Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us this game to review!
I must admit that I’m relatively new to the hack and slash genre, but the few games that I have played, I have enjoyed immensely. Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is the first I have played in the series so I cannot comment on how it has changed from its predecessors. The original Samurai Warriors game was released in 2004 and was successful in Japan while receiving mediocre reviews in the West due to its similarities with the Dynasty Warriors series. Both games are 3D hack and slash titles where you face hordes of enemies and have the ability to take out hundreds of them with a mere stroke of your weapon.
There are several conquest campaigns that must be played in order and your goal is to have your clan dominate and unify Japan. Each clan has a different story and starting conditions. There are four difficulty levels ranging from easy to nightmare. Custom characters can be created and I was surprised at the option to remove female warriors. I thought playing as a female commander was great and never got tired of seeing her kick some serious butt.
Winning conditions vary from unification, seizing a region, or taking control of a capital. When an objective is met you can end the campaign or play on to further dominate the land. If you’re not happy with the included campaigns, you can create your own scenarios in the Genesis mode.
No matter how you play the basic principles remain the same. There are two main segments: the political phase and the battle mode. In the political mode you’ll get to see what happens around the land and plan accordingly. You’ll be notified about clan alliances and annihilations as well as adverse weather conditions that impact troop mobility and health. There are random earthquakes, blizzards, and plagues to pay attention to. The harvest in your land may be scarce or plentiful and your troops rely on food and supplies to wage wars.
The amount of supplies you have determines the amount of time you have to conquer your enemy’s region. The units you bring into battle determine the strength of your enemy’s defenses. Whoever has more soldiers will have a significant advantage. Your goal in battle is to take control of enemy bases and eventually take out the main base and its commanding officer. The lesser officers are scattered throughout the battlefield and are more formidable than the swarms of soldiers that go flying with a measly flick of your weapon. Some may find the battles repetitive, but I enjoyed the power rush and never got tired of it.
After a victory you have the option of hiring or releasing conquered commanders. Some of them will not join forces with you and will have to be released no matter what. In order to retain hired ones, you must assign them to a territory.
Relationships play a significant role in this game as each officer has various strengths and weaknesses. They also have different personalities and may clash with others. For best results keep compatible units together in and outside of battles. If you battle against the same commander numerous times, they will officially become your nemesis. If you fight alongside officers or are in the same room as them in the main castle, your relationship with them will strengthen. Officers can become friends, sworn allies, or even spouses. As relationships develop various cutscenes will be shown and some of them are rather humorous.
While there is more to this game than the battle mode, that was where I had the most fun. The cutscenes are great and the character animations and detail is pretty good. The battlefields have plenty of variety to offset the repetitive hacking and slashing. The special attacks have lots of eye candy and look amazing.
Though this game is voice acted, it’s all in Japanese. I liked most of the voices, but a few of them sounded odd and made me wonder if some of the officers were eunuchs. The Japanese style dance music was upbeat and got my adrenaline pumping. You can unlock different background music tracks throughout the game.
When it comes to moral concerns there are a couple of things worth noting. As the genre suggests there’s lots of hacking and slashing going on in the battle phase. There isn’t any blood or gore and the bodies quickly disappear. While there are a couple of bathing cutscenes, nothing is shown and the characters are always seen dressed in their battle armor. There is some mild language with the word hell being uses a couple of times in the game.
If you enjoy hack and slash games, Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is a solid title worth considering. The asking price of thirty dollars or less is very reasonable. It ran well on my PS4 and given the swarms of soldiers in the battle field I wonder how well it runs on slower Vita or PS3 systems. I do recommend this game to PS4 owners though.