Dive into the role of Nobunaga Oda and his colorful cast of retainers as you hack and slash your way through all who oppose you.
Type: Single-player, Multiplayer
Genre: Action, RPG
Developer: KOEI TECMO GAMES
Publisher: KOEI TECMO GAMES
Release date: 26 July, 2022
KOEI TECMO’s Warriors games have always seemed to end up offering an experience far superior to what you would expect of them on paper. You spend most of your time rushing around, killing hordes of fodder dudes at once, and focusing on hunting down single dudes who are much, much stronger than those that you’re killing thirty at a time. While, of course, slaughtering your enemies en masse on such a scale sounds like a good time, it doesn’t seem like it would necessarily hook you for very long before you find yourself moving on to greener pastures. Some years ago, Dynasty Warriors proved that it had what it took to hold serious staying power especially if you were playing with a friend and so I was more than open to jumping into Samurai Warriors 5 which seemed to better understand what drew players into Warriors than a certain catastrophic recent release that we don’t speak of in good company.
Nobunaga Oda and His Amorphous Band of Friends
It could be argued that Samurai Warriors 5 has two protagonists, though it’s clear that the majority of the work went into Nobunaga’s story. While Mitsuhide Akechi’s path is equally as well-designed, there are significantly fewer scenarios and they mostly play into adding to the overarching plot of Nobunaga’s ambitions. That said, the story that’s told between these two and the occasional other heroes that get some time in the limelight is exciting and I often found myself looking forward to the next chapter’s drama. If you’re looking for a historical tale on the era, I might recommend you take a look for that elsewhere, but if you’re hoping to find a good, fun historical-ish story, this title provides.
For those going in without in-depth knowledge of the era, I’ll avoid any kind of spoilers for the story overall. What’s easy enough to detail is the general theme of the story as a whole. Nobunaga Oda, the leader of the Oda clan, has set out to unify the land and to bring all other leaders to heel, either through their oaths of loyalty or through their annihilation. As the years pass, you’ll see his inner circle go through drastic changes where old enemies become trusted allies and vice versa. At times you may even see a character swap sides more than once and every once in awhile it’ll be one that surprises you. Nobunaga’s increasing ambitions aren’t for everyone and the further he expands, the more enemies he finds, both inside and outside of his own territories.
Surprise! This Is an RPG
Samurai Warriors 5 didn’t disappoint my Warriors expectations with its fast-paced, over-the-top combat. Hero characters are overpowered to an extreme level making it so that the massive armies that populate the battlefield are little more than speed bumps along the way. With a roster of nearly thirty characters, there are plenty of playstyles to bounce between and each weapon feels noticeably different from those of another type. The odachi, for example, does somewhat slow but serious damage to large groupings of enemies at a single time, while the twin blades tear through a smaller selection of enemies with rapid attacks that give them little chance to retaliate. Multiple combos for each weapon type further diversify them and bring new strengths and weaknesses even as you continue to gain experience and train your roster. You’ll find out which weapons you like the feel of pretty quickly; I liked most of them with a slight preference for Nobunaga and his masterful odachi work, but I never had anywhere near as much fun using the cannon.
Skill trees are something that many don’t expect in a Warriors game, though this title implements them with enough depth to please any action-RPG fan. Each character has a web that has a relatively unique lineup of skills and patterns that they’re placed into that you’re able to purchase with points. Your points are shared across your roster so you’ll have to use them sparingly unless you’re dead set on only playing a character or two, but you’ll often be able to get a feel for what strengths the character will develop by looking over their web once you gain access to them. While some characters may have plenty of passive speed bonuses, another may have several damage resistance bonuses against enemy officers, or exceptional bonuses while mounted. This system adds another layer of depth to a game that at first glance might seem quite simple and I found myself pleasantly surprised with it. I don’t imagine there will be many slamming the forums with their favorite builds as you can eventually fill out the entire web, but it’s a nice touch.
Scenarios are not a simple hack-and-slack and push forward affair in Samurai Warriors 5. Every battle has multiple goals, often causing you to have to rush to another front to ensure some disaster doesn’t take place or an opportunity can be seized. I found myself more synched up with such events here than in any other entry in the genre and I can’t think of a single battle that I didn’t enjoy. Objectives tended to be straightforward and clear with little room for them to be misinterpreted. Even those that were particularly inconvenient always had a purpose with the telling of the story and I never found myself irked by them, only surprised as I nodded my head with approval. Playing in coop with objectives that are pulling you all over the map is a thrill as you can focus on different fronts if need be, though even if you’re playing alone you’re granted a supporting character of your choice in each battle that acts on their own and can be swapped to with a simple press of a key.
Battlefields are populated with a variety of units that are both fighting for and against you. Spearmen, swordsman, riflemen, warrior monks, and so on all show their faces during the course of the war with varying levels of proficiency. Though none of them are on par with any of the name hero characters, they are exceptionally capable of turning the tide of battle against other generic enemies of lesser tiers and can even provide a more serious obstacle for a hero in a headlong bullrush. If I was trying to push the frontline, I’d often find myself gummed up on shield infantry or a heavy spear line when I would’ve barely had to slow down for the more standard fodder infantry. This made battle far more dynamic and made it so that the unnamed soldiers on the battlefield existed as something more than just a lawn to be mowed.
King of the Castle
Musou mode is the story mode and is primarily what I’ve discussed so far, though many of the gameplay elements are also present in the alternative, Citadel mode. This mode offers shorter scenarios that can be completed quickly that involve you defending your castle from invaders. As per usual, you’ll select a pair of heroes to bring in to bolster your more generic forces as you deal with objectives and enemy leaders in chaotic battles. Though it’s a random affair that acts outside of the title’s narrative, with any character being able to show up as an invading enemy, you’ll gain benefits upon the scenario’s completion just as you would progressing through the story. Additionally, you’ll be gaining resources that are used to upgrade the buildings in your castle to provide greater benefits for you.
These buildings aren’t shown in any of the scenarios and mostly act as storefronts for your experience and resources, though they provide serious bonuses to your forces. An upgraded dojo, for example, will allow you to use stored experience to level up your characters to a higher level cap, while upgraded stables will grant you the ability to train superior horses. As you increase the efficiency of your buildings, you’ll notice that these upgrades are no joke and seriously bolster your roster. This system added a good amount of replay value for me and it was a nice added bonus that the mode offered shorter, bite-sized battles for when I wanted to dabble but not get invested in a longer battle.
Samurai Warriors 5 truly impressed me in its design. Although it’s certainly a semi-mindless, hack-and-slack battle simulator at times, there’s a lot more going on under the hood than one might expect by looking at the store page. The story mode is well-written and has the ability to get you invested in the characters unlike many others in the genre that simply guide you into the next scenario. I ended up getting hooked to the point that I was thinking about getting home to play throughout the day which isn’t the response I usually expect from Warriors games even though I’ve always been a fan. The character variety and the varied yet impactful objectives sold this game for me and it’s why I’m going to go ahead and do what I wasn’t expecting when I picked this one up; I’m going to skip the Save that I expected to give it and go straight to an Autosave. If you’ve enjoyed the Warriors games in the past, don’t miss this one!