The whole party is here… in the underworld.
- Developer: Omega Force
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo
- Release date: 14th February 2020
- Genre: 3rd Person Adventure
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
If you have followed the Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors series, you may wonder how on earth it is possible to keep the same characters battling over the same storylines for so long. Simple, you can’t. Omega Force gets around these real historical details to put those same characters all together in a mysterious afterlife world where anything goes. New alliances can be formed, with new possibilities available, and enemies from ancient history are now friends. Welcome to the alternative storyline of Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate.
Originally released to a western audience on 19th October 2018, with effect from the 14th February 2020, gamers can now purchase the full-fat Ultimate edition. The differences between the base game and the ultimate addition are two extra story chapters, a new “infinity” mode, new characters and new weapons.
Speaking as a fan of Musou style hack-and-slash games, the difference between the Samurai Warrior and Dynasty Warrior games are noticeable, but here in Orochi 4, the different playstyles have been mashed together into one gameplay mechanic that actually works very well.
There are the standard attacks, mixed with guard and jump, but when using the Samurai characters, the triangle button results in a different style of attack than their Dynasty counterparts. This slight change in mechanics is welcome and necessitates smarter tactics in Orochi 4’s battle systems.
All characters can use Musou (a special kind of super move) attacks, which are achieved by building up a gauge before unleashing a powerful, high damage attack on an area. On top of this is a new layer of combat for Warriors Orochi 4. There are also magic-based attacks. Each character, as we are in a magical underworld, as well as being equipped with their normal real-world weapons, have magic underworld ones too. These can only be used when your magic gauge has been filled. Then, by holding R1 followed by either square, circle or triangle, powerful area attacks are unleashed, the precise nature depending upon which button was pressed. In addition, by pressing R1 and X, you summon a horse to ride on, too.
There are some enemies in the field of battle that can only be defeated by using magic attacks, and so, as fun as they are to use, and although it’s not too difficult to fill the magical gauge back up, it’s best to let your party use them sparingly, saving the lion’s share for when these magical enemies appear.
But there’s more.
Defeating a magical enemy drops a tear-shaped item that, when collected, allows the player to go into a “rage” mode in which they are incredibly powerful and immune to damage, and for a short period of time, can go on a rampage.
But there’s EVEN more.
Finally, there is a super magical mega spell move. Fill up all of your characters’ gauges, press both L2 and R2 together and the entire party of 6 (3 playable and 3 support) form together in a cut-scene to unleash a massive, devastating nuclear bomb spell that obliterates anything with sight.
To say that this style of over-the-top combat is excessive, hilarious fun would be an understatement, and herein lies what some gamers don’t sometimes “get” about Musou-style games. That being said, it’s not about just defeating enemies and button mashing your way to the end, rinse, repeat. No, it’s about crowd control, combo building, to get from one point on the map to the next and find the most excessive and enjoyable way to dispatch the horde and overcome the boss fights in the process.
Playing the game with this in mind changes the angle of your attack in that you see the playing field differently. It’s very exciting, high octane, energetic entertainment. The only problem western gamers will have while doing this is that while that is happening, there is a running commentary of “banter” going on between both sides’ officers. This is displayed in written dialogue at the bottom left of the screen, while the Japanese audio is played. Unless you can understand Japanese, you will miss a lot of the fun exchanges, simply because your eyes will instead be focussed on the combat in the middle of the screen.
The overall story has been expanded from five to seven chapters, which expands what was originally a twenty hour campaign by an extra eight to ten hours of story content. The story itself is nothing particularly noteworthy, which is a shame as part of the fascination of the Warrior games is getting invested in the politics of the historical figures at play. The lack of a decent story is exacerbated by the bewildering number of playable characters constantly appearing so that you never really get to know any of the cast at all. In total, there are 170 playable characters, each with their own unique playstyle and moves. By the mid-point of chapter two, for example, the roster was already up to twenty. Although this is a negative for the story flow, it’s a massive positive for interesting gameplay and replayability. Finding the right blend of characters for your chosen playstyle was great fun, and encouraged experimentation. Do you gather a team focused on magic attacks, style, or speed?
What hinders this a little, albeit not when the game is set to “easy”, is that if the character you are playing dies in battle, it’s game over, even though the two others are healthy. It is a “losing condition” for each of the levels, but a little frustrating if you up the difficulty.
The gameplay loop starts with cutscenes and dialogue, followed by some pretty deep RPG elements, battles, follow up dialogue, before then moving on to the next scene. Although the combat is enjoyable and intuitive, the RPG elements are not. Laborious, unwieldy screens, with a myriad of slight tweaks that really don’t affect the overall stats of the character, are buried beneath the weight of convoluted systems. The method to use the points and gems you acquire, therefore meant it can take just as long to organize a team, it’s reserves, upgrades, as it is to actually do battle.
That, though, is about the only real negative the game has to offer. There is a wealth of gameplay options for mass slaughtering, chill out of an evening, fun.
As well as the story mode, now extended to around 30 hours worth of gameplay, there are three extra modes: Battle Arena, Challenge Mode and Infinity Mode.
Battle Arena is an online 3v3 ‘domination’ style game where teams have to capture and hold three flags in order to win.
Challenge Mode has four sub-modes: GodSpeed, Godspeed All out War, Havoc, and Havoc All out War. The All out war modes simply means players can carry over the upgraded weapons from characters they have used. As the other modes are based around online leaderboards, everyone has the same weapons as one another.
God Speed is literally a trial of how quickly you can battle your way to the end, whereas Havoc is a test to see how many tasks you can complete within certain time limits.
The final mode, Infinity Mode, is only available after completing the story mode to the end of the original story length (Chapter 5). This mode is basically a combination of the aforementioned modes, together in various battle arenas called challenge towers.
These modes do add a fantastic amount of gameplay in addition to the story mode and are undeniably well thought out. Battle arena especially is an inspired idea, if only it wasn’t so hard to find someone else to play online with! Both the story mode and extra modes have the functionality to play online with other people, but in reviewing this game, I was unable to join anyone else’s game Furthermore, when creating my own, no one joined my lobby. However, if you have friends that are willing and able, you can invite them into your game, plus couch co-op options are also available.
The graphics of the game are sharp, tight, and very fluid, despite there literally being hundreds of characters on screen all moving independently. Using characters’ weapons is always an exciting visual treat, with over the top animations for power moves, but smooth hit mechanics and swings for normal attacks.
The battle areas themselves are somewhat devoid of interest and are very basic in environmental rendering, but the weathering and detail of the textures is excellent. The only real disappointment in the visuals is that despite the game being set in a fantasy world, is that they didn’t go all-out with the weird and wonderful settings in the gameplay environments. What they have produced looks too much like the real world.
Audio is always a great feature of the Warriors games, and they have not disappointed here, either. A wide variety of background music tracks are available, from traditional, authentic Japanese/Chinese music, to head banging, guitar-driven rock. The delight of finding that the player can choose what tracks they can listen to during play was a very welcome design feature. Adding to this glorious festival for the ears is the outstanding battle clashes. Each weapon, no matter what it was, conveyed a sense of power with its sound alone with each swing from the player.
Musou games are, let’s face it, an acquired taste. However, as they go, Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate must rank as one of the best. The story doesn’t hold as much interest as it could, as it’s just a little too whimsical and simplistic. If it’s gameplay you’re after; though, with a multitude of game modes and 170 characters to learn to use and discover, there is an amazing amount of quality content to while away the stresses and strains of daily life in glorious, hack and slash, over-the-top style.