Anybody says “Giant Enemy Crab”, and you’ll meet the end of a spear.
Power fantasy pressed onto a disk, Tecmo Koei’s Warriors franchise has always been a love it or hate it series. To some, taking out thirty solders in a swipe and feeling like a badass for it triggers something primal and joyous, while others find nothing but tedium.
Samurai Warriors 4 is the latest incarnation of the series, hot off the heels of Warriors Orochi 3. Though the two entries do have a lot in common, Samurai Warriors does enough to differentiate itself and offer a good time, even for those who’ve just come down off the last Warriors title.
" The smaller scale story lends a certain, personal angle to the narrative that the sweeping, grandiose Orochi title never could find "
Samurai Warriors is obviously vastly more grounded than the fantastical crossover found in Orochi, treading the ground of feudal Japan and, using the biggest quotation marks you could conceive of, retelling the battles that shaped the country. Instead of a single overarching story, Samurai Warriors splits itself into many more intimate stories, following a handful of major characters and their struggle.
The smaller scale story lends a certain, personal angle to the narrative that the sweeping, grandiose Orochi title never could find, and it shows the various players that shaped the region, their personal stories and goals. Each tale only lasts a handful of missions, meaning the pace is kept fast enough to maintain interest.
Each story has the benefit of not only the army leader, but a dynamic of some kind of companionship between two other characters, such as brothers. This additional interaction adds to the story for sure, but it also ties in nicely to the gameplay design.
" Use of two, truly separate fighters allows a far greater flexibility with the battlefield management that makes up the metagame. "
Unlike Orochi, which had players switch between three fighters they swapped between as they went, Samurai Warriors 4 gives you two characters, and gives them separate placement on the map. Use of two, truly separate fighters allows a far greater flexibility with the battlefield management that makes up the metagame.
Characters being independent of each other lets you tackle multiple fronts at once, reducing or even eliminating long traipsing across empty battlefields. You can direct the character you aren’t controlling to specific points on the battlefield, and give them specific high profile targets to take out. They never seem to have a ton of luck when you let the CPU take the reins, but it at least makes it easy to get them in place to protect key areas or make multitasking simple.
As far as the actual act of fighting, the formula hasn’t been messed with drastically. Fighters have affinities for standard, heavy, special, and so on. They don’t drastically differ, and the act of taking out a group of thirty solders with a single slash is still as cathartic and potentially therapeutic as ever.
" the act of taking out a group of thirty solders with a single slash is still as cathartic and potentially therapeutic as ever. "
Stringing together combos stays just as simple and flashy as ever, though by stringing in reverse, heavy attack to light, you’ll begin what the game calls a “Hyper attack”. Its fast, frantic and mows right through the crowds of peons, and builds meter fast, yet becomes useless against enemy officers. The commissioned foes know how to block, demanding a tactic change, if only slight.
Chronicle mode is the only other mode to speak of, again contrasting the recent Orochi title drastically. You create a new officer from scratch, though options are rather limited. Afterwards, you’ll take them across the map of Japan in a contrived effort to “chronicle all the warriors of the age”. Maps and missions are much smaller in scale, and though it tries to be more, it results in a very rudimentary map to map advancement, with weaker characters that you care even less about. Barely worth a look, but it is there.
" Sorry, Samurai Warriors, none of your tracks are going on my iPod. "
Actual presentation is just as underwhelming as Orochi, mostly acting like a cleaned up PS3 title, able to push higher resolution and a few more solders on screen. Technically, it runs flawlessly, allowing you to relax into the world of Samurai Warriors and lose yourself without and janky frame rates. The music is unremarkable – it works well in the moment, adding to the mood and the atmosphere, but it is nothing that sticks with you once you’re done with the game. Sorry, Samurai Warriors, none of your tracks are going on my iPod.
Samurai Warriors 4 is different enough from Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate that it’s an inoffensive game to follow so closely, and works as a good enough hack n’ slash hybrid with RTS to catch the attention of anybody who might jump in. If Warriors hasn’t been your kind of thing in the past, there is still nothing that will change your mind. If you want to give it a shot though, it’s hard to find a better place to start.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
The battling is still solid, and the control over two separate fighters does iron out pacing issues while bringing out the best of the battlefield management aspect. Story structure is easier to digest and Hyper attacks add another dimension
Chronicle mode is not very fun. Presentation is still just there.
Samurai Warriors 4 might have followed up on the last warriors title quickly, but it does enough differently to be worth a look on it's own merits. Not really anything that will get new fans, but enough to keep the attention of existing ones.