If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. That type of mindset has been behind most of the long running Warriors franchise, which has delivered top notch hack and slash gameplay for years to a loyal fanbase. Samurai Warriors 5 is the latest installment, bringing us back to the basics while adding some new features to keep things fresh. Does this sequel deliver, or is the previous installment still the pinnacle of this series? Let’s find out.
Musou Mode is basically the heartbeat of Samurai Warriors 5, where the narrative leads the experience. Players will find a comfortable retread of the Sengoku period, seeing the perspectives of a young Nobunaga and Mitsuhide, where we get a better look at how the two met and how it would affect their motives later on. It is a rather compelling plot at work here, but one that still doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it could be due to the execution. Sure, the story is enjoyable, but I feel like even though everything is “fresh”, it kind of seems we are still going over the same type of plot we have seen so many times before. I get it, this theme is what makes Samurai Warriors true to its namesake, but I do think it is time to concentrate on these characters in terms of writing and heart so our two protagonists can be a little more than one-dimensional faces. Again, there is still a lot to enjoy and the plot is definitely accessible to newcomers and seasoned fans alike – but I have always thought Samurai Warriors was always one pen stroke away from being brilliant, and that “almost” feeling kind of left me wanting to see a bit more depth and excitement to match the satisfying gameplay within.
If you want a great Warriors game that is familiar, that is exactly what you will be getting in this installment as for the most part, everything feels relatively the same. Players traverse a map, capture checkpoints, defeat bosses, and conquer land as they progress forward, while having to take out thousands of enemies at once. Yep, it is Samurai Warriors, but there are some new techniques to play with that do mix things up in a minor way. Hyper Attacks pull together all surrounding foes where you can round up a massive combo quickly, making quick work of crowds.
Racking up kills also fill your Ultimate gauge, where you can let out one of four special attacks at a cost, which all have a very powerful attack, making it useful against tougher soldiers. These skills can also boost your stats temporarily, putting the battle more in your favor for short bursts. Yep, not a lot has changed outside of minor additions, and while these extras are nice to see, they don’t really give Samurai Warriors 5 its own distinct flavor as it all still feels relatively like prior installments. That isn’t a bad thing as there is more of what fans like here, but those looking to see a facelift may be disappointed that this follow-up mainly differs in looks and doesn’t really do much to stand out.
Citadel mode acts as your mission mode of sorts, allowing players to take on mini-quests in order to upgrade inventory, buildings, and even horses. Summoning troops on the fly is a lot of fun, and the attention to detail in this mode shows with how much content is here. The use of summons and customization included will add new layers of strategy to the battlefield for those who may be tiring of the standard fare, and that made Citadel my main place of play during my time with the game. There is something really therapeutic still about slashing through enemies in short sessions and Citadel mode is made for that, delivering nice rewards for progression that completionists will love.
This was something I was rather on the fence about during my entire time with Samurai Warriors 5. The visuals have changed, but not in any way major. Instead of standard models, characters now have a cel shaded like appearance. Things look fine and I am guessing the change keeps gameplay more fluid and consistent, but after 4 really shined in terms of visuals, it was kind of a letdown to see a sequel take a downgrade in graphics. Sure, the game looks fine, but it feels more dated now, as even its predecessor seemed to be more polished and stunning, while 5 just struck me as average based on that odd design choice.
The audio is fine, with Japanese voice actors doing a great job at bringing alive their characters. The soundtrack is familiar and sets the Sengoku theme well enough, but the sound effects do seem a bit lackluster. In a hack and slash game from any developer, I would expect more satisfying attack sounds to compliment the experience. Instead, I questioned if my moves were even hitting at times as there is a lot of silence, which is something this veteran franchise should be doing a lot better with. You will still get the same joy of cutting down foes, but without as much crunch this time around.
Samurai Warriors 5 is a fine sequel that delivers exactly what any Warriors fan would want. More slicing and dicing, with no major changes to drive off its loyal fan base. I think asking for anything more at this point would be silly, but after 4, I do think Samurai Warriors 5 could have been better than its predecessor easily with more features and refinement. This sequel’s biggest issue is that 4 other titles came before it, and it doesn’t have as much content as prior titles at launch. Loyalists, this is still more of what you love and everything still plays well, so enjoy your latest time sink as it may not be better, but there is still a lot return to in the 5th installment.