The Warriors franchise and its various spinoffs from Koei Tecmo have been around since the late 90s. Needless to say, there have been many ups and downs. For each Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors game that had a strong showing, another title followed suit that tarnished the reputation. The Warriors Orochi series, which originally released a decade ago, initially received a lukewarm reception and, outside of the first game, never saw a PC release until now. Warriors Orochi 4, with its introduction of the Magic system, is Koei Tecmo’s attempt to reinvigorate and freshen up decades-old mechanics and gameplay. Will this, and the whopping 170 characters, be enough to hook PC gamers? Let’s find out in our review of the PC version, shall we?
Warriors Orochi 4 – The Story So Far
First, let’s talk about the story. The Warriors Orochi narrative has never been its strongest suit. Given that it’s a mishmash of various Koei Tecmo hack-and-slash games with some guest characters thrown in, it’s as if the company was just trying to cram in as much detail as possible leading to a tacked on storyline. That’s essentially what we’re getting in Warriors Orochi 4.
You start off with Samurai Warriors characters Tadakatsu Honda, Naomasa Ii, and his mom Naotora Ii (more on her later). The first level with the trio teaches you about the game’s basics while giving you an idea that the characters completely forgot about the events of the previous games. From here, you follow a very linear storyline where you’ll need to complete one mission after another, many of which are reminiscent of locations in other Warriors titles.
Along the way, you’ll meet up with other heroes of the age who’ve been dragged into this timeline through the machinations of the gods themselves. Instead of Orochi, you’ll now have to contend with the deities of Olympus themselves — Zeus, Athena, and Ares — as well as Mystic forces led by Nuwa and Nezha. There are a few plot twists that might catch you off-guard, as well as over-the-top new character introductions that are the trademark of a Warriors game. Thankfully, everything is voice-acted in Japanese so you won’t have to worry about the bane of Koei Tecmo games: unbearable English VA.
Three’s A Crowd
Officers will join you after each mission and become playable characters. Initially, you might just encounter one or two joining your troupe. Later, you might find yourself meeting a dozen new faces. To long-time fans, this could be a treat. After all, seeing half the Sun family followed by Sima Yi and kids and then Nobunaga Oda and his retainers all joining in consecutive missions might be akin to a reunion of sorts. Then again, it leaves you feeling that it’s suddenly getting a bit crowded.
In fact, you’ll realize that the longer you play Warriors Orochi 4 — everything feels just a bit too bloated. There’s never enough time to shine a spotlight on characters you’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Only a few will play a prominent role throughout the campaign. At best, you’ll have short dialogue scenes depending on the relationships formed among characters called “Bonds.” This is more superficial than anything. While Bonds do boost your abilities slightly, you’re never in too much trouble anyway. At most, you’ll probably enjoy them for what they are — just humorous, lighthearted conversations among characters.
These can range from generic banter to something that’s borderline homoerotic. Who knows, maybe it’s to please the fan fiction-loving crowd out there?
Tacky Mechanics Or Tacked-On Mechanics?
With 170 characters to manage, there’s a lot to do. You’ll need to form a three-person team that will go into battle. You’ll also need to choose the four support characters whose stats provide additional bonuses. And other characters can be sent out on training missions and come back with stat increases or new items.
Each character will have their own weapon type with various elemental damage that can be applied. The Power, Speed, and Technique character archetypes are also in place. Characters have their own progression trees that can be leveled up using growth points obtained from missions — it’s like a catch-up mechanic for unused characters. Finally, you can upgrade your camp menu to provide additional perks and bonuses.
All of these should make for a highly engaging experience. Sadly, most of these mechanics feel too tacked on. For instance, I completed the game without even upgrading a single point in my camp. As for the myriad characters, you’ll find that only a handful will ever become useful. The game does try to nudge you into giving everyone a try with the Elite Members mechanic. These are three pre-selected officers who would gain more exp in a specific mission. I tried that out for a bit until I realized that it was better to stick to my bread-and-butter selections.
Of course, there’s something that needs to be said about certain characters. Quite a number of them have become eye-candy in recent years. Previously, Dynasty Warriors only had Diao Chan and Zhenji as your alluring sirens. With Koei becoming Koei Tecmo, you know that they’re going to provide a lot more fan service than usual. We ended up with the likes of Wang Yuanji and Naotora Ii in recent games. The latter is also heavily featured in Warriors Orochi 4.
Central to the storyline are magical bracelets imbued with the power of the gods. Naotora is one of the wielders of these bracelets, along with Yukimura, Lu Bu, and more. Harnessing the power of the gods themselves, they can turn into celestial beings via the Deify command allowing for limitless magic use and unique attacks. Of course, with fan service coming into play, you know they’re going to turn Naotora Ii into this:
Then again, the anime-levels of humor and awkwardness can be appreciated. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything better than seeing the mighty Lu Bu get knocked out by expanding flower fields cast by a scantily-dressed woman.
Magic And Anime
Warriors Orochi 4 gives you that general feeling that the series has finally entered full anime territory. Yes, we know that past Koei offerings have had over-the-top action like Musous and cringe-worthy dialogue, but the addition of the magic system and deification seals the deal.
For reference, these were the types of discussions concerning past games:
- “Okay, I really like Sun Shangxiang and her C3 attack.”
- “I think Nobunaga Oda’s S4 might be one of the best for crowd-clearing.”
- “Cao Cao’s Musou with the void element is an officer killer.”
