The Warriors series is one I have very little experience with. Like cheap romance novels, I was turned aside by the majority of them in my youth because to me, who believed Batman: Arkham City was the crème de la crème of video games, they just didn’t have much to offer. Hack and slash? That’s what I already do with my RPG characters, what more could there be to the genre? True I loved the spinoff take of Hyrule Warriors several years ago but why should I take a game like this with such a lack of seriousness so seriously? I find that with Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and now Warriors Orochi 4, you simply just cannot take them seriously. And that’s where the fun takes root.
When Worlds Collide
Warriors Orochi in and of itself is not an original series and is instead a spinoff, bringing the wide casts of both Dynasty and Samurai Warriors together in the Orochi world: a mysterious land inside time and space that forcefully blends the two together. Whereas in the past our legion of warriors and scholars have banded together to destroy god-like creatures in this installment the Gods (yes, all of the gods of EVERY pantheon) simply decide to make a new world and our heroes stumble into it. Zeus, intent on creating his new existence, intends to use a powerful set of serpent bracelets to bind this reality together until they mysteriously go missing under the watchful eyes of the gods. As universes collide it falls upon our familiar heroes to band together and ensure these titanic relics do not fall into the wrong hands.
This is certainly not the best point for a new player jumping into the series, though the game does its best to compensate; as a gamer who relishes strong narratives and bridging between different stories it was a relief to have summaries of the past Warrior Orochi games both in the loading menus and the character menu between games. Leading villains of both series do reappear as powerful forces to be reckoned with, but unless you are already invested in the franchise there really isn’t much effort to hook new players on why these characters are evil. One too many times dialogue took the turn of, “The peasants are being attacked,” as a signature of villainy. While some of that simply falls onto pushing the narrative in wider directions and trying to make room for the 170 playable characters that this game touts, it doesn’t help in establishing these ne’er-do-wells from a face in the crowd.
All Out War!
And crowds you will certainly be facing! For newcomers to the series, Warriors Orochi, like its pre-existing franchises, focuses on slaying your way across the battlefield. Forming a team of 3 officers from the vast army of playable characters, you’ll end up swapping between them as you charge the battlefield, enemy officers and more while slaying the hapless mooks who dare stand in your way and claiming enemy territory as your own. Each of the maps bled together for me, and it disappointed me even further to discover that these maps were often simply redressed versions of those found in Dynasty and Samurai Warriors, which occasionally featured two of them mishmashed together. It certainly didn’t help that repetition is found throughout the level design; from enemy soldiers looking the same (down to the facial design) to enemy officers quickly repeating the same defeat lines on the battlefield.
Each of the playable cast, however, does feel incredibly (and sometimes overwhelmingly) unique! After getting hands on with almost 60 characters, each separate combatant truly possess their own skill-set and engaging battle techniques. With the almost pushed requirement for character switching, the right combination of warriors makes combat flow fantastically while capitalizing wonderfully with each warrior’s style. Even in sharing Mystic Items, weapons given to the warriors by the Gods themselves, each character has a unique finishing move. Later, as you play the game, several characters will achieve god-like forms with their weapons, gaining new attacks and abilities to use on the battlefield. Even with all this variety, most matches I played often simply degraded to a slew of explosions and screams on the field in dazzling displays of power and magic.
Combat, however, feels incredibly limited in some respects. Attacks are directly tied to character animations, requiring your Warrior to resume their combat stance from their previous attack before chaining into another combo. While this can be negated by rapidly switching between characters on the fly (something that is so easy it feels almost forced), or engaging in magical combat, the first level practically drags through its simplistic tutorial system. This was only aggravated and magnified by my particular console; its clear from the start that Warriors Orochi 4 was designed for Xbox One first before the PC build was completed. Despite having keybind menus, other menus are incredibly limited and playing with a keyboard and mouse seems to only increase combat delay. In attempting to remap my keybinds, I could not map any keys to my mouse, meaning that I had to abandon my trusty Razer keys and take up a PS4 controller before I could finish the first level. Despite the tutorials teaching abilities with Xbox commands, Warriors Orochi 4 truly feels as if its still living in the early PS2 era.
Love Is A Battlefield, Too!
The main story, however, more than makes up for some of the clunkier aspects of an otherwise competent combat system. Much like the spin-kicking-knife-shoed warriors on horseback, the narrative doesn’t ever take itself too seriously even if it lasts longer than it has a right to. Instead it decides to have a ton of fun with itself throughout the campaign, often poking fun at some character’s one-note personalities. While the middle can be an absolute slog to get through, often spending repeated series of missions simply to recruit characters, the beginning and the end of the main story are some of the most entertaining parts. Every skirmish ends with some high-melodrama about the god’s bickering, more than once drawing a laugh or a groan. That’s certainly not to say that you can’t see the ending coming from a kingdom away, but the path the story takes to it and the dialogue that paves the road makes it worthwhile to enjoy.
