It’s pretty much impossible to walk into a Warriors game nowadays without knowing what to expect. That said, you would think that the next-generation being ushered in would be a good reason for developer Omega Force to re-tinker the series’ core mechanics. Unfortunately, if Samurai Warriors 4 is anything to go by, the team seems to be more than happy with throwing in different modes to appease fans rather than re-hauling the series’ most blatant plague — its enemy AI.
I know it’s a lot easier to say, “Hey, give the thousands of enemies onscreen really good AI!” than actually implementing them. I totally get that having the massive armies onscreen (especially on the newer platforms) is good eye-candy and keeping them on the more simple side makes the series more accessible, but it wouldn’t hurt if at least the officers were smarter than the suicidal minions. Omega Force’s idea of a bigger challenge is slapping a larger health bar on an enemy and making their rare attacks incredibly powerful, and that’s neither fun or compelling. Of course, when your series has sold above the 34 million mark and apparently shows no signs of slowing down with titles like Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate and Hyrule Warriors proving so, there seems to be no incentive to change a formula that isn’t outright broken.
If you’re okay with the AI that continues to be untouched, that’s totally fine. I get where the enjoyment comes from in these games because I’ll often get caught up in it as well when my brain is completely shut off and I have my couch pal tagging along with me. It’s just frustrating and disappointing that after almost fifteen years, Omega Force doesn’t seem like it has any intention of touching the series’ AI at all. I just can’t help but wonder how much more enjoyable the Warriors franchise could be if it could evolve its three-button combat. I personally wouldn’t care if they shrunk the amount of enemies and the battlefields themselves if I could swap weapons on the fly and block/parry attacks from much more engaging enemies. Until then, I’ll just keep fantasizing about this dream Warriors game.
Now that I got the most egregious problem off my chest, I can move on to the other aspects of Samurai Warriors 4.
The game is anchored by two beefy modes, and its Story Mode is based off the Sengoku period of Japan. If you were to Google image Samurai Warriors 4, it’d go without saying that the actual events the game is based on have been modified to say the least. Much like the more popular Dynasty Warriors franchise, you could technically take Samurai Warriors 4 in as an incredibly bizarre history lesson. The story is divided into 13 main categories that each host their own series of missions and certain characters, and the roster ultimately reaches over 50, amounting to the largest Samurai Warriors game yet.
It’s good fun trying out different characters and finding your own personal favorite Musou attacks. Every character has a unique weapon, ranging from your basic swords to demolition charges and guns. It’s definitely appreciated that you’ll at least be trying out a vast variety of characters when facing all those hordes of no-brain soldiers. As for the quality of the stories, well, they definitely vary from lifeless to mediocre. As with any Warriors game, most people don’t come in demanding an amazing tear-jerker of a story, so it’s okay that the game doesn’t go out of its way to ensure that it excels in this department.
The other main gaming mode is Chronicle Mode. Within it, you’ll create a character and have him or her traverse through Japan in order to rise through the ranks. It’s a pretty compelling mode that actually has different mission variants from the Story Mode. Not everything will be a grand battle, though, as sometimes you’ll be tasked with breaking up a smaller fight. You also get to choose how your story plays out with dialogue options, which is appreciated. It’s not a ground-breaking aspect, but it’s a nifty and appreciated addition.
The final mode on offer here is Free Mode. There are no narrative strings attached to this mode, as the game allows you to choose whatever level you want to play with and whatever character you want to play as. It can be decent fun, but I found this to be only a small distraction. Since it lacks a progression-based hook, I found that I’d rarely choose Free Mode, for obvious reasons.
Thanks to the power of the PlayStation 4, the characters look sharper than ever. Unfortunately, the environments don’t hold up as well as the main character models. You can spot muddy textures frequently, but it’s never quite enough to be offensive or anything like that. The music in this game is also repetitive and forgettable, so I definitely recommend listening to a podcast or your own jams if you plan on playing more than one level at a time. At least the voice acting is Japanese and that contributes to the story’s vibe.
Laughably dumb armies aside, Samurai Warriors 4 is a solid amount of fun in measured doses. Due to the repetitive nature of its combat, it can become a chore to play for long sessions, but if you can grab a buddy either locally or online, things become considerably more bearable. As with any Warriors game, its legs will depend on how much you can tolerate its three-button combat and shallow story, but if you can stomach these, there’s good times to be had for sure.
This game is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.