Alcohol Reference, Suggestive Themes, Violence
Release Date: October 16th, 2018 (Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Genre: Action, Hack And Slash
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
When Disney claimed that Marvel’s Infinity War was “the most ambitious crossover event in history,” they were quickly taken to task about the claim on social media and eventually became a bit of a meme. However, most had forgotten a crossover that had spanned over a decade and four games- the Warriors Orochi series from Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo. The series was created to crossover the studio’s beloved and highly successful hack-and-slash franchise Dynasty Warriors with its spin-off Samurai Warriors. While February will mark the twelfth anniversary of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, Warriors Orochi 4 is my first game in the Warriors universe even as a fan of the game’s genre. So, is Warriors Orochi 4 a game suitable for newcomers and fans alike, or will it be the least ambitious crossover event of the year? (Not counting Infinity War, which was not even a crossover!)
First and foremost, at the heart of Warriors Orochi 4 is the hack-and-slash combat trope that has been around the franchise since Dynasty Warriors 2. You have what are essentially light attacks, heavy attacks, and the ultimate attacks that deals the most damage and are akin to finishing moves. It is Omega Force’s addition of Magic Attacks to this basic combat foundation that begins to truly pique interest. As with the normal attack styles there are light, heavy, and ultimate magic attacks, as well as a Unity Magic spell that includes every active party member into the attack. The addition of magic gave the game a new sense of depth, opening combat to a buttery-smooth stylization- a crucial aspect as you move through the campaign, battling a thousand enemies. One of the only gripes with the gameplay is that there seems to be no option to run or move faster in the game. After moving forward for a few seconds, there are wind gust graphics, but the character does not seem to move any faster.
In between each battle and/or scenario, the player will be in a static menu that is the camp of their team. The functionality of the camp expands as the player rolls through the story mode. The very early tasks able to be completed here includes forming the three-character party, partaking in mock battles, and continuing to the next battle/scenario. Eventually, the player will be able to sell, fuse, or dismantle weapons as well as viewing a gallery. Throughout normal game play the party members will be getting multiple copies of their weapon, so being able to dismantle weapons with attribute elements and selling those that do not is appreciated. You can then fuse those attribute elements on the equipped weapon of the party member to improve it. These elements can be anywhere from adding wind and/or fire to attacks, to making magic attacks stronger. Not only does this add a flair to the weapons, it brings in a sense of strategy as an element may not be as effective on some weapons or play styles.
Then there is the upgrade tab of the camp menu. This is where the player will be able to upgrade their party members with skill points or spend growth points to increase their level. Personally the skills on the grid skill are not always well explained in relation to the gameplay, but it is serviceable enough to not hinder the experience. As the player progresses through the story, the option to upgrade the camp opens up. This is more convoluted than the skill grid of the party members as certain conditions have to be met for an option to be available. This can include having enough gems or having a certain number of allies, with the benefit to the camp upgrades being that they apply to all party members. With more and more games going towards a more interactive lobby that the player has to move through to get to “menu” options, the straightforwardness of the actual camp menu is appreciated.
Moving on to the story… Well, to be quite frank, there is not much of a story. While it is lengthy and linear, consisting of over 50 scenarios, the story is simplistic and predictable. The story is really just included to transition in and out of each scenario. While it is significant in its job, it buries most of the character development into the optional bond events. These events happen when one officer is bonded with another for enough time through gameplay to the point the bond meter fills up. Once this happens, there are optional short visual novel-based cutscenes between the two bonded members. These visual novel cutscenes are also included in the story in conjunction with video cutscenes and dialogue pop-ins during gameplay to tell the story. The voice acting for the games includes the original Japanese voice actors with English text and subtitles (as is the case in most Koei Tecmo games).
Lastly, the technical performance of Koei Tecmo games on the Nintendo Switch has been a bit of a toss-up. That said, with each new release performance seems to get more and more optimized. This is once again the case with Warriors Orochi 4, as there are very few of any frame drops or stuttering even when a ton of enemies are on the screen. While the graphics look great, especially the models of your party members, the draw distance leaves a bit to be desired. There are instances where important hordes of enemies are not appearing in handheld mode until the player gets close to their spawn. Luckily, there is enough time to see them appear and start directing your attack towards them; however, it is a bit off-putting to see processes that should be behind the scenes. The good news is that Koei Tecmo appears to be putting effort into the optimization while bringing more and more of their games onto the console instead of just giving up.
Warriors Orochi 4 being my first ever Warriors game did lead to some of the previous games’ references not hitting the intended notes, but otherwise it is a fine entry for any newcomer. Veterans who are more well versed in the characters and previous stories will love the references and the addition of the magic attacks. Overall, there are some problematic areas such as the story and draw distance, but it is such a smooth-handling hack-and-slash game that provides a lot of mindless fun. And for those looking for a deeper experience, each scenario has objectives and there is also online multiplayer. This gives a bit of something for everyone, while providing yet another quality hack-and-slash experience on the Nintendo Switch. All of this makes for a solid crossover in a year with plenty of gaming and non-gaming crossovers and non-crossovers. (Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Koei Tecmo.