Shadow Tactics: Blades Of The Shogun is an isometric stealth game set in the Edo period, one where players must carefully use the abilities of five unique teammates to take down enemies of the Shogun. To do so, they’ll have to infiltrate large maps, watching their foes for tiny windows of opportunity to strike.
Siliconera spoke with the developers of this tense stealth experience, learning more about the work they did to ensure historical accuracy to the period, their stealth inspirations, and how they developed huge playgrounds filled with opportunities for players to be creative with their sneaking.
Shadow Tactics is quite a change of pace and tone from your last game, The Last Tinker. What made you want to explore stealth next? How big of a change of pace was it for you as developers?
Dominik Abè, Creative Director of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – After The Last Tinker, we had a bunch of ideas lying around and were pitching them to different publishers. We always want to make games we love, even if that means a change in genre. We’re all huge stealth game fans, and getting the chance to revive the old Commandos formula was kind of a personal dream project for me. That said, it was a huge challenge, jumping from TLT to something of this size and complexity, and our company had to grow in order to meet that challenge.
Many are comparing Shadow Tactics to Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. What inspirations did you take from that game and from other stealth titles?
With Shadow Tactics, we basically wanted to make a new entry in that particular type of stealth genre that Commandos created. Many of us have played the original when it came out, myself included. We really wanted to get it right, so we were always careful to keep the basic core intact while making countless tiny improvements on the formula. As for other games, the stealth genre is very diverse, and recent innovations like MGS5’s Reflex Mode, or even just the fantastic open level design of titles like Hitman and Dishonored, help you get a feeling for how a good stealth game works.
What factors went into designing the five classes of characters that players would use throughout the game? Why create various classes for the game?
We wanted a diverse cast where no single member felt overpowered or redundant. Looking at older titles, we identified five archetypes and designed the characters around them. At its core, the game is about teamwork. Understanding what each team member can do and having them work together will let you overcome challenges that seem impossible at first glance, which is very satisfying. The game remains interesting because the composition of your team changes from mission to mission.
How do the classes add variety to the stealth gameplay? How do you ensure they interplay well with each other?
Every character brings something unique to the table, and we made sure that none of them lack anything essential. For instance, they each have skills that manipulate enemy behavior in different ways, from distractions to lures to blinding powder. We kept these skills simple and versatile to ensure that they would not only fit the character’s playstyle, but also complement the tactics of other characters. A great example would be setting a trap with Yuki and using Mugen’s lure to pull an enemy into it.
What thoughts go into making a good stealth game? Into making an area that’s an open playground for the player to try out new ways of sneaking through it?
When stealth is your only option because the opposition is overwhelming, that is a position one can easily relate to. Stealth can give you an empowering feel even though you play an underpowered character. There’s a certain satisfaction in being the voyeur, watching unsuspecting guards and listening in on conversations. If this is the kind of fantasy you are going for, then a good stealth level must feel like a real place where every obstacle and opportunity wasn’t designed for you, but because it made sense in the game world.
The areas of Shadow Tactics show a lavish attention to detail. How much work goes into creating a level for the game? Does historical research factor in?
Our art team is always very passionate when it comes to the details. We did extensive research on the style and architecture of the Edo Period, but we also wanted to add our own unique flavor into the mix, so we didn’t aim for 100% percent historical accuracy. The levels went through many iterations in order to balance out visuals and readability. In a game that is all about line of sight, you should make sure that what looks like cover also IS cover.
What appealed to you about creating a storyline in the Edo period? About creating a stealth game in it?
The answer is actually very simple. We love Commandos, but we’re not big fans of the WWII setting. I remember years ago, I was thinking: “You know what would be awesome? Commandos with Ninjas!” Everything else evolved from there.
What thoughts go into creating the three difficulty levels? How do you make sneaking easier or harder for the game?
We wanted to keep the core challenge intact, so we couldn’t just give players the ability to abandon stealth. What allowed us to adjust the challenge was the way detection works in our game. When an enemy sees you, depending on how far away you are, you have a small margin until he realizes you’re there. Tweaking this detection time and a few other factors like character health helped us define our three difficulty levels. We also experimented with adding additional enemies on hardcore difficulty, but had to abandon it due to time constraints.
How has the positive response felt after all of your work?