'Skulls of the Shogun' Brings Asynchronous, Multiplayer Fun to Windows 8

Gaming on the Windows 8 platform is about to get a much needed kick in the teeth. Indie game-developer 17-BIT is in the final stages of releasing "Skulls of the Shogun," a cross-platform game to be featured on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows RT and Xbox Live.  The turn-based action strategy title will be one of the first Windows 8 games to feature asynchronous gaming between consoles, smartphones, tablets and PCs.

Gamers play as General Akamoto, a Japanese warrior waging war to become the new Shogun. Moments before his imminent victory, he's struck from behind and killed. From there, he arrives at the Shores of the Dead, where he discovers someone is masquerading as him. Determined to make the imposter pay, Akamoto recruits dead warriors and proceeds to battle his way through the four stages of the Afterlife in a quest for vengeance.

The main campaign promises to deliver up to 10-15 hours of gameplay. "SotS" gameplay is automatically saved to the cloud, so players can continue their game on another device without having to backtrack. The multiplayer mode named "Skulls Anywhere" pits up to four players against each other in a strategical samurai free for all. Gamers can invite friends to play via Xbox Live on any Windows 8 platform. The game sends a notification to each player once someone completes their turn. Users then watch the previous users moves in a sped up sequence and then are free to make their moves.

During our hands-on time with "Skulls of the Shogun," we were immediately drawn in by the cartoony art style and the witty writing. We traced our finger along the displays of the  Nokia 900 and the Microsoft Surface to maneuver our troops into prime offensive and defensive positions. We were pleased to see that gameplay was the same on every system including the Xbox 360.

Placing troops requires a bit of strategy as you have a number of different troops with varying abilities. For example, infantry troops are perfect for absorbing attacks from enemy troops. Archers are better at sniping enemies from afar. Things really got interesting once we defeated an enemy as we could feed their skull to a troop of our choosing, giving them a small power up. Feed the same troop three skulls and they turn into demons with enhanced strength and powers.

Although we were immediately slaughtered by a 17-BIT rep, multiplayer was fun and quick-paced. Syncing between turns and devices was fairly swift, taking up to 10-15 seconds over the test server. Similar to "Words with Friends," we were able to take our turn at our leisure.

Overall "Skulls of the Shogun" offers deep strategy without sacrificing the fun quotient. The game is currently in the final round of Microsoft's certification process so we're anticipating the game to debut in the Windows 8 apps store and Xbox Live sometime in early 2013.