Which faction to choose in Rise of the Ronin? Factions, explained

Do you appreciate historical accuracy in your games or do you wish to forge your destiny and your alternate version of historical events and conflicts? Which faction should you support in Rise of the Ronin? Continue reading to learn more about the key players of the Boshin War.

Rise of the Ronin: All Factions, explained

Rise of the Ronin is upon us, and Team Ninja promises to deliver what might be one of the best games of the year. With that being said, one of the most important aspects of the game, as promoted by its developers, is the ability to make impactful choices that could potentially influence the outcome of historical events. To that end, there are three factions in Rise of the Roning: the Sabaku, the Tobaku, and the Obei. Which of these should you choose to support with your actions? Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Choose the Sabaku (Pro-shonugate) faction?

Screenshot: Team Ninja

The Sabaku were a loyal force to the Tokugawa shogunate, which was a military dictatorship that lasted from 1603 to 1868. This faction is made up of powerful men and women who occupy high ranks in the shogunate, encompassing military positions and daimyos, which are Japanese feudal lords.

If you know a bit of history, you know that the Tokugawa shogunate is considered the last period of what is considered traditional Japan, giving birth to the Empire of Japan that lasted until the end of World War II. However, things can change and your decisions may yield another outcome. Choosing this faction could mean the prolongation of the shogunate and its military dictatorship across Japan, which could mean extended bloodshed in this version of the Boshin War.

Key Sabaku characters

Character Description Weapon
Naosuke Ii Chief minister of the shogunate and clan lord of Hikone. Working with the Western powers, he opens Japan’s ports to foreign trade. Known for mercilessly suppressing his opposition, he is feared as “The Red Demon of Ii”, a nickname inherited from his ancestor. Among the martial arts, Iai is his forte. Considered to be a man of taste, Ii also possesses a deep knowledge of the finer things, not least tea and poetry. Hiroyuki Ringa: Passed down by members of the Ii clan, this weapon eventually received ornamented fittings styled after a nickname given to the 20th clan head, Naomasa Ii: the “Red Demon.”
Taka Murayama Famed geisha of the Miyozaki pleasure district in Yokohama. She earned her renown through her witty conversation and rather melancholic good looks. Reputed to have performed as a geisha in Kyoto in the past.
Kaishu Katsu Acting naval commissioner for the shogunate. A true “child of Edo”, he conducts himself in a frank and charismatic manner, yet is capable of being cool-headed and decisive if need be. His aim is to develop the Shogun’s navy along Western lines, and endeavors to appoint talent without regard to status. Despite being an adept of the Jikishinkage-ryu of swordplay, he despises wanton violence, preferring to keep his katana knotted and sheathed at all times. Suishinshi Masahide: Based on an ancient sword of the Warring States Period, it was forged specially for combat use. Katsu however, disdains bloodshed, and it has rarely been unsheathed since entering his possession.

Choose the Tobaku (Anti-shonugate) faction?

Rise Of The Ronin Tobaku
Screenshot: Team Ninja

The Tobaku – which means “overthrow the shogunate” – was the opposing force to the Sabaku during the Boshin War, who resented the Tokugawa shogunate’s rule and were set on restoring the authority and power of the Emperor.

Historically, the anti-shogunate force was led by the Imperial Court and supported by the Tozama daimyos – feudal lords who were considered outsiders to the Tokugawa shogunate. Picking this faction could potentially mean that historic events during this Japanese civil war would remain canon during the events of Rise of the Ronin, allowing you to experience a more faithful depiction of the conflict.

Key Tobaku characters

Character Description Weapon
Ryoma Sakamoto Ronin formerly of the Tosa clan. Determined to keep a steady hand on the tiller of Japan as it opens its ports to foreign trade, he tirelessly searches for the right course of action. An endearingly earnest soul, he is quick to gain the affections of others. Not only is he a master of the Hokushin-Itto-ryu school of swordplay, but he is also a sharp shot with a Western-style pistol. Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki: The eponymous work of a Tosa swordsmith, this precious heirloom features an ornate custom mounting, dragon-themed scabbard, and hilt ornament.
Kogoro Katsura Feudal retainer of the Choshu clan, and a close associate of Shoin Yoshida. A compassionate soul, he serves as a mentor for his clan’s younger retainers. He has earned the confidence of Choshu’s senior statesmen with his level-headed and cautious approach. His only flaw is his unhealthy predilection for sake, which has led to the occasional scandal… Bizen Osafune Kiyomitsu: A “Sue-Bizen” work of the Osafune school, this elegant blade features an ornate mounting customized for Katsura, and the sword’s hilt ornament and scabbard exhibit a pine motif.
Genzui Kusaka Feudal retainer of the Choshu clan. Educated at Shoka Sonjuku Academy, he is considered to be Shoin Yoshida’s foremost pupil. Close with Shinsaku Takasugi since infancy, they are fast friends. He is also proficient in the sword, having mastered the Nito-ryu, or “Two-sword” style. Hototogisu: The use of gold and lime-green colors throughout the scabbards and hilts extends to the sword knots. The name hototogisu, or “Japanese cuckoo”, is derived from an old folktale about a man who transformed into such a bird while moaning over the shame of his utter incompetence.

Choose the Obei (Western forces) faction?

Rise Of The Ronin Obei
Screenshot: Team Ninja

The Obei, also known as the Western Forces during the Boshin War, is the equivalent of playing both sides of the conflict. The relationship between the Tokugawa shogunate and Westerners such as Matthew Perry of the United States – now that Matthew Perry, the other one, the naval officer – was one of the few sparks that led to the resentment towards Western influence and led to Emperor Komei the message of the Sonnō jōi (revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians).

However, the Western forces provided support for both sides of the war – for example, the French provided support for the shogunate – throughout its duration. Provided that Japanese and Western commerce was just too deeply embedded in Japan, the rise of the Empire did not end with this trade relationship. Choose this faction to play the political and strategic game, while also influencing both sides of the Boshin spectrum.

Key Obei characters

Character Description Weapon
Matthew Perry Commodore of the United States Navy. At the order of President Millard Fillmore, his fleet of Black Ships circumnavigated the globe to negotiate the opening of Japan’s ports for trade. He is determined to compel the opening of Japan before any other Western power. Commodore’s Saber: Standard-issue for officers of the United States Navy. Distinguished by the gold-plated brass on its hilt, guard and scabbard, it’s a sword that displays exquisite craftmanship.
Rutherford Alcock British Diplomat. He’s tasked with assessing the value of Japan’s integration into the global economy, and reporting back his findings to his superiors. Despite denouncing the shogunate’s exclusionary politics as “barbaric”, he has a profound fascination for Japanese craftsmanship. A former surgeon, he can be counted on to treat the wounded. Sophisticate’s Saber: Although he is generally accompanied by an escort of bodyguards, Alcock warily keeps this saber on his person should he need to take the defense of his life into his own hands.
Jules Brunet Officer in the French army who was sent to Japan as a member of the military advisory group. Though often considered cool of temperament, he is a compassionate man who refuses to forsake those who depend upon him. Régiment Trappings: Equipment gifted by a French army officer, consisting of a Western-style sword and a round shield. The dragon engraved on Brunet’s shield symbolizes the way of the true warrior – the way of valor and justice.

With all that information, I’m sure that you have already picked a faction to support during your Rise of the Ronin playthrough. Or, if you are just like me, you are ready to play the game at least three times to see what your actions can mean for the future of Japan. Let us just wait for the official release of Rise of the Ronin to see to what extent our actions matter in the grand scheme of Japanese things.