I was admittedly skeptical when diving into Warriors Orochi 4 for the first time. I mean after all, Koei Tecmo and Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors 9 went down about as well as a snail on a salt track; drastic performance issues, terrible draw distance, copy and paste gameplay and several other problems that massively held it back. Mercifully, however, my concerns regarding Warriors Orochi 4’s optimization was short-lived. The end result, despite some poor design issues, makes for a surprisingly fluid, somewhat initially compelling experience.
The game’s story takes place across five chapters, with seventy missions spread throughout the lot. Set after the events of Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate, and thus, following Orochi’s defeat, the re-assembled heroes once again find themselves up against a new devastating battle. Having lost their memories of the events in the immediate predecessor, the heroes – brought back to world by Zeus – must seek out eight mystical bracelets in order to return to their eras. Though, why exactly Zeus is rebuilding the parallel world remains a mystery.
This naturally unravels throughout the course of the game, and despite some pretty shoddy localisation, or some ridiculous writing, the story does a good job at getting its hooks in. For those new to the series, Warriors Orochi is a hack and slash franchise that pits players against impossible odds, and serves as a crossover of both Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Much like in previous installations, here you’re given a three-man team to command, consisting of characters that have been taken from the aforementioned two series.
Let me pause you right there for a moment now that we’re on the topic of characters. Warriors Orochi 4 has a staggering 170 characters to unlock and select from, going so far as to being recognized by Guinness World Records for having the most playable characters in a game of its kind. Impressive, right? Pressing on! Diving into the story, players will move through the previously alluded to chapters, taking on the missions that each chapter encompasses. There’s a difficulty slider for those that want to adjust the fields of play.
However, I have to say, Warriors Orochi 4 isn’t all that challenging. That’s actually one of the game’s biggest flaws. The sheer lack of difficulty only highlights the game’s repetitive nature before too long. This largely creates an adverse domino effect, being that even the game’s tougher of missions and enemy variations can be overcome by simply hammering the X button whilst facing in the right direction. That said, I wont deny the game of its allure, especially during the initial stages, but it would have been nice to see more structure here.
Each of the game’s characters are broken down into class types and come with their own distinct weapons and abilities. Using a mixture of both, as well as magic and sacred treasures, players will fast swap between their selected three characters on the fly, dishing out mass damage to anyone that stands in between them and their current objective. Assignments typically consist of killing specific enemies, protecting allies, travelling to set locations and other like-minded goals, all set out neatly and made clear on the game’s map.
Each map tends to be quite small in size, taking no more than a handful of minutes to travel from one end to the other. That said, map sections are usually blocked off until a requirement has been fulfilled (such as killing a nearby foe) and once complete, you’ll be afforded further movement and progression. It’s a relatively simply system to gel with, lending the game a degree of accessibility as a result. Enemies will come at you in hordes, and I don’t at all say that lightly. Hundreds of foes will occupy the screen at any given time.
What impressed me the most here is that the game’s performance doesn’t buckle underneath all of that pressure, and even when there’s a lot of action and effects bursting on-screen, Warriors Orochi 4’s performance remains smooth and trouble-free. It’s fair to surmise that Warriors Orochi 4’s gameplay doesn’t deviate too much from the concept found in its previous installations. You’ll battle the droves, take over fort positions, fight bosses; rinse and repeat. Mass combos function in a similar fashion, save a few changes.
This comes in the form of the magical abilities that characters can utilize, with varying ranges to pull from. The most notable addition on this front is the inclusion of sacred treasures; magical abilities that all characters can hardness to relay some pretty powerful damage output. The deification feature, on the other hand, can only be used by a select few, allowing them to draw powers from the mystical bracelets to unlock temporary abilities that would put the gods to shame. There’s also some pretty tasty ultra-moves.
These moves in particular will drain your entire magic gauge (which refills during combat) but will get you out of a tight spot in a pinch. Collectively, and alongside the simplistic physical attacks and the character fast swap, the game remains wide open for some truly fun combo-building, with combos as high as two thousand all too easy to achieve. It’s an empowering adventure, I’ll credit the game for that. It’s just a crying shame that it’s too damn easy. It doesn’t help matters that the AI is about as lively as Rip Van Winkle.
Seriously, I stood there without attacking in front of roughly two hundred foes, only for one of them to step out and lightly jab me moments later, before running back into the crowd. I get that this is to be expected, but come one, where’s the challenge in that? The same can be said about pretty much any enemy in the game once you begin upping your character’s capabilities. One such way of doing so is to improve a characters relationship with another character, which can be achieved via combined attacks, helping out characters, and training.
Bulking up the bonds between characters will enhance their capabilities and can even unlock unique events that you would otherwise miss. On the more traditional front in relation to character progression, it’s business as usual. You can earn and equip better weaponry or upgrade existing weaponry and apply stat-boosting extras into allocated slots. Characters can also be upgraded via leveling up and unlocking new skills, each of which will boost the character’s base stats and offer some additional enhancements to make use of.
You can upgrade your camp too, which will grant you even more bonuses such as more gain on bonds between characters, increased attack power, and so forth. Safe to say that there’s plenty of well set systems that the game sits on. Speaking of sitting on something, the horse mount returns once again and can be summoned at anytime to get you from A to B more quickly. Nevertheless, and despite its simplicity, I’ve enjoyed my time with Warriors Orochi 4. It’s unlike anything on the market, for better and for worse, and is packed with content.
When you’re done with the main campaign chapters, there’s a small collection of side quests to move through to keep you busy just that little while longer. Outside of that, Warriors Orochi 4 offers up online co-op story play in addition, as well as Battle Arena. Battle Arena serves itself as a three-versus-three mode in which players fight to capture a total of three control points that are littered across the map. You are indeed able to take in (and fast swap between) two characters, each with their own independent health bar.
This throws a layer of strategy into the mix, being that players will need to carefully consider which of their two characters to use, and when to use them at the right time. On the visual and audio front, Warriors Orochi 4 is superior to that of Dynasty Warriors 9, and although the game largely uses design points from both that and Samurai Warriors, there’s no denying that the game remains well detailed and diverse throughout. The same can be said about the soundtrack, which does a brilliant job at setting the mood of the adventure.
Warriors Orochi 4 has a lot going for it, but its sheer lack of difficulty is hard to overlook when taking its widely interesting gameplay mechanics into account. Still, with its needless simplicity to the side, the game delivers on its promise to be the most fun and diverse entry in the series so far. Furthermore, in contrast to Dynasty Warriors 9’s launch, Warriors Orochi 4’s technical performance is top-notch.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.