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PAX East 2012: Skulls of the Shogun preview and interview
by Andrew Whipple III

Strategy games aren't exactly the most popular form of entertainment these days, but that doesn't stop them from being preposterously fun. Haunted Temple Studios' Skulls of the Shogun is one of these titles and it follows a design philosophy that many consider anachronistic; turn-based strategy.

Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars and Vanguard Bandits are all games that share a similar design with Skulls. Every single one of these titles is also deep and inventive with untold amounts of gameplay just waiting to be consumed. It's too bad though, games along these lines are rare to find in contemporary game design, but Skulls is looking to change all of that.

Jake Kazdal interview

This will be Jake Kazdal's (CEO of Haunted Temple Studios) first game he's ever directed and from what he explained to me, the man's vision is commendable. Proclaiming Advance Wars as his inspiration for creating Skulls, he wanted to make sure that the game was fast-paced, accessible and mainly fun instead of slow and drawn-out like some TBS games can get. Skulls follows these principles completely and dishes up a nice, cartoonish art-style to go along with it.

If you're unfamiliar with the kind of gameplay a TBS represents, you really should go try out one of those aforementioned titles. Typically they're slower gameplay-wise, but allow unprecedented customization and strategy. By moving your team around a board, you're able to flank or otherwise overpower opponents with the tactical ground and power you have. Skulls works much in the same way.

As you might have guessed, Skulls has you collecting the skulls of enemy Shogun as a sort of currency. Yes, you're going to be controlling undead samurai, which I don't think will be a problem for anybody. What also won't be a problem is how Haunted Temple is taking accessibility issues. You see, there's absolutely not menu labyrinths in this title. If you've ever played a TBS before, you know how ludicrous some of them can be and Skulls is streamlining it, making the game feel more action oriented.

Another neat thing about Skulls is that it will support two to four people via local connection or online multiplayer. The game will also support three people, as they have maps prepared for every type of scenario. Single-player also wasn't an afterthought. With a 10-15 hour campaign, Skulls should offer any kind of gamer what they desire.

Releasing day and date with Windows 8, which currently doesn't have a specific release date, Skulls of the Shogun looks impressive and, more importantly, is adding to an underrated genre. While it may be just an arcade game, its style is remarkable and gameplay is fast and as deep as you want it to be. Look for it sometime later this year for around $15-20.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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