Review – Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor
I first heard about infamous PS4-exclusive developer Gilson B. Pontes way back in 2018, when I played, reviewed, and loathed his then-latest game, Sword of Fortress the Onomuzim (I still have no idea what that title even means). I thought that would be the last time I’d ever hear of the developer until a few days ago. That’s when I first heard of him going on a YouTube DMCA-filled rampage against any content creator who dared to post a video about his latest opus, Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor.
In true Streisand Effect fashion, it was thanks to Pontes’ desperate attempt to hide criticism on his latest game that I even found out about it. Surely it couldn’t be as bad as his previous offering, literally the lowest-rated game in the history of WayTooManyGames. He must have learned a thing or two over the past three years. I like to see myself as a hopeless optimist, so let’s see what was the reason for so much unnecessary internet drama.
At its core, Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor is similar to Pontes’ other titles; being a subpar Dark Souls clone with a ton of backstory you only find out if you decide to read its description on its PSN storefront page. Keeping up with its developer’s modus operandi, it also opens up with an excruciatingly loud intro cutscene comprised of poorly edited gameplay footage accompanied by Pontes proudly declaring he was responsible for literally every single aspect of the game’s development, in true Hideo Kojima fashion. No need to fix what wasn’t broken, am I right?
There is one thing that needs to be said about this title when compared to my previous experience with this developer’s games: it is the most technically advanced title released by him so far. I need to give credit where credit is due, as this is his least hideous game out there, boasting high framerates and some surprisingly above average lighting effects in the middle of a pile of horrendous visual glitches and really poor level design. The textural quality is also hilariously bad, with the game’s main “level”, a big fat grassy field, being made out of a featureless floor with a flat grassland texture coloring it. It looks like a child’s play mat.
From a certain point of view, one aspect that impressed me about Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor was its sound design. It’s not good at all, but it’s much better than anything else this game has to offer. I was surprised to found out it had a boring, but serviceable background soundtrack, as well as some sound effects that took advantage of the DualShock 4/DualSense’s speakers. By no means revolutionary, but considering the near nonexistent production values from its predecessor, this is a somewhat positive point worth mentioning. Then again, you are treated to a horrendously loud and poorly mixed orchestral wall of sound whenever you boot the game up. So it’s not like Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor‘s sound department is devoid of blatant issues.
And these were all of the elements worth praising in this game. It all goes downhill from here, as to be expected. Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor might possibly be the best game ever developed by Gilson B. Pontes solely due to its slightly improved presentation, but don’t fool yourself, this plays just like its predecessors. In some ways, it’s even worse than its predecessors.
The gameplay is identical to the one in Sword of Fortress: you roam an empty field full of absolutely nothing to do until you encounter an enemy to fight against. You’re then locked in a Dark Souls-esque combat system in which all you can do is perform a weak sword slash and roll to the right. There is no health bar indicating how many hits your enemy can take, and the collision detection, as expected, is near nonexistent. Finally, to add salt to this gangrening wound, if the enemy merely touches you, you’re dead and transported back to the beginning of the game.
This is one thing that differentiates Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor from other Gilson B. Pontes games: there is a bizarre hub world you’re transported to whenever you start the game. You’re also given a horse to ride on, both in this hub world as well as the main battlefield, but if you think that aids with moving around the map, you’re wrong. To be honest, it might actually make things even more convoluted. These horse riding controls might possibly be the worst in the history of gaming. To believe that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game released twenty-two years ago for a system with 4MB of RAM, managed to provide players with a much more comprehensive horse riding control scheme than a PlayStation 4 game is just staggering.
In any conventional game with a free-roaming camera system, pushing forward on the analog stick makes the character move forward on whichever angle the camera is pointing at that said moment. This is common knowledge, something that has been used ever since Super Mario 64 pioneered 3D movement back in 1996. Whenever you decide to ride on a horse in here, however, pushing forward on the analog stick makes the horse move forward in whichever direction THE HORSE is facing.
In simple terms, the horse riding controls in Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor are tied to a tank control movement scheme, even though the game features a free-roaming camera. Calling this decision “baffling” is an understatement, considering that the same control scheme isn’t applied to whenever you decide to get off your horse. Your character moves as you would expect, even though you still have to deal with severe amounts of input lag. Furthermore, even though you can perform a sword attack while riding a horse, you automatically get off it whenever you near an enemy. So… what was the point of even including a horse in the game?
Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor might actually be the best game ever developed by Gilson B. Pontes, but that’s far from being a badge of honor. It’s still a poorly crafted Dark Souls clone with abysmal controls and no fun to be had whatsoever. The questions of how the developer managed to get a devkit to make these games and whether Sony is even aware of these terrible titles being released for its consoles, still linger. Was going on a crusade against content creators to hide how subpar this game is worth the effort? If anything, even more people are now aware of how bad Taishogun is. The Streisand Effect is real, my friends.
It runs at a high framerate and it features some surprisingly above-average lighting effects, making Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor the most visually advanced game created by this developer. It still retains a ton of visual glitches, a hideous grainy filter, and absolutely no rhyme or reason when it comes to its level design.
The same “Dark Souls on crack” gameplay featured in other games by the same developer, complete with nonsensical hit detection, input delay, and one-hit deaths. It also features the most botched horse riding controls in the history of gaming.
It’s not particularly good, but it’s easily this game’s highlight. Some boring but serviceable background music is featured in here, as well as support for the Dualshock 4 and Dualsense’s speakers when it comes to its sound effects. It also features a horrendously mixed orchestral intro whenever you boot the game up.
Fun Factor: 0.5
It may be a vast improvement over other Gilson B. Pontes games in terms of its technical presentation, but it’s still absolutely devoid of fun or a proper gameplay. It does boot up, so I guess that’s worthy of a minimal score.
Final Verdict: 1.5
Taishogun: The Rise of Emperor is available now on PS4.
Reviewed on PS4.