Reviewed on: PS4
Hack-and-slash fans have long been entertained by the Warriors franchise, which started back in 1997 when the original Dynasty Warriors launched on PlayStation. The game had 12 playable characters and was completely different from the Warriors games we see today; by different I am referring to the fact that it was a one-on-one fighting game as opposed to a hack-and-slash.
When Dynasty Warriors 2 came out however, it was in the form of the Warriors games we see today. Omega Force took what was learned from the original title and created the button combo system. Of course, like in a fighting game, you could simply button mash your way to victory, but carefully mastering the combo system was the only way to become the ultimate warrior. So, where does Samurai Warriors 4 fit into this long-running franchise?
Well, the core gameplay has more or less remained the same. Combos are alive and well, and hordes of baddies surround you at all times. What has changed in terms of gameplay is very successful.
In Samurai Warriors 4 there are new dash attacks that are triggered while running at your enemy and simply pressing triangle repeatedly. This simple button press will be the demise of hundreds of enemies in every battle, as it causes your character to leap forward with such murderous intent that all before you are hurled into the air crashing into those behind, sending them flying as well. Improving this brutal attack, opponents will now fall backwards on the ground in awe of your strength and await their honorable deaths. I’m sure you are wondering how something so simple can be so incredibly powerful?
Interestingly enough, Samurai Warriors 4 is probably the most difficult Warriors game I have ever played because the missions are very fast paced. In previous games you could really take your time and play the missions how you wanted to play them, but in this particular Warriors title you must be fast on your feet at all times or allies will die and objectives will be lost. Sure, you are still the one-man army (sometimes literally) you always have been, averaging 1000+ kills a mission, but for the first time you feel the pressure that comes with the responsibility. Another thing that adds to the difficulty is the introduction of standard bearers and positive morale modifiers.
In most missions you start off as the underdog and have to fight an uphill battle to win it for your clan. This usually means your opponent is going to have higher morale than you. One thing that will boost your opponent’s morale is the presence of a standard bearer on the map. On the mini-map, standard bearers are indicated by a small flag symbol. The higher morale your opponent has the stronger his troops and generals are, ie. stronger constitution, and higher damage output. Throughout the missions you encounter many tricky situations involving standing bearers. How you learn to deal with these obstacles will determine your success rate in battle.
While previous Warriors games have presented a few longer story campaigns, Samurai Warriors 4 has gone down the route of having a ton of short story campaigns. All of the campaigns follow a different clan from the Sengoku period in Japan’s history. If dedicated you could probably clear three or four of these campaigns on normal difficulty in one sitting. As you play through the campaigns, you unlock new characters for Free Mode and new items to buff you up in those clutch moments of battle. Having these short campaigns works out well because it allows for there to be some story for all of the 50+ characters as opposed to only a few with the rest of the character roster acting as supporting roles. While Free Mode and the Story Campaign are great, the real hero for this particular title is Chronicle mode.
When I first started playing Samurai Warriors 4, I immediately gravitated to Chronicle Mode, because it is new and 20 hours of gameplay later I decided to check out the Story Mode and Free Mode. This isn’t to say I was bored with Chronicle mode after 20 hours, on the contrary, I had to force myself to break away from it in order to review all the other aspects of the game. In Chronicle Mode, you create a new character and go on an epic adventure to document all the great warriors of the land. In your quest you travel all over Japan and do this in game by moving your character around a map of Japan. When you encounter another warrior it triggers a battle or brief social sequence involving choosing dialogue that will either help or hurt your relationship with that character. The social sequences can feel awkward at times due to some stiff dialogue and limited choice in terms of dialogue responses. As you continue your journey your character keeps leveling up and unlocking new items and weapons just as you would in the story campaign.
The weapon system in Samurai Warriors 4 is interesting as each character has a specific weapon that is just for them. Instead of finding higher level weapons you get the same weapon with random modifiers that can buff you in any number of ways. You can upgrade these modifiers with Gems, which are earned in battle. Some Gems are rarer than others, which requires you to exchange them at shops. This system certainly works well, but I can’t help but miss the satisfaction of finding that new weapon that was not only stronger, but had even greater visual impact than the last.
Speaking of visuals, Samurai Warriors 4 is the best looking Warriors game to date. Graphically, you aren’t looking at the next Final Fantasy, but perhaps a previous Final Fantasy or more specifically Final Fantasy XIII. In ways, this game rises above the aforementioned title, with rich skin textures and a silky smooth frame-rate. I haven’t encountered any frame-rate drops at all during my time so far with this game. Visually, this is a heck of an accomplishment given the sheer amount of action taking place on screen at any given moment.
So here’s the bottom line:
It is easy to write Samurai Warriors 4 off if you compare it to the cinematic experiences offered by some AAA titles, but doing so would be a travesty as it’s an absolute blast to play! Sure, it doesn’t try to engage players with a deep and meaningful story, and yes the dialogue is stiff, but it accomplishes the main function of a game fantastically: great gameplay. Samurai Warriors 4 is an incredibly successful game that delivers nearly endless hours of fun in a visually appealing silky smooth package. Definitely recommended!