Samurai Warriors 4: Empires
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PS Vita
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Price: $49.99 US – Available Here $79.95 AUS – Available Here
The Samurai Warriors series may not be as prominent as the Dynasty Warriors franchise, as it only has half the number of games as that series and a few of the iterations haven’t even been released in the West. As such, Samurai Warriors 4: Empires marks the first time in nine years that this series’ Empires iteration has been released in the West. After taking a long break and bringing over the combat mechanics found in the core game, is Samurai Warriors 4: Empires worth your time?
Similar to past Empires games, Samurai Warriors 4: Empires strips the title of most of its core storyline and presents players with the option of either selecting from pre-set scenarios that cover certain parts of the Warring States Era with the player being able to join a clan and work to complete that scenario’s objective, or “Genesis Mode” where players can create their own history by placing their created characters or whoever they wish in charge of a specific province, selecting an ambition to complete ranging from uniting all of Japan under your Clan’s banner to simply annihilating another Clan from the history books.
The Genesis Mode is likely where players will find the most enjoyment since players are free to customize who they start with or simply randomize the entire map and aim for victory. Interestingly enough, the title also features numerous story snippets that help establish relationships between the various warriors that are in the game. Fight enough battles against a certain general? They might become your sworn nemesis. Battle alongside allies or spend time outside of combat “fraternizing” and you may end up married or gaining a loyal retainer.
These types of systems add a lot of personality to the game and often bring about various cut-scenes that help bring some life to your forces and help add to the whole “what-if” style of storytelling the Empires games are known for. In an interesting fashion, players can also unlock various historical moments if they have certain characters in their group and complete various tasks.
Those familiar with the Empires titles will already know roughly what they are in for here as players will find the game broken into two separate sections. The one section is your standard battle system where players will invade or defend a land using the generals they have on hand, capturing bases in order to connect a chain of bases to the main enemy camp to eliminate their leader or protecting your main camp from being taken over.
Samurai Warriors 4: Empires thankfully has the improved combat system that made the core games the most fast and fluid feeling Warriors games in memory thanks to the fact that they have slightly altered the combat scheme. While each character still has a standard set of normal attacks that can be chained into special hard hitting heavy attacks, they can also make use of hyper attacks. These hyper attacks are fast paced and see the fighter ripping through enemy ranks and making mincemeat out of standard enemies. Of course, enemies that are set up in a charge or named officers will shrug off these blows and send your fighter reeling meaning it is back to the standard tactics against them.
Combat against officers feels as familiar as ever though players will find that if they time proper dodges then they will be able to unleash a damaging counter attack that often will stun your opponent. Along those same lines, using such a move on an officer with low health will instantly finish them and make them retreat from battle. Of course, unless you get lucky and capture the foe or are really trouncing your opponent, there is still the chance that they will eventually make their way back onto the field.
There is a bit more to combat than simply slaying enemies however, as certain elements of strategy come into play as well. Players will obtain various formations and tactics that can be used at any time in a fight, with troop formations often providing boosts to your army in the way of increased attack or movement speed, and tactics allowing bases to be taken easier since riflemen or ninjas can be sent in to damage them or increase the damage of various methods of attack.
These tactics and formations are earned in the other side of Samurai Warriors 4: Empires, the Castle menu. Between battles and often for a fairly long period of time if you choose not to attack someone, players will find themselves placed in a castle with their various officers. From your officer pool you can select a strategist and advisors for various aspects such as diplomacy, development, and troop training. Each officer has various aptitudes as well as other characters they work well with, meaning players will need to fiddle a bit to make sure they are getting the most out of their seasonal growth periods as every turn, which counts as a season, will provide your Clan with gold, supplies, troops, fame, etc., and all of this is required to succeed for obvious reasons as invasions require gold, supplies, and troops while fame dictates how many actions you can take during a season.
If it sounds a bit complicated then you are right as Omega Force often provides very little detail into certain aspects of the Castle system, meaning that players may easily get caught off guard in the early going and have to start over if they make poor decisions because they aren’t familiar with all of the mechanics in play. Especially since you may find a region of yours being attacked that might only have two officers defending, leaving your four thousand men to be outnumbered three to one, resulting in an incredibly difficult defense.
Thanks to the fact that every officer used in a fight to invade a region will immediately travel to the taken region, which may leave your launching point completely empty, this is an easy mistake to fall into, especially since, rather than allowing unassigned officers to stay on as back-up soldiers, unassigned officers are dismissed from the Clan meaning that you will often need to constantly build up your ranks or end up being unprepared.
Visuals & Audio
Although Samurai Warriors 4: Empires isn’t spectacular looking by any means I must give the title a lot of credit for being able to put up with a lot of action without any hint of slowdown. Players will often find themselves facing down well over a hundred enemies at a time and when zipping through their ranks using hyper attacks or unleashing your musou attacks in these swarms the title remains consistent no matter how hectic things become.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned, the title features a nice mix of music that makes up your standard fair for a Warrior game with plenty of rock tunes and other themes mixed in and easily changeable before a battle to allow players to fight to whatever song they feel like. As one would expect, Koei Tecmo has opted to release this game featuring only the Japanese voice track but fans of the series should be well aware of that and familiar with the cast at this point.
Samurai Warriors 4: Empires may only offer two game modes that, for the most part play the exact same, but this is still the most in-depth Empires came that fans have probably seen from the series. Of course this does mean that players will need to go through some trial and error while learning how to play the title properly while managing their own forces and what formations best other formations, but with the enhanced combat system of Samurai Warriors 4 making the combat better than before and plenty of ways to tackle scenarios, including the ability to build your own, it is well worth the effort.
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