Samurai Warriors 4: Empires (PS4 review)

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The genre of hack and slash never seems to end as long as Tecmo Koei is around. The Dynasty Warriors series has spawned many games since it’s arrival back in the PS2 days with Samurai Warriors being among them. It’s latest release, Samurai Warriors 4: Empires takes the simple formula it’s known for and adds a strategy element to it. What appears to be simple at first gets more challenging the longer you play. And with the story taking place during the Warring States Period in Japan, expect the journey to be a messy one.

Gameplay

SW4: Empires offers 2 different game modes: Conquest Mode and Genesis Mode. In Conquest mode, the linear character storylines are replaced with a simulated non-linear story. With over 200 characters involving both male and female officers, Conquest provides an ever changing story that plays out differently every time. 6 scenarios are available with several conditions to meet. From destroying a specific clan to uniting all of Japan, Empires takes you through the late stages of the Warring States Period in Japan. In Conquest Mode, meeting the conditions sounds simple enough, for example, one condition could be reaching the capital. Depending on the clan you choose, the journey can only be a few territories away or a long battle toward the capital. But Conquest isn’t all hack and slash against countless enemies. Two phases exist in Conquest, Battle and Politics. Politics revolves around your officers’ tasks, ambitions for the clan, and overall preparing for battle. Preparing for battle is key and in Conquest, you are tasked to assign officers to provide guidance for you. A strong strategist can make things simpler with tasks given by officers, but the strategist is only as good as their stats. Balancing your strategist and officers to gain the most out of preparations is tricky, but not too difficult. And once you assign a target, you’re strategist will let you know when the right time to strike is.

Once you’ve gathered enough resources and an army big enough for battle, the Battle phase is where the action is at. Depending on the target assigned, you can invade the territory nearest you to get closer to your target. Each battle lasts roughly 10 minutes, depending on your resources available. And succeeding in battle is easy, defeat the main captain or capture the main camp. Losing is just as easy if either of the two is dealt against you. You have a set goal and clear objective, but invading can prove to be difficult. After each battle, win or lose, your troops are expended and you need to rebuild. During that time another clan can invade one of your territories and take it over. If they happen to invade the territory where your main officer is (you’re the main playable officer), defeat can be imminent due to not being able to successfully defend yourself. After each successful invasion, you are given the option to recruit captured soldiers, release or execute them. And since the story is driven by the officers and your decision, recruiting an officer that a clan hates can lead to consequences like a refusal of an alliance. Keeping a good amount of officers in each territory can help thwart invasions as long as they are well equipped with a strong enough army.

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Hands On

Picking up the game is very easy. If you’ve played any of the previous Samurai Warrior games, Empires will feel pretty natural. The dynamic battles in Empires gives you a rich story that can change at any moment. Officers are distinct with different armors and fighting styles and can help shape the story you are creating. Don’t neglect any officer as they will make the battle more difficult for you. But on the other side of the spectrum, utilizing teamwork with your officers will build strong friendships and even relationships that’ll lead to marriages. Using officers with a strong connection will allow them to fight more coordinated and effectively together. This will also allow you to switch between characters at will that’ll help change the tide of battle. And when officers are always in the same battle, special missions are thrown in to help build their relationship stronger should you meet it. The same can be said when facing off against the same officer in several battles. Special ‘Nemesis’ sequences will be unlocked the more you face off against the same opponent.

Controls are easy to pick up and also easy to master. Button combinations provide deadly attacks and powerful moves. Normal attacks help generate Musou, which is used to unleash Musou attacks, devastating moves that can attack several enemies at once. The Spirit Guage allows your character to attack in an unstoppable manner with a final heavy attack. Unleashing attacks on wave after wave of enemies can feel empowering and almost god-like. Focus too much on just one officer and your other officers can be easily swarmed and defeated. Also, take on too many soldiers at once and they’ll definitely punish you. Teaming up with officers is simple with the command system, which allows you to point and click where you want a specific officer and his troops to go. Need back up, click one or two officers to defend/follow you. Rushing in? Command all officers to charge and they’ll attack the nearest post. Acting alone will only get you so far so utilize your officers well if you want to achieve your ultimate goal. As you complete each scenario, new ones will unlock with different officers available.

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Final Reaction

What starts off as a fun hack-and-slash game turns into a deep strategy game the longer you play. You’ll find yourself spending more time preparing for battle and setting up your officers and territories than slaughtering countless soldiers, but both are easily enjoyable. Choose a clan and then choose a journey. Samurai Warriors 4: Empires may be another game added to the Dynasty Warrior legacy, but it aims to separate itself from the mere repetitive action. The name Empires is true to the game, build an army and raise other clans to the ground.Uniting Japan can only be achieved should you thirst for it, and Samurai Warriors 4: Empires will have you battling to become the supreme ruler of Japan.

Rating: 4/5 Atoms

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Samurai Warriors 4: Empires is available now on PS3, Ps4, and PS Vita via digital download and physical disc.

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