Sengoku Rance, A Turn-Based Grand Strategy Game. People come for the Hentai, but stay for everything else. At least that is my experience when going through the game. However, the game manages to utterly frustrate me during a lot of moments, up to a point where my frustration started to outweight my enjoyment of the game. After a long time of thinking about it, I decided to write down my thoughts about why this is the case:
I believe, Sengoku Rance doesn’t appreciate the player’s learning progress.
Short gameplay summary: Sengoku Rance is a turnbased Grand Strategy Game, in which your ultimate goal is to conquer Japan, and while doing that, have sex with a lot of girls. You do that by sending troops each turn into a battle to conquer territory to hopefully win or reload the last savefile.
The battles themselves are also turnbased, with each unit having a basic attack and in most cases a certain ability that influences the battle in different ways, this goes from putting up a guard to protect allies to a bigger damage output to other stuff like insta-killing an enemy unit by chance or healing.
When you start the game you are very quickly thrown into the first battle without any kind of tutorial whatsoever. This means, that the player has to learn everything by himself, and that can occasionally bite new players in the ass quite harshly, when they do not exactly get what is going on. After that, you’re quickly thrown onto the map, get a little instruction on how to do some things… but nearly not enough… and off you go.
It’s here already were the game starts feeling a bit odd. Unlocking the prison is pretty obvious (via the option that says “Take Prisoners”) but the fact that an event called “Dango Princess” will unlock more commanders to recruit (which is quite helpful) is ehm… not exactly something you would expect.
In Turn 2 you can declare war against the first territory.
Starting from this point, the game is falling apart.
If you are like me, you are not going to declare outright war, as you are probably afraid of what might happen. Taking your time to explore what you can do or what you can’t do, building up your army and so on…
However, the player is unknowingly put under a lot time pressure here. This is mainly due to the Endgame Trigger, but it is also thanks to certain other events. Let’s list what exactly the player is pressured by_
- Natural Progression, the enemy troops won’t just stay still, they will grow each turn when you do nothing.
- Events, that force you into a war. This can sometimes quite bite you in the ass, when you try conquering another nation. It’s nothing too bad when you manage your troops correctly though. On the other hand, it encourages the player to move out when all he did so far was just turtling.
- Events that take away your opportunities. Mostly in concurrence with the last point.
- The Endgame army (unavoidable on your first playthrough) takes almost all of the territory you haven’t conquered yet, when it arrives.
- Points that you get in the end. And no, this is not just for rankings, it can get you a great advantage like... literally removing the Endgame Trigger.
The red-marked points are the most important ones, due to them pretty much fucking you over very quickly once they arrive. There is no real hint what the endgame army can do and that it is punishing you for not acting quick enough in the early and midgame.
With that, it is very likely that you will not just stay on your first playthrough and bear through it… till another unannounced event arrives that actually pushes the Endgame army back to their original territory (what the hell….). I obviously didn’t know of this, so I just restarted the game completely (loosing hours of progress), to now rush through everything, to have an advantage (or more accurately, somewhat equal ground) over the endgame army.
Yes, the Endgame Army turns the main route of Sengoku Rance… into a single rush to the endgame. Thanks to savescumming (reloading the last savefile in case of a mistake, which almost feels actively encouraged thanks to the endgame trigger), you will probably punch your way through every country, just be fast enough to get enough points and BAM, you finished the main route.
Why is this an issue? Well.. let’s take a look at a completely different Genre… the infamous Dark Souls.
And no… no “Dark Souls of Strategy Games” here, I am not that stupid…
In Dark Souls, after the learning the main mechanics through a very well done tutorial section, you encounter the first boss.
You use what you have learned so far to defeat that boss. Bosses then start to increase in difficulty, becoming a more difficult obstacle to overcome the further you are (most of the times.). However… Dark Souls treats its bosses, even though, there are many, as a true victory once you overcome them. You get a screen that basically says “Fuck Yeah, you won!”, and as an additional reward, this boss won’t respawn again (thank god for that…)
It let’s you celebrate your victory, it let’s you rest on the teaching you have learned, to overcome that enemy.
You genuinely feel good after achieving victory over and over again, even against the same bosses on a different playthrough.
Back to Rance. Why am I mentioning this? Rance doesn’t let you rest. Once you are aware of the endgame trigger, every other country you conquer becomes a mere tool to either them or you, who annoy by putting up a challenge, while the endgame army can just run over them in a single action. In other words, they become a “Conquer them or else…” variable… not an actual obstacle.
This makes rushing the only viable strategy for Rance’s Endgame, and drags the down the whole gamequality with it. It doesn’t feel good to savescum, it doesn’t feel good to just rush through everything and it doesn’t feel good, to see your points at the end and noticing that you can not remove this godforsaken Endgame Trigger to be able to enjoy the game like it should be from the fucking beginning.
Why is this so important? I think that putting the first-time player under such time pressure while having such an interesting world to explore is JUST WRONG on every level. Let the player enjoy the world, don’t pressure him too much, make him care about the world and not only about the endgame bosses. Let him relax once he has overcome a big obstacle, make sure he remembers everything he learns in the game…
What makes me even more sad is that this is an issue that would be so easily fixed by just not having the player forcefully run into the Endgame Trigger on his first playthrough. The “be fast to be good” idea of the Endgame serves as a much better final challenge, than a first one, so my idea would have been to just have the player unlock the Endgame Trigger by doing a first playthrough or… just let him access the other routes of the game… without the endgame trigger.
It’s a shame, because Sengoku Rance is otherwise is a pretty fantastic game… it’s just sad that it puts so many breaks on itself.. which is quite the irony, considering the issue…
What follows might be a thorough analysis of the game… if I can keep myself sane while playing this game for the third time now, with the endgame trigger not being able to be removed…
See ya, Bye-Bye Then
MrEinFan aka Chris.