New Day in Old Japan
Let it not be said that Tecmo Koei doesn’t know how to work a production pipeline. Less than a year after Samurai Warriors 4’s release, and with roughly half a dozen other games in between it and Samurai Warriors 4-II, the Warriors developer well understands development cycles. What they haven’t seemed to grasp until recently is how to handle a proper PC port; up to this point, most of the Musou games released on PC have been shoddy messes, ports of the last-gen version of a game which didn’t even have contextual button support (plugging in a controller and playing the game that way still displayed keyboard prompts). Fortunately, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 (a game which I’m not into but only for lack of interest in One Piece) and Samurai Warriors 4-II break the cycle, and possibly set a good precedent for future Warriors releases on the PC.
This time, Tecmo Koei have made a game that is not a sequel, or a remaster, or an expansion, but some strange hybrid in between with a more personal narrative that focuses on individual generals instead of the larger political machinations of Feudal Japan. It’s worth noting that for folks who don’t speak or understand Japanese, the narrative is hard to understand; there are no voice overs other than the originals, and reading subtitles in the middle of a battle is extraordinarily counter-intuitive to the flow of Musou games. All of this is to say that if you didn’t care about the story of the two main Musou series before, there’s absolutely no reason to start caring now.
The major change from SW4 to 4-II is the upgrade systems. Instead of having to fuse gems into your weapons to upgrade them, you can now simply fuse weapons into other weapons. The same can be done for mounts, which is a kind of grotesque act if you really contemplate the physicality of it. In addition, instead of having to rely on item drops to have usable abilities, you can now use Strategy Tomes that drop from generals and captains to build a customized set of abilities and attributes that do everything from temporarily increase attack power to making all your damage elemental for a short time. They’re not huge changes, but it’s enough to make the entire experience much less frustrating and tedious.
The PC port is astoundingly good this time around. Despite the controller prompts still not showing (I’m willing to bet that they don’t exist), the controls map well and are easy enough to figure out. It’s also, to my knowledge, the first Musou game on the PC to have online multiplayer. I had some difficulty getting into a game with another player, and when I could, it was extremely laggy, with random disconnects and generally messy netcode. I’m not sure if this was on my end, or the other player’s end, or on Tecmo Koei’s end, but it was troublesome and not a good time. It seems like the graphics are on part with the PS4 version, which is usually not the case with the Musou series’ PC outings; it’s usually the last-gen version of the game that’s represented. I hardly ever encountered any framerate drops unless there was an extreme number of soldiers or effects on screen, and the load times are much better than in, say, Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (Christ almighty) that came out last year.
Bottom line: you already know if you’re going to buy this. If you like Musou games, it’s a very solid entry in the series that tells a more personal story and improves on the Samurai Warriors 4 formula in a way that SW3 Chronicles completely failed at. The PC port is solid, and I assume the console versions work well too, if Tecmo Koei’s track record is any indication. If you’re seriously hungry for another Samurai Warriors game, it’s certainly worth your time.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita; Publisher: Tecmo Koei America; Developer: Omega Force; Players: 1-2; Released: September 29, 2015 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam code for Samurai Warriors 4-II provided by the game’s publisher, KOEI Tecmo America