When Dynasty Warriors 9 released earlier this year, developer Omega Force attempted to spice up the Musou series’ arena battler formula with a new open-world design. While this change of direction was certainly ambitious, the moment to moment gameplay still felt stuck in the past. After nearly two decades of knocking skulls en masse, the series really needed something new to make its massive-yet-mindless melees a bit more interesting.
Enter Warriors Orochi 4. The latest entry in the series that combines the cast and mechanics of Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises, Warriors Orochi 4 ditches the open-world premise of DW9 and instead fine-tunes and updates the Musou formula in some new and exciting ways. The end result is a game that may not quite reinvent the wheel. It does, however, add a fresh spark to the series’ signature bombastic brawls.
It’s All Greek To Me
Despite their historic cast of characters, the Warriors games have always taken plenty of liberties when it comes to framing their feudal conflicts. This has never been more evident than it is with Warriors Orochi 4. With the supernatural serpent Orochi finally out of the picture, the dueling deities of the Greek and Norse pantheon have stepped up to take his place. Never one to shy away from meddling in the affairs of mortals, Zeus, joined by Ares and Athena, merges the universes of Three Kingdoms and the Warrings States together and scatters eight Ouroboros Bracelets around the land. More than just a killer fashion accessory, these bracelets grant their wielders the power of the gods and also serve as the only way to restore order to the shattered universe.
No, Warriors Orochi 4‘s story isn’t a Homer caliber Odyssey. The narrative is nothing short of ridiculous as it bounces around the game’s massive compendium of characters. Most of it unfolds in cutscenes, while the rest of it is told through chatter during combat. This would be fine. But, with the spoken dialog being entirely in Japanese, it can be very difficult to pay attention to what’s being said while you’re busy duking it out against hundreds of baddies.
Despite these issues, the story gets the job done, even if many of the characters add little to the story and are simply thrown in for the sake of fan service. If nothing else, Warriors Orochi 4‘s tale is at least a good enough excuse to assemble 170 of the universe’s most mighty generals and watch them beat the living hell out of each other in fantastic fashion.
Do You Believe in Magic?
Warriors Orochi 4‘s combat is as simple and satisfying as ever. Basic combat consists of standard and charge attacks, which can be chained together to create beefy combos. And, like, the previous games in the series, you’re free to swap between a squad of three characters with the push of a button. While the two-button combat seems limited at first, Switch Combos, which occur when you switch between characters while performing a charge attack, expand your attack possibilities and allow you to inflict some insane damage on the enemy forces. Combine this with Musou Attacks, which can clear giant swathes of the battlefield, and Awakenings, which turn you into a force of destruction by increasing the power of your Musou abilities, and you have a pretty solid foundation that leaves plenty of room for experimentation – even if you can usually finish most fights by simply mashing away at the attack buttons.
Of course, if you’ve played the Warriors Orochi series then this is all old hat to you. However, one new and interesting feature is the addition of Sacred Treasures. These special weapons grant each character a handful of magical abilities that really expand your offensive repertoire. Fueled by the addition of a magic meter that’s separate from your Musou gauge, these attacks are unleashed by holding the right shoulder button and tapping a face button and are brilliant showcases of brutality. It’s not uncommon to see your hero riding a giant tidal wave across the battlefield, washing away scores of enemies. Or, if cosmic carnage is more your thing, you can summon a meteor to rain death from above. These skills, combined with the might of screen-clearing Unity Magic – special spells that combine the power of every party and support member – make for some spectacular skirmishes.
Another interesting new mechanic is Deification. Limited to just eight of the game’s main characters, Deification allows you to assume special forms based on Greek or Norse mythology and significantly alter your offensive capabilities. So, if you’ve ever wanted to rampage across the arena as Odin, Tyr, or Aphrodite, now’s your chance. These forms are a tremendous amount of fun to control. It’s just a shame that only a handful of the game’s 170 playable generals are able to undergo these godly transformations.
War Never Changes
Warriors Orochi 4‘s five chapter story moves at a steady clip. And with a handful of new generals awarded to the player after every skirmish, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed as your character roster rapidly expands. Each new addition to your army starts from level one and is equipped with the most basic gear. In earlier chapters, this isn’t a big deal. However, getting the generals you unlock late in the game, like Guan Yinping, Lu Bu, Nobunaga Oda, where you want them to be can be a bit of a grind. Thankfully, the growth points you accumulate and consumable orbs can be spent at camp upgrade your generals levels and their skill trees in-between stages.
Regardless, if you’re a completionist and hell-bent on getting the game’s full character roster maxed out, you better start clearing your calendar. For those of you who don’t mind the grind, this can be considered all the more incentive to dive into the fray.
A wise man once said that beating back waves of enemies is always better with a friend. This tenet remains true when it comes to Warriors Orochi 4. The game’s full campaign is playable via both online and split-screen couch co-op. Fighting your way through the Orochi world alongside likeminded conquerors is a blast. And, despite the insane amount of visual clutter on-screen, the action remains very much manageable on the Xbox One X. Simply put, if you’re a Musou fan looking for a fun way to spend a few afternoons, cracking open a few cold ones with Lu Bu and the boys comes highly recommended.
Old Dog, New Tricks
Even though it may not be the evolution the Warriors franchise appeared on the PlayStation 2 nearly 20 years ago, Warriors Orochi 4 does some neat new tricks to keep longtime fans entertained. The magic system is flashy, fun, and adds a welcome layer of depth to each battle. And while previous games in the series have always had a way of making the player feel like a demigod, being able to actually assume the powers of the pantheon through Deification is an absolute blast. Though I really do wish the power was given to a greater number of generals.
After the slight misstep that was Dynasty Warriors 9, Omega Force has done a solid job of righting the ship with Warriors Orochi 4. If you’ve grown weary of the franchise titles by now, this effort isn’t going to change your mind. But with a number of satisfying new mechanics that flesh out its combat more than ever, die-hard fans of the series should be more than entertained.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC ; Publisher: Koei Tecmo America; Developer: Omega Force; Players: 1-6 ; Released: October 16, 2018; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Warriors Orochi 4 given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.