It’s been seven years since the last mainline entry in the Samurai Warriors series was released, but now a true sequel is finally here.
Samurai Warriors 5 could be considered a reboot, of sorts. Its story is centred around a younger Nobunaga Oda, later opening up to also present itself from the viewpoint of Mitsuhide Akechi. The narrative is more focused, too, centring on a narrower slice of the Sengoku period in order to pack in more sordid details during its playing time. Add in a slew of new gameplay features and a new visual style, and you have a Samurai Warriors game through and through, but one that also feels surprisingly fresh.
Inspired by traditional Japanese art, the new visual style sported by Samurai Warriors 5 is the first thing that strikes you about the game. The series’ larger-than-life characters stand out more than ever, being bold, colourful and vibrant. During gameplay it means that the action unfolding on-screen is more visually appealing, especially when you perform a powered-up Musou attack and are presented with a stylish still of your character in a dramatic pose. The new style makes the game’s story scenes more interesting to watch too, and there are a fair few animated scenes thrown in for good measure.
While the action itself remains very familiar, there are a number of key new features that add depth and variety. Standard and hyper attacks make a return, for example, as well as Musou attacks and the powered-up Rage state. But now players can also create their own palette of Ultimate Kills to broaden their options. These Ultimate Skills range from special attacks, such as one in which the player thrusts themselves into the air before crashing back down to earth, to buffs, temporarily increasing a player’s speed or power. Initially only a small range are available, but by powering up characters, more can be unlocked. Some are unique to certain characters, too.
Ultimate Skills have cooldown timers, so you can’t just spam them continually. The timers are never particularly long, though, and can be shortened, allowing you to make regular use of Ultimate skills if you wish. They’re most useful when you encounter troops with weapons that glow blue, indicating that your standard or hyper attacks may not be that effective against them; make use of the right Ultimate Skill, however, and they’ll go down like flies. Fighting Officers is also made more interesting by using skills, as your combo/juggle options are greater than ever. You might perform a standard combo ended with a power attack, before following up with a hyper attack then unleashing one or more Ultimate Skills. A lot of creative freedom is allowed.
Of course, being a Samurai Warriors game, characters can be powered up as you play, RPG-style. Character levels can be raised with experience, while skill points can be pumped into trees to further develop stats and unlock new skills and perks. There are weapons to collect and equip, too, which can be modified with skill gems to make them more potent. Though to do so effectively, you’ll need to raise your weapon mastery first. Some 15 weapon types are available in Samurai Warriors 5, and characters are free to equip any of them. Each character has their weapon preferences, however, with some gaining unique skills when wielding them.
In Samurai Warriors 5‘s Musou Mode, players primarily take control of Nobunaga Oda and Mitsuhide Akechi, completing scenarios across six chapters for each character. Some scenarios do let players take control of other characters, however, or at least let you select a secondary character which you can switch over to at any time with the simple press of a button. Scenarios can be revisited, too, and played through again with any characters that you’ve unlocked. In battles that do allow for secondary characters, they have their own presence, and are controlled by AI when you relinquish your grip on them. That means you can leave them to their own machinations if you wish, or issue them commands, which can come in useful.
Complementing Musou Mode is Citadel Mode, in which players can select any of the characters they’ve unlocked and engage in battle to earn resources. Those resources can then be put to good use, developing facilities such as the Blacksmith or Shop in order to offer enhanced services in both Musou and Citadel mode. Battles in Citadel Mode have a bit of a tower defence twist, giving them a charm of their own. It’s also in Citadel mode where you’ll develop bonds between unlocked characters in order to view additional scenes.
Needless to say, with split-screen and online co-op also making a return, Samurai Warriors 5 is undoubtedly the most engaging entry in the series yet. In fact, there’s only one aspect of it that may disappoint long-term fans – a reduced character roster. While Samurai Warriors 4 offered 55 characters, here there’s only 37. 10 of those are designated as supporting characters as well, which means they’re not playable in Musou Mode and miss out on unique Ultimate Skills. Personally, it hasn’t bothered me one bit; 37 characters is still a lot, and the fact they’ve all been redesigned from scratch makes the cut understandable. Others might not be so happy with it though.
Whether you’re a series fan or a newcomer, there’s a lot to like about Samurai Warriors 5. This is without a doubt the best Samurai Warriors game yet, with a more engaging story, deeper gameplay, and luscious visuals. As ever, there are tens of hours of fun to be had, with repetition staved off that bit longer thanks to the new gameplay additions. And with a friend in tow, everything just becomes more chaotic and fun. Forget about the reduced character roster; if you love Musou games, consider this a must-have.
Samurai Warriors 5 Review: GameSpew’s Score