Warriors Orochi 4 is a fun ride

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Warriors Orochi 4
PlayStation 4/Nintendo Switch

THOSE FAMILIAR with Koei Tecmo Games will undoubtedly not be shocked at the release of Warriors Orochi 4, a hack-and-slash video game that combines the Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors franchises and lets them loose in a world of myths and monsters. Released late last year on the personal computer and current-generation consoles, it carries with it much of what can be expected from a hack-and-slash offering, but with a little more to keep things interesting — exactly what the Japanese video game publisher is best known for.

Warriors Orochi 4 picks up from where its immediate past predecessor left off. Following the defeat of serpent king Orochi, protagonists from the Three Kingdoms and Sengoku eras find themselves back to their respective time periods looking to return to normalcy. Instead, their lives are again thrust into chaos when Greek god Zeus decides to play around with space and time and brings them anew to the alternate reality they thought they left for good. To add flavor to his diversion, he crafts eight Ouroboros Bracelets for them to discover, granting them powers hitherto only wielded by deities. The seeming frivolity sets off a chain of events that include the participation of prominent figures from both Asgard and Olympus.

Within the aforesaid setting, Warriors Orochi 4 has players take control of the historical figures via teams of three. They are tasked with rampaging across various battlefields at the behest of mythical gods. They take down whoever and whatever are foolish enough to stand against them, along the way crafting and upgrading various equipment to prep them for stronger, tougher, and meaner opponents. It’s everything the Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors intellectual properties are, and the blending definitely provides energy and uniqueness from the get-go.

Warriors Orochi 4 gives players the opportunity to choose from 170 distinct characters, and while the latter’s hand-crafted designs are all ripped from previous entries in the series, their incorporation with the overall aesthetic provides them with a bright new sheen. Environments and stages are reused, albeit updated accordingly, with some amalgamated to provide a novel experience. The graphics don’t push the PlayStation 4 Pro and arguably even the Nintendo Switch to the limit, but they’re propped up by the enhanced art styles. While nothing fancy, they look great all the same.

The interface of Warriors Orochi 4 is pretty much what players would expect from any Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors title. Characters run around and crush opponents, fulfilling objectives and defeating other officers en route. That said, the presence of magic is new to the series, and it takes the form of special moves that fighters can possess and use. It might not seem all that much, but in a game focused around building combos and stringing kills together, it actually adds a fair bit of depth to the battles, and rewards those who can keep up with the pace by giving them alternatives with which to deal damage.

Parenthetically, Warriors Orochi 4 boasts of a switching dynamic that allows players to mix and match teams at their leisure, thus increasing options exponentially. Because characters have specific sets of strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, no small measure of strategy is required in planning the composition of groups and their expeditions. The mechanic makes for an addictive experience; there is nothing like seeing success validating choices and setbacks prompting more experimentation.

All told, Warriors Orochi 4 feels and plays like a natural sequel to Warriors Orochi 3 and emerges as a worthy extension of the Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors franchises. Its over-the-top combat never lets up, and is, in fact, made even more intense by the deification of familiar characters, not to mention by the deities themselves. And, en route to completing the 70 missions spread over five chapters, players are immersed in a narrative that shuns convention. To the contrary, it basks in its encompassing premise and winds up benefiting immensely as a result.

Admittedly, Warriors Orochi 4 is a fun ride that can get lost in the repetitive nature of its missions. It likewise displays a predisposition for grinding, what with no small measure of work demanded from players to upgrade characters and materials. Neither is it flawless from a technical standpoint; despite its relatively modest visual and aural presentation, it suffers from occasional slowdowns. Frame drops are especially evident on screen when enemy numbers start counting in the hundreds, when larger monsters show up, or when flashier particle effects are triggered. They’re bad enough on the PS4 Pro, but are particularly off-putting on the Switch regardless of play mode.

To be sure, the aforesaid flaws are inherent in all Warriors games. At this point, it’s telling that veterans of any of the series have learned to adjust their actions and reactions accordingly, as if the unintended bullet-time consequences were part and parcel of difficulty settings and not attributable to programming quirks. Which is to contend that Warriors Orochi 4 is just like all the others before it: It highlights extremely engaging gameplay mechanics to the point of getting players to forgive its failings. Highly recommended.

• Introduction of magic adds depth to combat

• Extremely large cast of characters with uniquely colorful traits

• Entertaining gameplay designed to engage series regulars and newcomers alike

• Continues to show technical flaws present in previous Warriors releases

• Gameplay mechanics can take a while to master

• Considerable resource grinding required for upgrades

RATING: 8/10