Warriors Orochi 4 Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: October 19th 2018
Price as of Article: £54.99 GBP
Game code provided by Koei Tecmo for review
Now just a fair warning here, I’m a bit of a reminiscer for the good old days. Dynasty Warriors 3 and 4 were a big part of my gaming childhood and have shaped my life in more ways than you can possibly imagine. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Musou games that Koei have pumped out so constantly year after year. I pretty much owe my life to the third entry. I won’t delve into exactly how as that’s another story for another time, but it’s fair to say the series is important to me. That’s not going to cloud my judgement though and I’m going to give it a fair, honest review.
The Orochi games are a crossover series that began after the Dynasty Warriors series (set in ancient China) and the Samurai Warriors series (set in feudal Japan) had reached peak popularity and Omega Force wanted to slam them together. That in itself spawned a successful series in the impossibly vast Musou universe. Here we’ve arrived at the 4th entry and the 5th game overall.
As mentioned in all my recent reviews that have involved a crossover of sorts, it’s not the easiest situation to write a narrative for. I can’t think of a single crossover game off the top of my head that pulled off a compelling story due to the absurdity of universes crossing. If you can think of any, let me know in the comments.
The plot picks up from the 3rd entry where the universe crossing characters are back to their normal lives, completely oblivious to the kerfuffle that just happened. It doesn’t take long until things become peculiar once again as Zeus has plans to create a new world, causing mischief by dropping powerful bracelets on to Earth.
It begins with 3 members of the Tokugawa army on their way to a mission. Suddenly enveloped by a sinister mist, they soon see that worlds have collided. With an encounter with the fearsome Lü Bu, who seems to have acquired great power, forces the three heroes to flee, only to encounter Sun Quan where they quickly realise they need to work together to sort this big mystical mess out.
The story spans dozens and dozens of missions as you gain new allies and go against a souped up Nobunaga Oda. It does its job accordingly but it’s more of a “fight these people, then fight these people, then these”, rinse and repeat. It’s fine but you won’t find any intrigue or drama, but that’s to be expected. It does its job.
If you’ve ever played a hack n slash game before, you’ll definitely be familiar with this game. You’ll pick it up and be right at home in an instant just like you did with Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors, or One Piece Pirate Warriors – all of them. The gameplay is almost timeless you could say.
It’s you versus thousands of troops and enemy generals as you roam the battlefield, performing tasks and eventually taking out the big boss. There are mini objectives through out that you have to deal with before doing the main goal and what I particularly liked about this entry is that it doesn’t throw 20 objectives at you to do this and that at once, like some more recent entries have been guilty of. Instead, they’re given at a steady pace that you can keep track of.
Fighting is very simple, although it has evolved somewhat since I first began playing. You have a normal attack at Y and then a powerful combo-ender with X. So you mash Y for a while before pressing X and you’ll perform a nice variety of over the top attacks, all of them pretty much unique to each of the characters.
There’s the classic Musou attack as expected. This is where a gauge fills up over time as you smack enemies around or take damage yourself. Once full, you can unleash a major, often devastating, attack on a large group of enemies. While lacking in the extravagancy that I used to love, they are an effective way of taking out enemy generals.
Then there’s the magic attacks which pretty much double your ability count. After a few missions you’ll learn that holding the R button and then inputting one of the normal attacks, you’ll get different magic attacks of varying levels of power. If certain gauges are full to the brim, then you can use magic to perform the most powerful attack in the game – a united attack where your party and support characters produce an energy ball to slam into the ground.
If I have a small complaint, it’s that there’re just too many power gauges going on and it’s annoying to keep track of them all. The display design does it’s best to show them as effectively as possible, but still, managing them all is a bit of a pain.
Warriors Orochi 4 includes the biggest playable character roster ever created for a game of this type. Sure, only one company really pursues this genre of game these days, but it’s a nice boast for Koei Tecmo to make for the marketing of the game. It’s genuinely impressive and overwhelming. No doubt you’ll look at the character selection screen and get totally lost. It’s almost off putting in a way, but thankfully they are all introduced gradually as you progress through the missions and chapters. It’s been stated that there are 170 characters to play as and with that high of a number, I’m just going to believe them. I didn’t count. The mix of Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors plus a small number of new original characters taken from Greek mythology has really taken this to the next level.
Did I try all of the characters? No, of course not. I’m but a measly human who needs to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom before this review had to be due. But it’s fair to say that if you’re familiar with any of the more recent games then you’ll be right at home with this one.
