by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Before discussing anything else, it’s worth clarifying what exactly Samurai Warriors 4-II even is. Its very existence is a bit odd. Despite the what the “II” in its name might imply, it’s oddly not a sequel to Samurai Warriors 4. It’s also not simple re-release or “game of the year” situation that collects released DLC or other content either. Instead it’s something in the middle, an alternate-universe version of the game in which many things, such as basic gameplay, character models, and certain missions remain the same, but are delivered through a campaign that is structured and flows a bit differently. It doesn’t seem like there would be a ton of draw for someone who already played through the main release a year ago, but for people like myself who were late to the party this seems to be the edition to jump on.
Addition to Tradition
Despite 2015 being the 10 year anniversary of the first Samurai Warriors game, those familiar with the general ebb and flow of even the early Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors franchises are going to feel right at home almost immediately. The idea is still the same as it’s always been. Instead of trying to capture the real life extreme depth and complexity of traditional Japanese warfare, Samurai Warriors wants you to feel like a god, empowering you with theatrical combat abilities that can take out dozens of peons at a time. I do concede that after a while I was wishing there was a bit more to the combat to keep things from getting stale during longer play sessions. Fans should know by know what type of games this is and what the combat is like. For better or for worse, it’s stayed fairly true to what made the series popular in the first place. There’s usually enough flash and mayhem that there just isn’t time during fights to feel bored between the enemies and timed objectives you’ll be dealing with anyways.
Story of the Samurai
While there is an admittedly fun Survival Mode that lets you mindlessly blast through increasingly difficult levels of enemies, the focus of Samurai Warriors 4-II is definitely the story. Instead of focusing on macro-level clan vs clan combat for control of Japan, this entry into the franchise keeps things a bit more small scale and focused. There are 12 different mini stories available to play, each with their own little arc that’s tied to some degree to the others. The stories are fairly well done for a hack and slash, but also aren’t going to win any awards for writing or depth. I appreciate being given the chance to see the personality of the samurai I’m playing as, but there are still a fair number of things that were either lost on me, or just weren’t explained very well. Perhaps these were things covered in previous games, perhaps not, but either way I was left scratching my head a few times.
Presentation is something I struggled with a bit while playing Samurai Warriors 4-II. The combat animations are wild (in a good way) and the hero designs are fantastic, but those are hampered by textures that look 7-10 years old, questionable camera, and a frustrating UI. I’m cool with the game going with quantity over quality in the visual department since it really is cool to see a over a hundred guys running towards you, but it’s off-putting when objects are zoomed into during cutscenes and look like they still have to load- except they already have. The camera actually hurts the visuals and scale of combat by being zoomed in too close to get a good sense of what’s going on around you. If there’s a way to zoom out, I haven’t found it. There are also some other buttons I had difficulties finding and had to resort to trial and error because instead of giving me a key or button command (the game definitely feels better with a gamepad), it simple says things like “hit the heavy attack button to do a heavy attack.”
Thankfully for Samurai Warriors 4-II, the core of the game works well enough that despite its flaws it’s still a very, very fun game. No matter how many times I charged up my super attacks and took out well over 50 guys, it never got old. I’m sure fans looking for innovation in the franchise may be turned off by the lack of much truly new in this title, but those that just want more opportunities to slash, chop, and bash their way through Japan are getting exactly what they’re looking for.
Slaying seas of enemies is a blast, more focused story brings some welcomed characterization, and heroes have impressive visual design.
Graphics leave a lot to be desired, frustrating UI, and combat that could use a little more depth.