Over the last seven or eight years Koei hasn’t so much perfected their Dynasty Warriors formula as audaciously recycled it on a regularity exceeding even the industry-standard once yearly.
Warriors Orochi is basically a joining of two sibling franchises, PS2 veteran Dynasty Warriors and relative newbie Samurai Warriors. Although it’s understandable that a company would want to stick closely to its past successes, the problem here is that it plays exactly like Dynasty Warriors 2 from more than seven years ago. Not that this in itself would necessarily be a problem, but there has been well over a dozen iterations since then, some of which have tried to bring new elements to the franchise (such as tactics and strategic planning), and most of which are sadly not carried over to Orochi.
“it plays exactly like Dynasty Warriors 2 from more than seven years ago.”While this massive battlefield sub-genre has been central to some of the biggest Hollywood movies of recent times, getting the elements right is something that has consistently eluded third-person action games. Many have tried and yet all fall foul of the same trappings; most notably repetitive combat and uninspired missions. Warriors Orochi does nothing to address these issues, although that doesn’t prevent it being enjoyable and fulfilling, to a degree.
As un-PC as it is, there’s a certain base appeal in taking part in large battles such as here. The combat engine is deeper than it at first seems (thanks largely to unlockable weapons and abilities), and you can do a fair if small variety of attacks. The problem really comes from the locations in which you fight and with your foes themselves. Although it can be satisfying that you can literally smash your way through dozens of troops at a time, it all feels a little elaborate and ridiculous. If the prospect of cutting down several hundred enemy troops appeals then you should be right at home here (as with the rest of the Warriors games), since you’ll rarely defeat less than a few hundred enemy troops per level. Scattered intermittently around the levels are a handful of enemy officers who are built from sterner stuff, and fighting these provides a tougher and more satisfying challenge, although the standard enemy troops have a knack of getting in the way when all you would like to do is pound the officer into submission.
It’s also a huge missed opportunity that the battlefields are not a little more varied and involving. On the whole, little effort has been put into the environments, and it’s a bit of a shame that the draw distance ends after about fifty [game] meters – although this is an understandable compromise given the impressive number of enemies on screen and rock-steady frame rate. However, it would make a huge difference to the game if the environments were interactive and a bit more relevant – it’s not asking for much; even just the capability to climb on and over obstacles or ascend ladders would be nice! Regardless, it’s a bit of an oversight, and something I hope Koei and developers Omega Force have pencilled in to change in the inevitable sequel[s].
There are four separate scenarios, although excepting some static voiceover-driven ‘cutscenes’, there is little to differentiate them from one another. In terms of the plot, the ostensible Serpent King Orochi has brought together legendary warriors from the Three Kingdoms era of China and the Warring States period of feudal Japan to do battle both for and against him for his entertainment. The characters (all veterans of either Dynasty or Samurai Warriors) are neither developed nor especially interesting, and the premise isn’t particularly gripping, so unless you have a fascination in the myths and ancient history of eastern Asia, it’s unlikely the plot will be of significant interest.
One of the games new inclusions is the capacity to take three heroes onto the battlefield (instead of just one, as previously). Before each battle you can select from a roster of over seventy characters (who are unlocked as you complete levels), and you can flit between the three with a tap of R2 or L2. It does help to bring an element of tactics to the battlefield – particularly in terms of using the Musou (each character’s special attack), although it’s likely you’ll find a couple of characters you favour and largely ignore the rest, unless you really want to put numerous hours into levelling characters up sufficiently.
Graphically it’s okay, although again offers little more than previous games in the series. Character models aren’t bad, although not especially detailed and they lack any sort of lighting perception. Enemy designs are few and so repeated hundreds of times – which is fairly understandable given the hundreds, nay, thousands of combatants in any one level, the limited animations and poor AI however are less forgivable, and can’t help detract from the immersion of the battles. The look and detail of the levels is just about as minimal and functional as possible, which again detracts somewhat from the captivation of the encounters.
The music and voiceovers are probably best left unspoken. The same techno-rock that has pervaded previous iterations returns much to the game’s detriment. There are a couple of tunes in there which have more of an Asian feel to them, in a very [very] sub-House of Flying Daggers way, but by and large the music is ill-fitting to the subject matter and definitely an element which needs a complete re-think. Sound effects are fine but totally unremarkable, and voiceovers are fairly awful and hammy, which is partly due to less-than-stellar delivery, and partly due to a second-rate script.
“If you’ve not been convinced by Koei’s previous games then Warriors Orochi is unlikely to persuade you otherwise.”Technically things are pretty decent, although the game does lack finesse in its presentation, which is not surprising given the [relative] budget production. The frame rate is possibly the most admirable aspect in that it remains absolutely uncompromised throughout, which is an impressive achievement given there must be at least sixty or seventy soldiers on screen at times. You will notice soldiers disappearing and appearing out of thin air at times, but this is something I’d rather see than a frame rate that struggles, and it’s not something you’ll notice often in the crowded chaos. Loading is fairly prompt, and saving is almost instantaneous (thankfully you can save at any time in battles – it’s advisable to take advantage of this as often as possible). There are a few extras such as character biographies and galleries, although much like the stories you’ll probably find yourself struggling to care unless you have particular interest in the scenario as a whole.
If you’ve not been convinced by Koei’s previous games then Warriors Orochi is unlikely to persuade you otherwise. It’s a series which has passed its best, and is screaming out for some weighty refinements and alterations in order to reinvigorate. Partaking in large-scale battles such as the game delivers does have a degree of appeal, but it suffers from a chronic lack of variety and incessant repetitiveness which the developers consistently fail to address with each update.
There is unfulfilled potential here, but it comes down to whether Koei takes the series in the right direction in the future. And that very much sums the game up – ‘unfulfilled potential’. It has its moments, but these are outweighed by the shortcomings. Brief fun, but not exactly progressive.