Character interactions, however, are the absolute prime content of the story. Drawing on a long history in both Warriors series, there is a great amount of interaction and interjection between characters reminiscent of relationships in the Fire Emblem series. Those who share the battlefield together develop a stronger bond and may share more than some tea at a later time. These are told in visual novel style sections between battles and are a great distraction from some of the over-the-top melodrama, though even these are not impervious to such ridiculousness. Interactions are often lighthearted and revealing as characters mesh, growing together as they progress onward in their journey.
Despite a great narrative, as a newcomer to the series there isn’t much to hold me with Warriors Orochi 4. Outside of replaying major story missions, there is only one other additional online mode: a 3v3 focused battle arena that does feature some separated character progression from the campaign. However, with so much of the 170 strong roster sharing similar progression schemes there wasn’t much of a draw in the online play. While it’s certainly fine, I can’t help but feeling it stands as a tack-on rather than a full-fledged mode of play. You can also play the game in co-op online, with split screen support for the console releases.
Warriors Orochi 4 also contains a large slew of DLC with a wide host of costumes for the games 170 characters, with more to be released over the next few weeks. In looking at the system, however, the Season Pass does not cover the entirety of the released DLC to this date, meaning that if you want every collectable, mount and costume you’ll be paying for almost a second copy of the base game. While DLC has become a begrudgingly accepted part of the gaming industry, this is perhaps one of the more convoluted and backhanded systems I’ve seen in the last few years, dodging the season pass to slip in an extra high-value costume pack for the same price.
Gameplay – 7/10
While Warriors Orochi 4 does have its drawbacks, the sheer number of possibilities sets it apart from other games in the genre. You can fight any way you’d like, but the building blocks of the system are so simple that anyone can easily pick up and play their way through the battlefield. Because of that most games can suffer from a lack of depth, but Warriors Orochi 4 manages to stay afloat through sheer volume.
Graphics/Sound – 6/10
The graphics are hardly something to write home about. Maps in many cases feel muddy and blend together, even with literal glowing objects dotting the landscape. Enemy mooks are often the exact same person throughout maps, and nothing pops to the eye or tickles the fancy. While I had no problems playing it on a mid-range PC, the console versions have reportedly faced graphical hiccups with some of the more intense magical attacks. The music is perhaps the one saving grace, always injecting energetic rock or electronic riffs to keep the tempo of combat high and pumping. Even these fade into the background, however, as I cannot remember a single melody or theme in the entire OST.
Innovation – 5/10
Depending on where you’re entering this game from, its hard to see where this line shifts. For those who played Dynasty Warriors 9, this game can feel like a refreshing regression to the series, but sheer volume and backpedaling do not a greater game make. Players who skipped the latest Dynasty installment may find some of the systems stale, but the Bonds system is certainly a narrative breath of fresh air.
Learning Curve – 5/10
Like any Warriors game, Orochi 4 is easy to pick up and play, and focuses more on simplicity and humor than charming people with a deep system. I was quickly hammering out masterful combos within my first two hours, leaving the other chunk of my playtime sadly dull as I waited for the next bite of story.
Value – 9/10
The sheer volume of playable content cannot be understated. While the bulk of the story does indeed chug, its still an incredible slice of content to tear through. With every character having weapon combinations to unlock, skills, magic, fusions, abilities, weapons and dialogue, you’ll easily find yourself hours past the traditional finish time with plenty still to do
Overall – 6.5/10
Warriors Orochi 4 is a solid addition to the long history of the Warriors franchises, with more punch than you can shake a bo staff at. Fans of the series will find a lot to sink their teeth into and more than just a little bit to enjoy, but newcomers may have a hard time investing into the series especially after repeated recruitment missions kill the flow of the narrative. Even considering that, it’s hard not to feel that a lot of corners have been cut with even some of the most simplistic bugs (such as looping sound at a held button) still making their presence apparent repeatedly in the final version. While flashy animations feel like the newest generation of gaming, the entire system still feels as if it were built on a console from the early 2000s. Fun comes first in this installment of the Warriors franchise titan, but it still feels as if the series is recovering from the blows laden at the feet of Dynasty Warriors 9.
- Fun, melodramatic narrative
- Diverse and deep pool of playable characters
- Enjoyable and flashy combat mechanics
- Clearly built on a system too old to develop new methods on
- Middle of the Narrative can drag
- Rife with bugs and glitches throughout
- Contains a convoluted and startling amount of DLC, worth the same MSRP for the game.