Samurai: The Way of the Warrior logo

Impressions * £29.99

For one meg Amigas only, though half meg owners aren't going to miss out on much. Samurai is set (shock horror) in the 16th century China, when local warlords ran the land and the samurai was the ultimate warrior. Unfortunately, in this game he's been transformed into a tactician and commander. Don't expect much in the way of blood and guts.

Typical of an Impressions game, this is stuffed chock full of all sorts of options for building up an army and moving them about to fight other armies. If your idea of fun is to spend the first 30 minutes of gameplay, simply moving little blobby icons back and forth and then another five or ten watching them meander across a battlefield then you'll adore this game. Graphically it's fine, but I died of boredom appreciating them.


Samurai: The Way of the Warrior logo

Ausdauer haben sie ja, die Feldherren von Impressions: Obwohl sie mit ihren Strategieschinken einen Flop nach dem anderen landen, geben sie nicht auf - und schon langsam geht's tatsächlich aufwärts!

Samurai steht zwar unübersehbar in der Tradition von Schauersoft wie "Rorke's Drift" und "Cohort", doch das Bemühen um Besserung ist allerorten spürbar, vor allem bei der aufwendigen (Zwischen-) Grafik und der überarbeiteten Maus/Icon-Steuerung. Aber zunächst die militärischen Grundlagen.

Zwei japanische Fürsten prügeln sich um zehn Inselstädte, will kein zweiter Spieler mitprügeln, springt halt der Compi ein. Am Anfang werden durch gezielte Plünderung der Stadtsäckel die Armeen aufgestellt. Diese verschiebt man munter auf der Inselkarte herum, bis sie auf ein feindliches Gegenstück treffen.

Im nun folgenden Kampfmodus können faule Feldherren einfach aus der altbekannten, leicht schrägen Vogelperspektive zusehen, wie sich die hübsch bunten Männchen gegenseitig massakrieren. Stürmischere Naturen dürfen das Geschehen natürlich auch beeinflussen - vom bloßen Festlegen der Armeeformation bis zum direkten Steuern eines einzelnen Soldaten ist alles möglich.

Grafisch und Maus-technisch sieht die Chose jetzt zwar viel besser aus als anno "Cohort", aber ein paar gravierende Nachteile sind geblieben: Der sichtbare Ausabschnitt des Schlachtfelds ist viel zu klein, die Soldaten kommen nur recht zäh vorwärts und dem Gameplay mangelt es massiv an Abwechslung. Ändern die sporadisch erklingenden Soundeffekte und Musiken etwas am Ergebnis? Leider nein - die Richtung stimmt, aber der Weg ist noch weit (pb)

Samurai: The Way of the Warrior logo

As you should all know by now, 30 or 40 computer game incarnations down the line, the samurai were the guards of the great shoguns in feudal Japan. We're also 30 or 40 down the line as far as Impressions wargames are concerned, making it only a matter of time before these two great lines in computer-gaming would eventually cross.

And now, inevitably, they have. Set in the 16th century Japan, Samurai: Way Of The Warrior sees you in the role of a shogun chap called Usaka San, caught up in the middle of a power struggle with a chap called Obinaka, who killed your father and stole his land. Now, as they say, it's a matter of honour...

Well, I don't know about this honour business, but I do know that this is a wargame, and as wargames go it's par for the course. Disk accessing is occasionally a bit of a pain, although at least hard drive users are catered for.

The game starts with you in control of five cities (Obinaka controls the other five) and allocates you a certain amount of money to spend on creating your armies. Once done, it's off to war. Spread out over the map are the ten cities - you must capture all your enemies by sending your armies (one square at a time) across to meet the opposition. This, it has to be said, takes an awfully long time, as the game is based on a turn by turn system.

The graphics are nicely drawn - at least to begin with. The intro has a slide-show of a samurai putting his fogs on from next to nothing right up to full battle dress. It's not bad, so I expected fine things (or, at least, finer things than you expect in a wargame) from the actual battle sequences. Sadly, I was disappointed. Whenever two armies meet, a sub-game pops up with the armies at opposite ends of the screen - you have to scroll the screen to see them both.

The sprites are big and blocky and move appallingly slowly but then again, this IS a wargame. The sound on the other hand is a bit better, with a Japanese style tune and some good sampled speech. Not awful by the standards of the genre then, but equally, it's a long way off from anything you could really term 'jolly good'. Even the most battle-hardened wargamer won't get anything new from this.

Samurai: The Way of the Warrior logo

Tony Dillon brushes up on his Kendo and heads for the Far East as warmongers, Impressions, unleash their latest battle.

Impressions used to be a fun little software house, who released spiffy little arcade titles alongside more serious strategy games. These days, however, they have become committed to releasing the best in Amiga strategy titles, a standard they have yet to full achieve.

Although they all look wildly different, strategy games really fall into two categories. Large scale, whereby an experienced player gets to try their hand at some complicated international battles, or small scale, where the objective is local, and played more or less man for man and is generally far more manageable for the general player.

Samurai falls into the latter and casts the player as a Japanese lord, and ruler of half an island. Your ambition is to conquer the entire island, and to do this you must go against another lord, who just happens to want the same thing.

The game is played on two levels. The first depicts a large map of the island, where most of the overall strategies are carried out. From here, your five cities can be viewed, as can your opponents. In addition, any mobile armies you or he may have roaming about can be located and watched, too.

Clicking on the cities reveals details on how much money that particular city has, and how many soldiers are in your army - and the more money each city has, the more soldiers you can afford. This part of the game is played in turns, and here lies the first real fault with the game. Although this is an extremely important part of the program, and is integral to your continued survival, there is almost nothing to do once your armies have been created. There's something mind-boggingly tedious moving about five squares for twenty minutes.

The second level comes into play whenever two armies come into contact, whether it's through two mobile armies meeting or an army attacking a city. A close up, semi-overhead view of the battle is given, leaving you to issue orders to individual members of your army or as groups.

After that, you sit and watch the battle unfold in true Impressions style (remember Rorke's Drift? This is virtually identical). All commands are issued from a small group of icons in the bottom right of the screen, and include such classics as retreat or surrender, and move units.

The problem is, nowhere in the confusing manual does it tell you which is which. There is an illustration of the icons, and a list of commands, but their order seems to have no correlation, and I found myself doing nothing more than examining an enemy tree when I was actually trying to fire an arrow. After ten minutes of such trial and error, I managed to work it out. It isn't an overly important aspect but it does make initial play more frustrating than is necessary.

Playing Samurai, I found myself getting bored rather quickly. There's no real tension and the simple game system indicates how the battle finishes before you start. Thus, most of the time combat is simply a case of watching a screen with very few men on it for five minutes.

Whilst on the subject of little men, the graphics are actually quite good for the most part. There are stacks of Eastern stills which pop up whenever something important is happening. Sadly, though, the sprites look a little cute and, as a result, out of place in the hardened battle scenarios.

The biggest problem Samurai has is that it's a very simple game laid out in an overcomplicated way. There is nothing new here, and what there is has been done a million times better before. It's by no means terrible, just very bog standard in design, and only just saved from mediocrity by some attractive presentation.

SOLDIERING ON Each army is made up of seven different types of warrior. Each has different skills and, of course, the better skilled the warrior class, the more expensive they are. At the top end of the market there are mounted Samurais, who are the best fighters you can get, and the fastest unit on the map. Going down the price scale, you then pass through the ranks of gunmen and archers until you reach spearmen and basic footsoldiers. On their own, these are fairly useless, but are strong in numbers - like accountaints in the pub on a Friday night.