By – Matt Camp

Samurai Warriors 4-II PC Review He

From the moment Samurai Warriors 4-II is launched, the similarities to Dynasty Warriors are clear. This is to be expected as Samurai Warriors is a companion series by the same developers, Omega Force. The primary difference between the two franchises are the settings. Where Dynasty Warriors takes its inspiration from the Chinese historical documents known as the Records of the Three Kingdoms, Samurai Warriors is based on the Warring States period in Japan. Although the core gameplay remains nearly identical, Samurai Warriors 4-II still manages to stand out.

The musical tracks that play on the menu screens and throughout actual gameplay are amazingly atmospheric. This is not Omega Force’s typical Japanese Rock-esque fair. These are beautiful tracks composed with a mixture of modern instruments and traditional Japanese ones. This fusion brilliantly captures the essence of the Japanese setting while almost being the perfect background for the hack and slash action of Dynasty Warriors 4-II itself. The only issue I have with the music is that it’s possibly too good. I can easily lose twenty minutes or more simply listening to the title track, Rebirth, which plays on the menu screen. Likewise, Heavenly Voice is also dangerously capable of causing time to fly by without warning. It is also possible to access any previously heard music from the appropriate option found under the Dojo menu.

The story mode consists of several sets of themed battles, five of which are unlocked from the start. Each of these focuses on a group of specific characters. For example, Clash of Wills is a collection of five missions centring around Naomasa Li and the struggle he faces while attempting to do what’s best for the Tokugawa clan. Individual battle stages have their own level of difficulty, indicated in stars. Additionally, a prompt for selecting the base difficulty appears before starting a level; these being Easy, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare. When starting a new game, Samurai Warriors 4-II suggests using Easy first for faster progression.

Samurai Warriors 4-II PC Review He

Before the actual battle starts there are several tasks to be taken care of. First is selecting a character to fight along side you. In a single player game, this secondary character can be freely switched to, allowing direct control. Alternatively, one of three commands can be issued which will affect the AI controlled behaviour. Strategic use of these options make it possible to cover wide areas of the map, or to protect player characters who are close to defeat. It is also possible to access the Shop from the character selection screen. The Shop is used to unlock skills, upgrade weapons and mounts, and to purchase the Strategy Tomes required in unlocking skills.

Upgrading weapons and mounts uses a fusion based system. After choosing the base item, additional items to be consumed in the process are selected, the required amount of gold paid and results shown. Each weapon and mount has a levelling cap however and once this is met, that item can only be further improved through compatibility bonuses. That is, only identical items will provide a further boost. This is an interesting system and one that should be taken advantage of regularly as inventory space is limited. Should this become full, the player will be forced to sell any excess items. Weapons and mounts themselves are not purchased, but are found during battles as drops.

Gameplay during fights is basically a carbon copy of that found in the Dynasty Warriors series. In short, the player will face hundreds of opponents, most being easily dispatched. Mixed in amongst this fodder are stronger enemies; most of whom will have a Japanese name shown above them. While the player will most certainly want to target these more powerful foes — and several mission objectives require their swift defeat — there is no lock-on button provided. Thus the player will have to mentally keep track of a specific opponent’s current position. Although there is an arrow indicator shown, this only points to the nearest objective. It also loses usefulness when in close proximity to targets when they quickly move around you.

Samurai Warriors 4-II PC Review He

Whenever a new task is issued, a horn will sound and gameplay will be paused. During this time the map is displayed full screen so the player can identify where to go next, and whether the primary or secondary character is nearest. At first, I felt this pausing to be annoying as it interrupts the flow of action. But I soon found it to be both helpful and a short welcomed break from the intense action. If a fight does prove too difficult to complete, there are plenty of options to level up characters. For example, repeating any previously played stage (these do not need to be successfully completed first), playing Free Mode, or attempting the Survival Mode.

Free mode is the same as the Story mode, with only two main differences. First, any unlocked character can be used regardless of the stage. Second, the Shop cannot be accessed. The Survival Mode tasks the player with progressing through a mysterious tower within a time limit. Completing a level offers the choice of escaping or continuing, while running out of time or dying results in the loss of any collected loot. As an incentive to continue climbing, bonuses can be unlocked after the fifth floor and then every tenth floor after that. While this is an interesting attempt to add rogue-like features to the Dynasty Warriors template, the floors and challenges in them being pre-defined causes a little too much repetition. An element of randomness would have been appreciated here.

In addition to the characters introduced throughout the story mode, it is also possible to create up to 20 custom ones. The character creator offers a wide range of options in some areas, such as tailoring positioning of facial elements, allowing individual settings for each eye, or changing the height and build of the body. However, it is also lacking in others, for example, there is only a very limited palette available for eye colours. A custom character image may also be imported and the same is true for the Kanji displayed during specific Musou attacks. These custom characters can only be used in the Free Mode and Survival Mode. Unfortunately, they cannot be used in the story mode. This creates a minor annoyance in the need to keep switching to the story mode to upgrade custom characters at the Shop.

Samurai Warriors 4-II PC Review He

Samurai Warriors 4-II also allows for multiplayer fun either via local split-screen cooperation or through online play. Although I tried, I was not able to find any online games to join in the stages I selected. With the various graphical settings at maximum, environments are visually pleasing. However, the depth of field effect used in story cut-scenes leaves a lot to be desired. It is overly blurry resulting in the graphics looking far worse than they are. Frame rates during cut-scenes is capped at 30 FPS. For gameplay and menus, this is increased to 60. It is also worth noting that there is no English audio available. All dialogue is also displayed in English text, but during the heat of battle this can be easy to miss.

Unfortunately, Samurai Warriors 4-II has the same problem with identifying controls as found in other recent Omega Force developed games All on screen prompts only display assigned keys, even when playing with a controller. When playing One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, I found configuring buttons and understanding corresponding game functions to be somewhat confusing. There was however, some help to be found with almost consistent use of colours to help identify actions. With Samurai Warriors 4-II however, there is no such consistency. The explanatory key for attack moves only shows combos in sequences of coloured squares that were not associated with controls anywhere else.

As with other Koei Tecmo games, the pop-ups, which prompt for loading a save game, get very irritating. This could have been more bearable had the default selection not been “No”, which results in the need for the manual intervention to allow initial loading of the game to continue. Worse, are the two splash screens on exiting Samurai Warriors 4-II which cannot be skipped. These are a needless waste of time used to remind us, yet again, that Koei Tecmo are the publishers. While these screens may exist in the Play Station 4 and Vita versions, they can be skipped due to how games can be exited on at any time on those systems.

Samurai Warriors 4-II PC Review He

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

While it is wonderful to get PC ports of these games, it is clear that Koei Tecmo still have some learning to do before they fully understand the intricacies of gaming on a PC. However, Samurai Warriors 4-II is an enjoyable hack and slash romp loosely based on feudal Japan, which is truly complemented by its gorgeous sound track.  With a range of characters and weapons to unlock, and the inclusion of the survival mode, there is plenty for fans of the Dynasty Warriors series to enjoy.

Samurai Warriors 4-II – Technical Summary:

Samurai Warriors 4-II PC Review He

  • Time Played – 7 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
  • DRM – Steam
  • System Specs – 3.50 GHz i7 3770K , 8GB RAM, 4GB GeForce GTX 960
  • Control Scheme – M/KB, Controller (Recommended)
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
  • Saved Game Location –Documents\KoeiTecmo\SAMURAI WARRIORS 4-II
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