Samurai Warriors 4: Empires brings together the better parts of two other of Tecmo Koei’s franchises, in that of the deep tactics of Nobunaga’s Ambition and the addictive combat of Dynasty Warriors. Implementing different strategies to improve your Daimyo behind the scenes makes for a great pay off as you hit the battlefield with full force to conquer any foe that stands before you.
My favourite thing about the rerelease of Nobunaga’s Ambition was easily the tactical depth behind every move and every battle. Even though Empires version would be Nobunaga’s Ambition Lite the depth is still there. As Daimyo, you will assign magistrates in charge of your development, military and personnel. Implementing their recommended policies to improve the wealth, size and strength of your growing Dynasty. Each policy phase you will have the power to perform two directives, challenging you to decide what is more important between aspects like building your army, increasing your money and resource yield and improving your battlefield strategies. Invading other territories cost your Daimyo resources and money, depending on your army size and the amount of officers you send into battle will depend on the sums you will need to inject into battle. This factor builds a layer of importance on building up your city’s commerce and rice yield instead of focusing solely on troop strength.
The combat in Samurai Warriors is similar in almost every way to those Omega Force and Tecmo Koei games that came before, hacking and slashing your way through hundreds, if not thousands of enemies, building musou to unleash devastating attacks and taking over outposts to ultimately take on the main boss at their home base. Combat is given a slight breath of fresh air with a parry button along with a satisfying instakill counter. The outposts littered throughout each battlefield are linked with one another, which means taking out outposts within a chain weakens those outposts deeper behind enemy lines. Stopping those eager players from bypassing all first outposts and heading straight to the home base. Despite these small changes to combat and as satisfying as pulling off a huge devastating combo can be. The repetitive nature of the combat does become mundane and monotonous rather quickly. The ability to swap between different characters on the battlefield does break up the hacking a slashing a little bit, allowing you to try new combos and new weapons however the combat still isn’t strong enough to stay addictive for long. This allows for the back-end tactical side of Empires to shine through as the better part of the game.
There are two major game modes in Empires, Conquest Mode, where you are retelling the significant stories of the Shogun era, allowing you to choose any Daimyo you choose and live out their ambitions that they were striving to accomplish at that time. Even though there are different ambitions such as uniting certain regions or defeating certain clans, each scenario usually boils down to taking over territories through battle. Often the opponents that you come up against dwarf your army in size, stressing the importance of taking your time and implementing the correct directives during the policy phase. Despite each turn having a battle phase, when you choose to fight is entirely up to you. Often I had to bide my time, skipping through battle phases and building up my troops, before I could even have a chance at taking on my next foe.
Genesis Mode allows you to create your own conquest to live out, basing your map on one of the campaigns from conquest mode you are able to change the location, placement and armies of each Dynasty, manipulating ambitions and building any challenge, great or small of your choice. Genesis Mode is where you can put your skills to the test. Empires, like most other Musou games, also allows you to create and customize your own officers that can be brought onto the battlefield during Genesis mode.
When playing on some of the harder difficulties, preparation and battlefield tactics are paramount when heading into some of the tougher and bigger battles. There is a lot of customization that can be done back at home base, everything from choosing your clan’s banner that gives you different boosts or moving officers between territories to increase your army size. Just before diving into a fray you will be able to choose what units and officers will be coming along, what techniques and manoeuvrers you will perform and even where each individual officer will be placed. These decisions can be the difference between make or break in a battle.
Despite never seeing a Musou game look this good the visuals still don’t even come close to the graphical heights that are so common these days. Bland and repetitive environments look similar to those from all of the other Tecmo Koei games I have played recently and the cookie cutter enemies haven’t changed a bit either. Not only are the locations visually bland they are a lot more confined than similar games such as Dynasty Warriors and Bladestorm, which makes the battles feel a lot less epic than they are supposed to feel. The camera in Empires feels a little too close to your character as well. With the amount of enemies on screen at a time and the 360-degree nature of the combat the game felt way too cluttered as if you weren’t seeing enough of your surroundings, making it hard to judge when trying to pinpoint the enemy officers.
Drawing inspiration from other Koei games, Samurai Warriors 4: Empires strikes a happy balance between Dynasty Warriors and Nobunaga’s Ambition. Even though the repetitive combat, sadly draws quickly to tedium, the battlefield strategies, Dynasty building and the ability to switch between characters during battle are easily the highlights that shine through. Bland environments and confined battlefields restrict the game from feeling as grand and epic compared to some other games Tecmo Koei have delivered us. Making Samurai Warriors a game that excels in some areas yet gets dragged down by others.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of the game Samurai Warriors 4: Empires developed by Omega Force and published by Tecmo Koei.
- Nobunaga's tactics
- Swapping characters in combat
- Repetitive combat
- Confined battlefields
- Bland environments