered on upgrading cities, and keeping your offices happy. You’ll also need to keep an eye on neighboring provinces, attempt to gain their allegiance, or simply prevent them from invading your farmlands. And that’s without even keeping in mind that you’ll want to remain in the Emperor’s favor. Awakening keeps you on your toes constantly, as more mechanics are piled on top of one another. Yet somehow, it’s a surprisingly addictive affair, and with every playthrough, you understand things a little better and inch closer to your ultimate goal: the unification of feudal Japan under your own banner.

There is an enormous amount of content present here, even if a lot of the campaigns are simply slight variations on the same formula. On top of that, Awakening also gives budding warlords access to a plethora of customization. Not only can you create your own officers, including stats and political orientation, but you are even able to set up a custom clan. If that isn’t enough, you are able to craft your own scenarios as well. The potential is nearly limitless, and if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck here.


The biggest challenge you’ll face in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is the learning curve. If you’re a Grand Strategy veteran, you’ll find your footing quite quickly, after which you’ll have hundreds of hours of streamlined and addictive gameplay in front of you. Newcomers, however, are likely going to have a hard time meshing with Koei Tecmo’s latest offering, because of how obtuse and incomplete the tutorial is. It’s a difficult balance to strike as you don’t want to bore players with long-winded explanations of course, but we do feel like the right balance wasn’t struck here. That said, if you can make it past the initial non-intentional difficulty, you’ve got an incredible game waiting for you.

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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Nobunaga's Ambition: Awakening - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

1 Comment

  1. | Lords and Villeins – Review
    August 29, 2023, 00:01

    […] try didn’t feel satisfying, we simply wanted to give the game another go rather than ditch it for Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening or The Guild […]

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