Review of Kessen
Being confronted with the task of changing history is always a daunting thought. If I do this, that could happen, but if I do something else what would the outcome be. Yep, with Kessen you are at the controls of an actual historical battle that took place hundreds of years ago.
As with any relatively complex strategy title I would highly recommend reading your instruction booklet before beginning this game to get the most out of it and to also avoid unnecessary frustration. While the booklet for Kessen pretty much skims over the gameplay, it offers a very rich history lesson for the game you are about to play. For those of you that simply cannot be bothered, the disc does include a very informative tutorial that will take you step by step through the major functions of the game. For heavens sake, you should at least give this a spin.
You start off Kessen in the role of Ieyasu Tokugawa, one of Japans most fearsome warlords. You will play for the east army known as the Tokugawa Shounate and will have support armies commanded by other generals. Your first mission is relatively easy, overpower one of Mitsunari Ishidas battalions with your forces.
To guide your forces, Koei has devised a pretty painless interface to learn. There are a good many commands at your fingertips but luckily most are intuitive and easy to remember. I certainly wouldnt say that Koei has dumbed-down the control for Kessen but the entire scheme is much more well thought out than most of their prior strategy titles as far as ease of use goes.
Issuing commands is as easy as clicking on a battalion and following the onscreen options that are presented to you at any given moment in the battle. Commands can range from devoting your entire forces to combine and attack all of the opposition, retreat and regroup, select specific battalions to attack and to also issue special maneuvers. The special maneuvers that come into play are moral, distance and experience dependant. Issuing a special can result in some catastrophic loses for the opponent essentially turning the tide of battle but the battalion that issues these commands must have their zeal level above the 80% mark before the specials will work.
Battalion battles can be viewed and controlled individually. You can even zoom into a battle and issue separate commands for certain segments of troupes that are within that battle. The level of flexibility and strategic possibilities this game provides are impressive.
There is a lot more to this game that would take far too long to describe for this review but there are a few other highlights that I would like to touch upon. One, was the meeting of the generals prior to the next major battle. Here we get to sit around the table with the other commanders (as well as with Ieyasus concubine) and discuss strategy for the upcoming event. It is here that you can select your next teams for battle and also go into a special menu to select generals and commanders from the enemies side that have the potential to be bribed or coerced and thus fight your battle from the inside. I thought this addition was a brilliant little option that lends itself well to the overall outcome of this battle. The other highlight that I would like to mention is the overall presentation value of this title…it rocks! Kessen does a superb job in placing you, the gamer, into the midst of this historical battle and making you feel like you are in complete control (which you are). Everything is laid out in a larger-than-life spectacle that is a feast for your eyes, ears and mind.
To go with such an epic battle one would hope that there is some grandiose graphics to go along with things right? Well, generally speaking many strategy style games dont necessarily rely on heavy duty graphics. I believe this is for two reasons. The first is the fact that hardware has not been available to depict wars of such epic proportions accurately enough to do the games justice…until now. The other reason is that most strategy game nuts dont really depend on the graphics, instead relying on solid gameplay…they can let their imaginations fill in the graphical shortcomings.
Well now we have a console that is actually capable of presenting battles of such a huge scope in all of their graphical glory. In Kessen, we not only get to see the tiny squadrons of platoons as we plan out our battle strategies but once the battles begins we can now watch them executed in real time with highly rendered characters and backgrounds. The first time I witnessed one of the actual battles my jaw damn near dropped to the floor. We have separately articulated, individually moving warriors on foot and on horseback. We have separate battles taking place. We have special graphical effects going on. Basically we have a feast for the eyes here. The shear amount of on screen activity is incredibly impressive and really does a fantastic job in representing what I think a battle would look like in this situation. One other note, the CG cut scenes are incredible and presented in such crystal clarity that only DVD could provide.
The sound in the game really goes hand in hand with the on screen action with the clanging of sword play, the groans and agony of death, and the footfall of the legions of horses are all accurately depicted here. Voice acting is also very well done, although in some cases it gets a bit repetitive.
The musical score is bold and outright magnificent blending in perfectly with the scope of this game. This is certainly one of those soundtracks that will benefit from a nice home theater system.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Kessen' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 30 Kessen in-game screenshot slideshow
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