After playing through the full (post early access) release, the verdict is in and I can confidently say that Skulls of the Shogun is a winner. This quirky turn-based strategy game seems simple at first, but there are actually some surprisingly deep levels of nuance and complexity beneath the surface. You play as a Japanese swordsman General who is trying to reclaim his stolen identity in the afterlife. The art style is very unique and really well done. The cast of characters and story are also very cool. The dialogue, in particular, is a highlight. I wasn't expecting much from that aspect of a seemingly simple strategy game, but I was pleasantly surprised at how funny and entertaining it was.
So the aesthetic portions of the game are definitely good, but what of the actual gameplay, you ask? In short, it's pretty damn good. Gameplay is turn based, but on each turn you have 5 "orders" that can be performed. Your team is comprised of various types of units (warriors, cavalry, archers), each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of moving on tiles like other strategy games, the actions in this game are more free-roaming. Units are able to move anywhere they want, within a certain radius, and are also able to continue moving after performing an action, which adds to the level of strategy involved. One of your main goals is to eat the skulls of defeated opponents, which restores health. However, if a unit is able to eat 3 skulls, they transform into a Demon, which enables them to perform 2 actions per turn, which is a huge advantage. Gameplay becomes a delicate balancing act of attacking, positioning and staying alive long enough to power up.
Outside of these main elements, there are a number of other nuances (summoning monks with special powers, forming spirit walls, environmental hazards, deciding when to bring your general into battle, and more) that add many layers of complexity to the basic strategy. Every level seems to provide some new elements to learn or deal with, and this keeps the main campaign fresh from start to finish. There's no padding at all. The main campaign lasts several hours (more if you play on a higher difficulty or attempt to complete the set of special goals for each level) and is worth the price of admission alone. In addition, the game also features online, local and asynchronous multiplayer matches. So there is plenty of content here for both casual and competitive types.
All in all, this game is solid and brings some really cool twists to the turn-based strategy genre. If you are into that type of thing, pick this one up. And if not, well, this could be the game that makes you a fan. Check it out.