A Crossover Done Right
I’m not really sure why Koei Tecmo waited so long before making something like Warriors All-Stars. Considering how long their Warriors franchise has been around, and how may IPs they have, 2017 seems awfully late to be introducing something like this. I shouldn’t really complain, though. In my opinion (and I’m sure that many of you would agree), a good game is worth waiting for. And this was definitely worth the wait.
Wish Upon All-Stars
Warriors All-Stars‘ overarching story takes place in an unnamed kingdom residing within an alternate dimension, whose vast natural wealth is controlled by a magical Spring within its center. One day, however, the kingdom’s king suddenly vanished, and the Spring — whose power is what keeps the kingdom alive — began to lose power soon after. Desperate to keep the kingdom alive, the queen, Sayo, and her daughter, Tamaki perform a ritual to summon heroes from other worlds, in hopes of keeping their own alive.
The end result of it all was… less than optimal. While Sayo and Tamaki did summon the heroes, they accidentally summoned nearly all of them to random places across their kingdom — some of whom fell right into the laps of Shiki and Setsuna, Tamaki’s siblings, who were both gunning for the now-empty throne. Realizing what she now must do, Tamaki sets off to collect the rest of the summoned heroes — determined to let neither her lack of troops nor sibling rivalry stop her.
I’ll be blunt; Warriors All-Stars doesn’t feature the most creative main story that I’ve ever come across. It’s put together well enough, but it’s not going to be anything that you’ve never seen before. Fortunately, I think that this works in the game’s favor. If the title doesn’t make it obvious enough, the real focus of this game is on Koei Tecmo’s poster children; the heroes. The game plays out in a way that makes it less about events that occur in the story, and more about how each hero handles each event. Or even, in some cases, how heroes handle other heroes handling events. The decision to let a game’s story do little more than set a foundation while the characters move everything along can be a risky one, but it ended up being a perfect fit for a crossover title like this.
Although the beginning is always the the same, the rest of the game’s story is not. Instead, story progression is determined by the player’s actions. Each hero end up joining with one of the three warring siblings. And, as you can imagine, each sibling faction comes with its own story. It’s worth noting that heroes and factions are not independent from one another. The character that you choose as your protagonist will determine which sibling you’re fighting for. William always sides with Shiki, Sophie always sides with Tamaki, and so on. Personally, I didn’t find this to be an issue. Warriors All-Stars is all about the heroes and, while the game does feature an all-new story, I never became so attached to any of the new characters that I felt it necessary to let the player take sides.
In terms of level selection, Warriors All-Stars offers an impressive amount of freedom. Players are able to pick and choose levels via an impressively sized world map. While the game does, of course feature, story missions, many of these levels are entirely optional. In fact, I’d venture to guess that you could skip a good 80% or more of the levels if you really wanted to. But that really wouldn’t benefit you. Each of Warriors All-Stars‘ extra levels provide players with opportunities to nab plenty of much-need EXP, gold, and items. Many levels also have unique setups which are fun to play.
I can’t say that I ever thought that I’d see the day when I played a Warriors game with branching story paths. Warriors All-Stars proved that it’s a mechanic that’s entirely possible to implement however, thanks to its Battle Rumors mechanic. Battle Rumors are specific sets of conditions that appear which, once fulfilled, unlock special story levels. Battle Rumors spice up the game’s story mode by forcing you to plan things out more carefully than you normally would, but are never overly complicated or difficult to follow. Following them can even lead to extra scenarios that you may have missed on your own which, in turn, lead to a number of special character routes and endings.
Warriors All-Stars also features an area known as The Sanctuary. In essence, The Sanctuary is a small, fully explorable village. While there, you can accept quests, pay to train heroes, and purchase and upgrade Hero Cards (a special kind of equipment). The most important part of the Sanctuary, however, is the fact that you can go chat it up with other heroes. As you talk to and fight with your fellow heroes, you’ll begin to build up Regard with them. Higher levels of Regard can unlock special abilities and items — not to mention dozens of extra scenes in the Sanctuary’s own private bathhouse (talk about knowing your audience).
