By Joe Sigadel / March 19th, 2016
|Title||Samurai Warriors 4 Empires|
|Developer||Koei Tecmo, Omega Force|
|Release Date||March 15, 2016|
|Platform||PS4, PS3, PS Vita|
|Age Rating||T (Teen)|
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is here at last, bringing the Samurai Warriors 4 trilogy of Musou games set in the Japanese Sengoku era to its conclusion. It’s been a very long time since we got an Empires entry for Samurai Warriors, seeing as how we somehow missed out on an Empires installment for Samurai Warriors 3. I have fond memories of playing Samurai Warriors 2 Empires with a friend whom I lost a couple of years ago. It was a game that we bonded over, and really got us into learning about the ins and outs of that Japanese historical period, and all the people involved who would come to shape Japan’s future after it was all said and done.
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires brings back the classic battlefield gameplay that Samurai Warriors 2 Empires had to offer. The battles take place in the larger stages from Samurai Warriors 4. You’ll get to to use formations to give yourself an advantage over the enemy, but if that’s not enough, you can also use tactics to summon a hail of arrows, fireballs, cannon fire, ninjas and riflemen to weaken bases to take them for yourself. When enemy officers are defeated, they may come back to annoy you or get captured if they’re beaten down enough times. After the battle is over you have the option to hire them, release them or execute them. Some will absolutely refuse to join you, so killing them to prevent them from getting revenge is one way of handling opposition.
You have so many options for choosing how you want to defeat your rival clans, it’s simply overwhelming. Want to get rid of a pesky clan in your way to total conquest? No problem. You can weaken their defenses, cut their troop count, bribe officers to switch sides, assassinate them, you name it. Your choices increase depending on how many assets you have and what facilities you own by taking territories, and gaining fame. Your fame rating lets you have more turns to execute directives for each season, and some officers will have unique directives which can allow you to get a huge advantage, like Free Markets which increases commerce in all your territories, or Mock Battle which gets you multiple Formations to use in the next battle. You can also form alliances, keeping certain clans from attacking you, promoting trade and requesting coalitions to take on larger foes you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Your strategy rating will allow you to use more tactics in battle, so raising that is pretty crucial to make things go in your favor on the battlefield.
All of the planning is done from your Castle, which you can make larger with more rooms and tailor it to your style of play as you acquire more and more territories. You can make a fortress dedicated to crushing everyone with military strength, focus on development to make your territories prosperous, or try your hand at building loyalty and relations between officers to make a force that works incredibly well together. Whether you choose to play as an existing officer or make one of your own, your actions and choices will trigger events that build relationships. Two officers who perform particularly well in battle together may become rivals, a recurring enemy may become a nemesis, and a male and female officer who work together a lot may fall in love with each other and get married. Each Spring you will have to elect new officers to take up advisory positions as your magistrates, so you’ll want to pair up officers who are good at that particular category and will work well together with a partner to see these bonds form and grow. You also have a strategist who serves as your right hand man (or woman) who will give you their recommendations. If you don’t know what to do, you can always delegate the choices to them and hope that it helps you.
Gameplay takes place in one of two modes, the Conquest Mode which has you starting from a critical event (e.g. The Betrayal at Honnoji) and picking a clan to side with to achieve a particular goal, like uniting Kinki. You can stop there, or continue onwards to unite all of Japan under your banner. There’s also Genesis Mode, and this one is really interesting because you can make all kinds of changes to clans, rearrange officers so they end up in other parts of Japan, and put in a whole squad of your custom officers that you made in Edit Mode to substitute for who was supposed to be there. Speaking of substitution, you can even have custom officers replace famous officers in historical events where they were supposed to be present. It really feels like you’re making the history your own.
Edit Mode is where you can create custom officers, and your options remain mostly the same from the previous two games, although there are some new outfits to try on. In particular, I would have liked to see more options for faces for both men and women, but there are many hair styles, accessories and colors to choose from, and you can make some really cool or funny creations. One of my characters is a male officer with Naotara Ii’s moveset, so watching him in action is pretty funny, but he can rack up the KOs pretty well. You can also have your custom character wield a famous officer’s weapon, giving you their attacks and Musou/True Musous, but you can change your abilities so that you might be more of a tank, damage dealer, speedy character or someone who is very good at strategy, politics or jack of all trades. The Vault also makes a return, allowing you to watch events, listen to the game music, or read officer biographies, something Japanese history buffs might find really appealing.
Overall, Samurai Warriors 4 Empires provides a satisfying and fun experience for long time Warriors fans who may have desired more of a personal experience from the previous two games. I played on the PlayStation 4 version, so it runs at a smooth 60FPS without any noticeable slowdown and looks fantastic. There’s plenty of environmental detail on the battlefield, and the soundtrack has the same tracks from the previous two Samurai Warriors 4 games. Strangely, famous officers and your custom characters will have facial expressions when performing their Musou attacks, but the generic officers’ faces don’t move at all, they’re frozen in a poker face. Chronicle Mode was a nice distraction in the first Samurai Warriors 4 game, but it didn’t quite give me what I was looking for. I wanted an actual Empires game. Koei Tecmo has granted my wishes and then some, so if you’re looking for a great Musou and strategy game that gives you an unprecedented amount of control, immersion and interaction, it’s right here. For those of you who have never played the other two games in the Samurai Warriors 4 trilogy, you may want to give them a go so you can familiarize yourself with the characters and stories first. That being said, this is the best Empires game yet.
Review copy was provided by the publisher
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