Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 27, 2018 (JP) / October 16, 2018 (NA) / October 19, 2018 (EU)
To say I’m a huge Warriors fan is an understatement. I can still remember my young 12 year-old self-playing Dynasty Warriors on my PlayStation 2 blown away by the sheer numbers of on-screen enemies. It was a great feeling to single-handedly turn the tides of battle and feel like a bad-ass while doing it. However, it was the repetition and confusing stories that perpetuated many of those experiences and never made the Warriors games truly shine. Dynasty Warriors 9 was the last and most egregious Warriors game to date, but with the Nintendo Switch finally landing a Musou title of their own it was time to dive back on the battlefield yet again.
The heroes from across the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors universe, all 170 characters, find themselves thrust together in an unknown time and place. One by one the forces of these scattered factions join together with help from Nobunaga, who has seemed to have harnessed the power of one of eight mysterious bracelets. Soon though, it becomes apparent the king of the gods himself Zeus is behind everything. The story involves trying to find out why he reformed this parallel world, to begin with and why any of these Warriors are there in the first place.
There are plenty of over-the-top characterization where the feudal leaders overdramatized interactions play out and plenty of exposition in combat as well. This is where the story is fleshed out, but I found it difficult to read during an intense battle and concentrate on 500 enemy soldiers trying to kill me. A nice and interesting use of fleshing out the experience was with the entirely optional story interactions between you and your ever-growing roster of characters. These were typically Japanese, in that some of the translations were strange and awkward. However, there was a playful charm to the interactions that I enjoyed and they do serve an adequate function in the base gameplay mechanics.
As with any Musou title with this many characters, interactions between them can feel forced and much of the story feels like an excuse to simply bring in as many characters from across these three series as possible. Despite some slightly confusing dialogue choices, the story is delivered with a confident approach and it’s every youthful heroes do a good job of making the narrative enjoyable.
From iteration to iteration there are minor improvements made with each new Warrior’s title. It’s disappointing not to have major upgrades to the formula, but why fix what’s not broken for the hardcore fans? When first taking part in the Single-Player mode, you’ll be given story missions to undertake and it will all be familiar to anyone who has played this type of game before.
When starting, you create a squad of three heroes of which you eventually unlock 170, which is an insane amount bearing in mind every single one controls slightly different. During battles, pressing the triggers will change between these three characters, with those in reserve regaining health. Warrios Orochi 4 encourages you to chain attacks mid-combat in several different ways. This means you can almost string a continuous and unrelenting barrage of attacks on your enemies and is particularly useful when facing another General.
While blocking can be performed, I found offense to be the best defense with each attack the lands on a foe charging up your musou meter. When this is filled, it can be triggered to unleash your character’s devastating ultimate attack. The Samurai and Warriors Orochi characters actually have different move-sets as well, but that would be too much to cover for all the characters. It’s definitely one bit of depth to an otherwise already deep game.
Totally new to Warriors Orochi 4 (or maybe just me since I’ve not played any Orochi titles) is the magic system and this allows for a standard magical attack to be performed. You can unleash the full force of your magic by holding ‘R’ and ‘A’, but the best magic attack comes from every one of your team combining their full charges to devastating effect. You can also summon a horse in an instant, which makes backtracking and changing your gameplay on the fly much more bearable.
While combat can be very button-mashy in execution, the intricacies of the many systems when you learn them allow for a much more controlled experience. After only an hour or two, you’ll be an unstoppable killing machine and some enemies will still require the use of magic to defeat them, but being adept with all the systems will make the gameplay experience much more enjoyable. I played on Hard mode due to already having an understanding of how these games control, but I could see a casual hack-and-slash fan also having more enjoyment on a harder difficulty level as the default Normal can be too easily completed.
The map provides useful information which can be important when you push too deep into enemy territory only to be flanked by an enemy General and must sprint to your allies aide. Dialogue is intended to assist you during battle, but unfortunately, due to the Japanese voice acting, it can be very difficult to read these while also juggling hundreds of on-screen enemies. I did try to read as much as I could in these sections though, as they did have some humor, story and points of advice.
Outside of combat, you can take your warriors online and fight with friends or strangers around the world in the Battle mode. I did manage to get on a few online matches, but they were barely occupied with other people and the mode was a dumbed-down capture-the-flag type of battle. I couldn’t truly enjoy the main online game yet, as there just wasn’t enough other players online at any given time. Fortunately, local co-op play via split-screen with another play is seamless and made of a more engaging experience.
Any officer you play as gains experience points and these can be spent on new skills, of which a decent amount are available right from the start. Skill orbs earned in combat can also be exchanged for points to spend with leveling up. Warriors Orochi 4 feels much more RPG-like in this regard and becoming attached to a character can result in some immensely powerful characters. Through Free Play you can also acquire gems and growth points with the latter used to manually upgrade the character’s base level without combat. These are best saved to be used strategically though when the need arises.
Each round you’ll find weapons for your fighters, with the addition of some lottery weapons that randomly drop. These may have magical abilities such as fire or water, with the others being easily sold. You can fuse several weapons to join favorable abilities or dismantle them to retrieve gems and special attributes to be used later. There is no doubt, Warriors Orochi 4 is crammed to the max with content and it can be overwhelming until you realize only a few gameplay systems are mandatory.
Visually, Warriors Orochi 4 does a solid job of conveying the sense of scale participating in huge battles with hundreds of on-screen foes and some spectacular special moves and magical abilities. It runs okay in Switch in single-player with the occasional frame drops and it does seem like a far cry at times from 60 frames per second we are used to experiencing from this gen. Pop-ins and flat textures, which have always plagued the series, are unwelcome but don’t detract from the experience too much. Fortunately, every character in your ensemble has a unique handcrafted aesthetic that is the result of several decades of refinement.
Overall, whether you play solo or in co-op, there’s a lot to enjoy with Warriors Orochi 4. There is an addictiveness to the combat and gameplay systems, with the additional RPG strategy elements, that I loved to delve into. It is by no means a perfect experience and if you don’t like these types of games Warriors Orochi 4 won’t change your mind, but for us die-hard fans this is an immensely enjoyable and fun experience.
The Verdict: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Koei Tecmo
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