In Warriors Orochi 4, the old “S1, S2, C2, C3, combos, Musou, Rage Attack” systems are still in place. However, the new magic system provides a fresh and entertaining concept. Each character has a magic treasure (there are around a dozen of these at the moment, with more to come in the DLC) allowing them to use brand new attacks. These magic attacks drain your magic gauge which, thankfully, refills at a ridiculously fast rate.
A normal magic attack does low damage but can be spammed repeatedly, whereas a charged magic attack drains your entire gauge but can clear entire enemy squads. There’s also a unique magic attack that uses up your entire magic gauge and half your Musou bar.
It’s also worth mentioning that enemy officers can use magic attacks. In order to counter them, you’ll just need to perform a magic attack of your own, which causes a short freeze (don’t worry, it’s not a technical issue) followed by a flashing red explosion.
Fast, Flashy, And Fluid Action
I can honestly say that the introduction of the magic system freshens up the series given its tired, old mechanics. The button mashing is still there, but the animations are so fluid that it genuinely feels like a fighting game akin to Naruto or Dragon Ball Z.
Like past Warriors games, you can switch between your active teammates at the press of a button. This tag switch is followed by a shockwave that stuns enemies and adds more to your combo tally. If you use a magic attack or a combination magic attack when you’ve got 300 or 1,000 hits, these attacks become deadlier. What’s a combination magic you ask? Well, remember those support characters we mentioned? A combination magic attack is when all seven characters create a gigantic, screen-wide explosion, complete with an anime or fighting game-esque cutscene. Think Marvel vs. Capcom style in a Warriors Orochi game.
It’s wonderful and hilarious to behold. Given fluid transitions from one action to another, you can easily do the following:
- Your first character does four regular attacks then a charge attack;
- Switch/tag your second character who stuns surrounding enemies, then do a normal magic attack that pulls enemies like a vacuum;
- Tag your third character who casts another magic spell to freeze surrounding enemies;
- Tag back your first character who unleashes a flaming boar that throws fireballs;
- Switch to another character to activate the combination magic and blow up everything surrounding you.
As with any Warriors game, you’ll probably enjoy it as a single-player romp. But having a buddy join you along for some co-op fun would be a treat, right? The good news is that local or couch co-op is possible.
The bad news is that, at least for us, we weren’t able to make the most out of the online co-op or Battle Arena. As we mentioned in our technical review, we couldn’t connect to any lobbies at all even during peak hours (in the US and Asia). Either there’s something wrong with matchmaking or there just aren’t enough players who enabled their online settings. It still is possible to get in lobbies, but you’ll have to make your own and then provide your friends your room’s code so they could hop in. You might also be better off looking for a Discord group that has players actively playing co-op.
Repetition: Good Or Bad?
In our PC benchmark and technical review, we mentioned having a consistent 60 FPS at high settings. This is how Warriors Orochi 4 is meant to be played, since the visual effects will dazzle you as you chain attacks endlessly. However, the question here is: Does it get old eventually?
Well yes, it does and it should. No Warriors game was ever immune to that concept. Mindlessly hacking and slashing your opponents will eventually become tiresome. Even the combination magic attack gets old. We’re wondering why Koei Tecmo didn’t decide to put more variations of the skill itself just to liven things up.
Will you enjoy it for hours on end? Possibly. Will you eventually get bored of the repetitive gameplay? Definitely. It took me a little over 15 hours to finish the game, and I’ve yet to obtain all the weapons and highest bond levels for several characters. Likewise, I haven’t given the Chaos or Pandemonium difficulties a try. So yes, it will depend on how much you’ve become accustomed to the series — or your disposition as an absolute completionist — that you’re willing to spend hours doing the same things over and over again.
Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The sheer number of characters in Warriors Orochi 4 can be a boon or a bane to your enjoyment. For instance, at no point in time did I ever feel like using Guan Yu or Uesugi Kenshin. That’s because the combination of Kai, Kunoichi, and Naotora Ii was more than enough to cheese through entire hordes. I might throw Yukimura Sanada, Zhao Yun, or Magoichi Saika in there for good measure though. I barely bothered with the Power, Speed, or Technique archetypes since my focus was on the magic treasures they used. Some, like the Trident and Harpe, were extremely useful for traversing the battlefield or crowd control; others, not so much.
Another downside worth noting is the enemy officer AI when, oftentimes, you’d try push them to one corner of the map so you can unleash a devastating attack. Turns out they’d rather walk back to their initial area even though there’s no one there. The AI pathing is really odd in this game given that past titles would see them hound you to the ends of the earth.
In Warriors Orochi 4, Koei Tecmo really tried to craft a story. Sadly, you probably won’t pay attention to any exposition in the middle of a battle. In fact, I generally did not have time to look at the subtitled dialogues. I was just too busy keeping my combo count up. This means that the characters you remembered fondly might end up getting ignored whenever they play a role in some missions.
Warriors Orochi 4 performed admirably well in our benchmark test, and it seems Koei Tecmo have learned from lessons past. The magic system and seamless transitions between attacks make for a freshly dynamic gameplay experience. However, as with all Warriors games, it can get repetitive after a while. The visuals and effects are beautiful, but a gigantic cast, lousy officer AI pathing, and tacked on mechanics make it bloated at the same time.
Still, it’s a step up compared to previous outings and something that Koei Tecmo can build on moving forward. Then again, they’ll probably just end up doing that for a “Remastered,” “XL,” or “Ultimate” version.
Please note that we’ve also reported that Warriors Orochi 4 has questionable regional pricing for Southeast Asia, and so it might turn off potential buyers.