Back in Action
On the whole, Warriors All-Stars plays very much like the rest of the Warriors franchise. The bulk of each of the game’s many levels will see players using their favorite characters to fearlessly charge through hordes of enemies time and time again, unleashing devastating combos, pulling off flashy moves, and feeling that all-too familiar rush of excitement when your K.O. counter skyrockets. Like always, crushing your opponents and taking their bases are your primary goals throughout the game. If you’ve played a Warriors game before, you’ll have absolutely no trouble getting into the flow with this All-Stars variant. It’s simple, smooth, and incredibly addicting.
Don’t expect everything to be the same, though. While true to its core roots through and through, Warriors All-Stars still manages to mix things up a little bit. Most notably, when it comes to character setup. Rather than letting players either set up a team, or forcing them to take a single character into battle, All-Stars allows you to create a five-hero party. As with most other games in the series, you’ll still only be able to control one character throughout the entire battle; your party leader. The other four characters act as your entourage. They’ll follow you around and assist you in battle. Unfortunately, their AI seemed to be a bit lacking, so most of the time they’ll just be standing around. But hey, if you’ve ever played a Warriors game before then you should be used to doing most of the work yourself anyway.
Your teammates do more than just (occasionally) help you fight, however. Each teammate also comes equipped with a handful of useful abilities. The first is the Hero Chain which, as the name implies, lets you link your heroes together and use them simultaneously. Yes, before you ask, you can link all five heroes together at once. And yes, it’s definitely overkill. But its fun and cool–looking overkill. Each Hero also comes with two Hero Skills. Every character’s Hero Skill is unique — some are attacks, others are buffs, and so on — and are not only incredibly useful, but excellently relate to the character using them.
Warriors All-Stars also allows players to make use of the “Musou Rush”, which is quite possibly the strangest Warriors mechanic that I have ever seen. Musou Rush is essentially a “bonus rush” of sorts that, when activated, spawns hundreds of additional enemies on top of the ones that area already there. Your character also becomes faster, stronger and completely invincible, and is aided by your party members who, after jumping into the foreground, will attack on-screen enemies (they also dance around a lot). Your goal during Musou Rush is to defeat as many enemies as possible. The more enemies you defeat, the more gold, EXP, and items you’ll be rewarded with. Considering that you can use Musou Rush to fight bosses it almost feels unfair. Fortunately, the game generally only hands one or two of these out per level, forcing you to decide when and where to use them.
Brave(ry) New World
Perhaps the most interesting battle mechanic in Warriors All-Stars is the Bravery system. Bravery is a special stat that influences a character’s overall stats (Attack, Defense, and so on). It’s unique, however in that it works independently of character level. At the beginning of each stage, your character will always start out at 1 Bravery. As you defeat enemies and complete sub-missions that pop up, your Bravery will increase (up to a maximum of 10). Like players, high-ranking enemies (heroes, base leaders, and so on) also have Bravery. Because of that, it’s important to increase your own Bravery as you progress throughout each level. Failing to do so makes defeating certain enemies very difficult — and in some cases even impossible. It took me a few levels before I fully understood Bravery, but once I got the hang of the mechanic I really took a liking to it.
I’ll say it again. As an independent mechanic, I like Bravery. It rewards you for going out of your way, and prevents you from steamrolling your way through levels. Something became apparent to me as I progressed through the game, though. Despite using the standard Warriors setup, capturing bases is not the name of All-Stars‘ game. Sure, almost every level requires you to capture at least one base. And sure, you can increase your Bravery by capturing them as well. But not once through my multiple playthroughs of the game did I ever run into a good, old-fashioned territory war. There were a few levels that came close, but none of them ever hit the mark. Instead, it was all about Bravery. For all intents and purposes, this trade-off of sorts worked. But playing a game centered around capturing territories that never properly rewarded you for doing so felt… strange.
What a Blast, This All-Star Cast
All-in-all, Koei Tecmo and Omega Force did an excellent job with Warriors All-Stars. It may have its minor downfalls, such as a slightly decreased difficulty level and overall lack of territory battles, but it more than makes up for it with its fun and addictive gameplay, and phenomenal renditions of some of Koei Tecmo’s most beloved IPs. It’s more than safe to say that Warriors All-Stars is a crossover game done right, and it’s definitely a game worth picking up.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC ; Publisher: Koei Tecmo ; Developer: Koei Tecmo ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 29, 2017 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Warriors All-Stars given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher