Even the most diehard fans of Omega Force’s musou titles have to be feeling the repetition by now. Not only is there a Dynasty Warriors game released each year, but spinoffs such as Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below and One Piece: Pirate Warriors mean that a new title comes out every few months. This is why now more than ever, fans are being choosy about which Koei Tecmo games to pick up.
The latest musou game from the very busy Japanese studio is Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. While we’ve seen Omega Force adapt anime before, Arslan is the first time they’ve tackled one with such a serious tone. The story touches on some topics not often explored by games such as class warfare and slavery. It’s an interesting property for Koei Tecmo to adapt, and thankfully, they’ve largely pulled it off.
While most Warriors titles have a campaign for players to play through, Arslan: The Warriors of Legend has a full-fledged story mode that makes storytelling its main priority. Lengthy animated cutscenes occur before and after each battle, and you’ll actually find yourself watching more of the campaign than playing. If you want to get straight to the action, you can skip the long dialogue sequences, but you’ll be depriving yourself of what makes Arslan unique.
Since the story of Arslan isn’t as well known as Gundam or One Piece, this will be the first time that many players are introduced to the young Prince, who is trying to unify a kingdom divided over class warfare and slavery. The main story beats end up being easy enough to follow, although there are so many characters introduced during the campaign that players will probably end up confused at some points.
Thankfully, there is a full blown encyclopedia filled with entries on the world and characters, but you’ll have to back out to the main menu to access this. If the encyclopedia could be accessed during cutscenes then a lot of confusion could’ve been avoided here. That said, the story is still well told, and it’s by far the best plot in a musou game by a country mile.
The ambitious narrative may be new to Omega Force’s series, but the gameplay will feel all too familiar to gamers. Just like in Dynasty Warriors, you’ll be using an eccentric cast of characters in combat with each their own weapons and special abilities. Since the game follows the anime closely, battles have a more cinematic feel to them. This means the battles are much more linear, and you’ll be tasked with doing tasks in a direct order.
This makes the game feel focused without relying on genre tropes such as taking over specific bases and eventually taking out a boss at the end. The tasks are often simple, as you’ll be asked to defeat specific officers on the battlefield or get to a specific area, but a sense of drama ends up making them feel important. The storytelling is Arslan: The Warriors of Legend‘s greatest strength, and it bleeds into the gameplay.
The other big addition to the gameplay is that players will sometimes be given the ability to control their battalion for a few moments to launch an incredible attack. These moments are called a Mardān Rush, and are one of the highlights of battles. Different characters will be able to control different types of Mardān Rushes ranging from a mounted attack on horseback to archers concentrating fire at specific targets. These moments often are capped off with a set-piece action occurring, and can be pivotal to the story.
Despite these additions, Arslan: The Warriors of Legend still falls into the same traps that so many musou games suffer from. The combat, while intuitive and fun, ends up feeling repetitive after a few hours. The game does a good job of switching out playable characters often, but most warriors still feel the same even if they’re using a different weapon. The innovation just isn’t there on the gameplay side, and unlike One Piece, the source material doesn’t allow for the gameplay to feature wild attacks. It’s a much more grounded universe in Arslan and thus isn’t as fun to play.
Besides the story mode, the game is also decked out with all the modes that fans have come to expect out of a Warriors game. Players can jump into any level from the story with any character in the free battle mode, and there are plenty of extra scenarios to check out as well. Online and local cooperative play is also present, so you can even hack and slash with a friend if you choose to. It’s a well featured package, and gamers have enough content to sink dozens of hours into.
If you only pick up one musou title this year, then Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is a great choice. It isn’t as innovative as Dragon Quest Heroes, but it more than makes up for it by featuring an interesting narrative that explores some dark topics. It won’t wow the crowd that have grown tired of the Dynasty Warriors grind, but there’s a lot to like in Omega Force’s latest anime adaptation.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
While not innovative, Arslan: The Warriors of Legend manages to be yet another well crafted musou from Omega Force. It might not have the depth of others entries gameplay wise, but the narrative is compelling enough to keep players entertained.