Playing through Samurai Warriors 4: Empires has been a sizable change of pace from my staple gaming diet of Shooters, Indies and Role-playing games. In fact I haven’t played a Samurai Warriors title since the original spun up in my Playstation 2 ten years ago. But, that in itself just shows the longevity of the Hack’n’Slash genre and the loyal fans who continue to follow this series – and buy the games.
Set in feudal Japan, ‘Empires’ has been described as a “conquest simulator”. Essentially you take on the role of a lord and commander for a region of Japan and use the two main aspects of the gameplay to gain control over neighbouring provinces. The goal, to be the overall ruler of Japan.
The two aspects of the gameplay mechanics are Politics and Combat. Politics, is about choosing what advisors you have and then using their advice in planning what each of your conquered regions priorities will be i.e. food, military, economics etc… Then depending on what gains you have made during the Politics stage, alters how you deploy your army into the next neighbouring region to conquer it. The second aspect is the far more familiar Hack’n’Slash combat, which to be frank hasn’t changed in years. But clearly it hasn’t needed too.
Straight away I felt comfortable with the combat. It revolves around fighting a literal sea of minion type enemies with my hero, all the while making my way through a stronghold to locate, fight and overthrow that regions current lord. Combat is based on building a hit and combo meter to access more powerful attacks. To my surprise though, the combat was actually quite tactical. Not so much in relation to the minions combat, but for the numerous ‘sub-boss’ class enemies or higher. Well timed blocks and attacks were crucial to beat them. I’ll be honest though, after a period I became tired of the ‘too and fro’ and dropped the difficulty, so it became a button-mashing fest…..and I actually had more fun.
Another addition to the series was the ability to change between playable characters. So, if I could see on my mini map that my army was failing to take an area on the other side of the stronghold. I could swap to the nearest unlocked hero and bolster the attack with some furious button-mashing, allowing my army to win the territory.
‘Empires’ is not a pretty game considering the power on offer in the PS4, in fact it would not look out of place being compared to a title on a PS3 or 360. The story is a simple tale of conquest and politics, and unfortunately for western gamers there is only Japanese dialogue with English subtitles. I often had no idea what was going on and frankly ended up not caring.
I was impressed with the calibre of the tutorials as there is a lot going in the background. At no point did I become overwhelmed by the mechanics or feel the game was leaving me behind. My overarching thoughts on Samurai Warriors 4: Empires is that it will only really appeal to hardened fans of the series. Those who want to experience a truly Japanese Hack’n’Slash. As only these core fans will be able to look past the rough graphical showing and at times nonsensical story, to find the nugget of combat gold which has kept these niche titles in development for over a decade.