Before each mission, you choose three characters you want to take into battle with you. I must admit I’ve not been a fan of the recent trend of switching characters mid-battle. I always loved that idea of you being a one-many-army of sorts. I think Warriors Orochi 4 handles it well though. Your three characters aren’t spread around the map, instead they magically switch right where you’re standing. It takes an air of believability out of it but it actually brings the combat to life for the fact that switching characters mid-combo pulls off an extra attack that let’s the new fighter continue the combo. You can do this indefinitely as long as you have enemies to keep it going. It feels great honestly and the flow is some of the best in a Musou game that I’ve played up to this point. Admittedly, despite my enjoyment and person attachment to the genre, I haven’t kept up with a lot of the recent ones. But I can safely say I think they nailed it here.
The support characters in this game are a little underused in my opinion. Along side your three squad members, you select 4 characters to join the support team. They each have their own little stat points that can boost the stats of the playable team and they also join in with the united magic attack which certainly adds to how awesome it looks. I feel they could have involved them a little more though in some aspect.
I could keep going on talking about the wealth of content and little mechanics in this game like the weapons, the upgrades, the deifying mechanic, the skill trees, the relationships between characters; there’s just a tonne of stuff here that will keep you occupied for a long time. It’s a really packed game.
What may come as an unexpected surprise is that Warriors Orochi 4 is playable with a single Joy Con, just about anyways. They’ve somehow compacted the control scheme that uses every single button on a normal controller, and popped in into a single Joy Con. It’s frankly applause-worthy even if it’s not the ideal way to play at all. But if you’re out and about and want to break out split screen without dragging multiple controllers with you, it’s a pretty decent alternative.
And yes, as per usual, there’s a split screen co-op mode where you and a friend have the screen divided to take on the same battle. Back in the day, me and my old best friend used to love tackling these Musou games in this fashion, but you will soon find out that the frame rate is unbearably bad. The game absolutely chugs here on the Nintendo Switch in splitscreen. A real shame considering I used to love playing the game this way.
There’s online multiplayer in two forms as far as I can tell. The first is basically tackling the campaign with another person online, there’s also a battle mode which is 3 v 3 in a headquarters sort of game where you need to invade or defend three bases. During my review period I couldn’t find anyone to play with online unfortunately and the brief battle mode didn’t seem all that polished when I did manage to play it for a very short tutorial time.
If you’re experienced with Musou games then you’ll already know that the music for Warriors Orichi 4 is awesome. While I’m not wholly experienced with the Orochi series, what I do know is that the Warriors games absolutely love to give way over the top hair metal solos that are unbelievably awesome. I was shocked to find out that actually, Orochi 4 has stepped into different genres for this one. It does retain a chunk of the crazy guitar work, but actually now there’s lots of modern electronic dance music, whatever the genre’s called (I’m a bit too old to know exactly what I’m talking about here). Either way the music is awesome. Far more eclectic than it’s ever been and it’s a highlight of the game for me.
The game is pretty much entirely voice acted although, in a recent trend of Koei’s, it’s only in Japanese. Now, that’s all fine and dandy, I don’t mind Japanese only per se, but it can be a major stumbling block in regards keeping up with the tide and nuances of the battle going on. There’s a never ending stream of characters updating you, discussing stuff, planning, reacting; they literally never stop talking. When that’s all in Japanese it’s almost impossible to keep up. You’re so focused on the action you don’t have time to read all the text popping up from the characters. Sure, all the major developments and goals are highlighted far more prominently, but you do feel like you’re missing some immersion compared to Dynasty Warriors games before.
Visually I think Warriors Orochi 4 does pretty well on the Switch. The series hasn’t been particularly known for its graphical prowess, a side effect of having so many enemies on screen. Considering the power of the Switch, I think it looks good. Character models of your allies are great, environments are basic but that’s always been the case. There’s a decent amount of colour hanging around with the different season types and stuff – I’m honestly fairly impressed. There’s still some dark drab environments but they’re not constantly one after the other which is nice. The frame rate isn’t perfect though. There are issues, often emanating from special attacks, but it’s not enough to get in the way of the enjoyment I got with the game. Handheld mode runs pretty much the same too, maybe slightly worse but not particularly noticeable.
As stated, the split screen is just an absolute mess though and a friend and me literally played it for 20 seconds before deciding just no. And I’m the kind of guy who can often tolerate frame rate issues.
As for value, well, on the the eShop Warriors Orochi 4 comes at a cost with a full price tag. Digitally it’s $59.99 in the US and an extra premium £54.99 in the UK which is almost unheard of aside from Koei Tecmo’s games. Now that is a little bit of a dig, but honestly the content and quality is there for me to make a digital purchase not so bad. It may not have the polish or budget of a Zelda or Mario game but there’s a lot of stuff here that can keep you occupied for dozens and dozens of hours, I’m sure. If digital is too expensive for you (which I don’t blame you), there is a physical edition which I’ll put a link in for in the description if you want to help us out a little. It’s a little cheaper than the eShop price but I’m sure that will go down over the coming months.
A wealth of content
They nailed the action
Split screen is useless
Story is a little by the number