Earnings reports, the launch of its subscription-based Office suite, questions about Surface Pro storage capacity, Dell buyout rumors ... at the enterprise level, it's been a busy few weeks for Microsoft. All work and no play makes for a dull software company, though, so it's fitting that the tech giant also injected some frivolity into the news cycle by releasing Skulls of the Shogun, the first game to allow seamless, device-agnostic play throughout the modern Microsoft ecosystem.
The title is noteworthy not only because it expands the Surface RT's gaming presence, but also because it allows players to move from one device to another without missing a beat. A user could begin a game on her phone as she's walking home from work, save progress to the cloud as she arrives, and finally pick up where she left off on an Xbox, PC or tablet. Older Microsoft operating systems are unable to tap into this cohesive experience, but Skulls of the Shogun still casts a fairly wide net. It is available for Windows 7.5 and any current-generation Microsoft platform: Xbox, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Windows RT.
The game's storyline follows General Akamoto, a famed samurai warrior who is betrayed and killed on the eve of what would have been his last battle. Gamers guide Akamoto's vengeful spirit as it journeys through the afterlife, collecting allies, battling enemies and attempting to become the true Shogun. The gameplay is rendered in a distinctive, hand-drawn style and relies on a turn-based system. Unlike turn-based titles such as Final Fantasy, however, players can roam fairly large maps before executing a move. The single-player experience includes a 15-hour primary campaign in addition to side endeavors, and the multiplayer mode can involve up to four connected devices.
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In a statement, Rod Chang, senior game producer at Microsoft, said many elements inspired the game's design. Samurai movies, "1960s-flavored sorcery," and classic arcade and turn-based strategy games all contributed to the unique and quirky tone, which includes flourishes such as Akamoto's ability to eat the skulls of vanquished opponents. Reviews have been generally positive, praising the game's accessibility and aesthetic, though some have pointed out confusing and imprecise elements.
Given that it's becoming the norm for users to carry tasks across devices, other cross-platform titles will probably join Skulls of the Shogun in the near future. As more options flood in, gamers will curiously watch whether costs will be uniform across platforms, a tactic Redmond did not employ for this release. In the meantime, Microsoft has achieved a noteworthy first that showcases the appealing breadth of its ecosystem.
The game has launched with limited-time discounts. The Windows 8 version of Skulls of the Shogun checks in at $9.99, the Windows Phone version is $4.99 and the Xbox Live version will set gamers back 1,200 Microsoft points.