Koei Tecmo’s Warriors franchise began with the arrival of 1997’s Dynasty Warriors. Since then, the Warriors banner has grown to include two historically inspired hack-and-slash series, several crossover tie-ins (including franchises like One Piece and Fire Emblem) and even a live-action film. Usually sporting huge rosters and expansive levels, all brought together within lengthy and engrossing story modes, Warriors titles have a long history of being ambitious in scope. The newest of the lot, Warriors Orochi 4, is perhaps developer Omega Force’s biggest project yet.
For the uninitiated, the Warriors Orochi series is a spin-off from the main Dynasty and Samurai games, bringing together characters and gameplay from both. Warriors Orochi 4 includes the full rosters of both series as of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires and Samurai Warriors 4-II, so, unfortunately, characters introduced in Dynasty Warriors 9 and Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada aren’t included. As a Masayuki Sanada fan, I can’t say I’m not disappointed.
Unlike the two series from which it takes its characters, Warriors Orochi 4 has no basis in historical conflict whatsoever. Here, a bunch of unruly gods, led by an absurdly buff Zeus, has decided to bring together the strongest warriors from Three Kingdoms era China and Warring States period Japan for they’re own nefarious purposes. Snatched from their respective timelines and lacking any recollection of the events of previous Orochi games, they have to assemble a force capable of opposing the gods’ and certain other enemies in this strange new realm.
If you’ve played any of the recent games in either series, you’ll already be fairly familiar with how Warriors Orochi 4 looks and plays. Characters retain their main-series movesets, from Kunoichi’s swift, to-and-fro slash attacks to Xu Shu’s fluid, crowd-control combos. Spicing things up here is the new magic system, granting each character a set of powerful moves attached the R1 button. The weaker spells are fairly situational and best used to set up combos or clear yourself a path, but the more powerful kinds, Unique and Unity magic, can easily wipe out every enemy nearby. They can’t be used in quick succession, however.
My most recent Warriors game before WO4 was Spirit of Sanada, and I was disappointed to find that combat in the former feels somewhat more sluggish. Hyper Attacks, a staple of the Samurai Warriors cast, aren’t as quick and feel like there’s a longer cooldown between each move, and the Dynasty Warriors units feel cumbersome and awkward to traverse the maps with. Fortunately, combat flows better and feels more relentless; you can switch between a group of three characters, selected from those you’ve unlocked through story progression, whenever you want, and that allows for some truly ridiculous and destructive combos. There are no right or wrong teams; putting together your favorite deadly trio is one of the game’s best bits.
Warriors Orochi 4 also shares its designs and animation quality with some of its predecessors. Characters and stages generally look the same as they did in DW8E and SoS; these are both games that were simultaneously developed for the PS3 and PS Vita, and WO4 appears to use the same engine. Characters are detailed and well-animated, and the maps in which you control them have enough detail for you to appreciate them beyond all the mayhem. If you’re expecting the game to look as good the recent Dynasty Warriors 9, however, you’re going to be disappointed.
On the matter of presentation, I’m going to use this opportunity to comment on what is perhaps my biggest complaint with Warriors Orochi 4: the fanservice. From what I understand, most versions of the game have actually been edited to remove most instances of jiggling breasts, but some still remain, and they are very off-putting. As a general rule, you won’t see breasts bouncing about when they’re hidden beneath heavy armor, and having it happen in-game is both distracting (in a bad way) and, honestly, embarrassing. The worst offender I’ve found is Naotora, a melee-focused member of the SW cast who’s rather scantily clad. When performing her Musou attack, the camera zooms in on her chest as her breasts flop around at hyper speed. It lowers the tone of what is otherwise an enjoyable and endearing franchise.
The main Warriors games tend to follow a fairly straightforward story. You pick your kingdom or clan, participating in battles against rival factions so that you and your allies might one day unite the land. They loosely follow the events of real historical struggles, however, meaning subsequent games can sometimes feel like more expansive, refined versions of their predecessors – the story details rarely change. Warriors Orochi 4 is completely divorced from these conflicts, allowing for an entirely new story that pits the massive combined roster of both series (an astounding 170 units altogether) against a pantheon of gods.
It’s typical Warriors fare, all in all, with characters giving lengthy speeches about benevolence, chaos and everything in between. For better or worse, the Japanese voice-over lends the dialogue a genuine sincerity that lacks the B-movie charm of the English-dubbed games. For a while, there’s an enjoyable air of mystery around what’s going on and, for long-time Dynasty Warriors fans, it’s nice to see Lu Bu once again return to an absolute battlefield terror. For the most part, though, the story has that typical eccentric and melodramatic charm that returning fans will expect from a Warriors game. There are a few surprising twists and turns here and there, but for the most part, this is a Warriors game through and through: dramatic villains, absurd dialogue and explosive conflicts.
As you progress through the story, you’re gradually presented with more side content. The steady growth of your army, chiefly done by recruiting new characters in the story missions, necessitates upgrades to your camp. Currency earned in battle can be used to imbue weapons with new skills, teach your characters new abilities and increase the level of any newcomers you want to add to your active roster. The camp itself can be enhanced in a similar fashion, offering a bonus to both your in-battle team and to your post-mission earnings.
Whilst character unlocks during the story happen at specific points and are unmissable, not everyone is acquired this way. Tied to your story progression is the appearance of certain side missions, detailing battles that take place outside of the primary conflict. Not only are these a worthwhile way of strengthening your team, but there are also certain characters that can only be acquired through these optional missions. Side missions are functionally the same as those in the story, but they’re a welcome change from the melodramatic antics of Zeus and company.
Where does all of that leave us, then? For old fans, Warriors Orochi 4 certainly can feel like more of the same, but the huge roster of characters, hilariously explosive magic system and sheer breadth of content makes this a worthy addition to the franchise. I’d perhaps suggest that one of the main Dynasty or Samurai Warriors games would make a better entry point for new players, but this is still a solid place to start. With so much to do and so many stylish ways to do it in, Warriors Orochi 4 is an accessible bundle of hack-and-slash mayhem for new and old fans alike.