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Review: Samurai Warriors 5 (PlayStation 5)By Nayu At 28.09.2022 08:20

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While previous entries each gave different characters a starring role in the story mode, allowing the tale to be told from numerous viewpoints, this one dials that way back; an element that becomes familiar throughout. Instead of switching between the key members of these historic families, the focus is entirely placed on the growth of the young Nobunaga in his rise to power, with a side story of Mitsuhide to support it. There are some small side stories with other characters to support it, but only as tiny distractions. Fitting with Nobunaga being the heart of the story, it only reaches up to Honnouji. An infamous finale that anyone with a passing knowledge of Japanese history will be familiar with.

The gameplay is as it ever was: carve a swath through an ocean of enemies, leaving a body count that would make John Wick blush, achieving various objectives as they appear. However, when these objectives appear, another new feature has been added to signal the new objective. A horn. A frequent, obnoxious, loud, irritating, horn. The game seems to have the most extreme level of ADHD which results in every 30 seconds a new objective to chase or side quest to rush off to. It doesn't add a level of difficulty or intensity, it's just a horrible level of annoyance. GO HERE! NOW GO HERE! WAIT TURN BACK GO HERE!

Achieving the best score with this horrendous game design doesn't reward the Musou style of NPC genocide - it's better to just spring around like a hyperactive Labrador pup on cocaine. Springing from one event to the other. Pavlov's satanic horn conditioning the player to drop everything and run to the flashy thing. It's not good. Is the point. And it never really stops. Every single stage is the same. The serious moments in the story DUH NUHHHHHHHHH goes the horn "Go and punch Leyasu in the neck!" DUH NUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH "Go fight a horse!" DUH NUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. It's just absolutely awful game design that even the most die-hard Musou fan will be turned off by.

The underlying Musou combat is fine. Slashing through literally thousands of enemies and racking up absurd combo counts is easy enough, and the addition of the ability to switch between the two characters helps to keep the flow of combat rolling constantly without losing the combo counter of the adrenaline of the situation. This too leads into one of the strongest aspects: those two characters. Specifically, how those two characters can be controlled by two people. Sat next to one another. That's right. Couch co-op! A gaming relic that seems rarer and rarer in the modern-day, and so it deserves raving about when included, especially for a mental Musou slasher that is built for cooperative fun.

Alongside Story Mode, there's Citadel Mode - a strange little addition where a pair of territories have to be defended from enemy attacks. Capturing and holding territories is hardly something new, but there's little defending to actually do here. Instead, it's once again the same annoying gameplay elements mentioned above. Defend the gates, but oh… there's that horn again. And again. Better rush off to the flashing thing. This new mode feels rather lacking, even worse considering what came before. One of the biggest losses of this instalment is the tragic death of Chronicle Mode. A great addition to Samurai Warriors 4 that allowed a custom character to be created and played through their own story. Completely absent here and it's a striking loss.

Progressing in the Story opens up new stages in Citadel mode, and completing stages in Citadel mode grants materials that are used in various resource focused buildings. A stable to improve mounts, a blacksmith to improve weapons. It's a simple and effective gameplay loop, a little too grindy, and, of course, mainly let down by the aforementioned fundamental gameplay issues. It's not all bad, though. While many things seem to have taken a step backwards with this reboot, one thing that has improved is the presentation.

The characters have all received some huge new redesigns. The intimidating and noble Nobunaga is replaced with a young man filled with fire. Mitsuhide retains his bishi good looks, but has received a new outfit straight out of Touken Ranbu. Noh's sharp sexiness was softened, transformed into an elegant beauty. Each returning character comes with a fresh new design. There are some brand new characters added to the roster, including a particular highlight in Yasuke, the first African Samurai and the subject of the recent Netflix show. It's just a shame there are so few of them. Going from 50 characters in Samurai Warriors 4 down to 39 here. The best thing about the new looks is the overall new art style. A stylish cel-shaded effect combined with a splashed paintbrush aesthetic delivers the best-looking Samurai Warriors title to date.

While those characters look great, they lack the individualism that made Musou characters so fun, and that's due to the new weapon system. Every character can equip any type of weapon, and while each has a unique attack for their signature armament, they don't have their own experience. That detracts from the joy of finding new characters, of unlocking someone new and seeing what special attacks they have, how they play. Each character has its own skill tree to incentivise finding a favourite and replaying with, but, ultimately, it doesn't matter. It's just a skin. And it's hard to care.

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Final Score
[i]Samurai Warriors 5[/i] is a game of reductions. In its move to reboot the series it seemingly has gone back to providing as much content as the first entry. A cynic may say they'll likely slowly start to reintroduce these established features like they're new innovations. Innovation… It's insane that while Omega Force continues to do just that. To innovate. To deliver. But only with titles it produced for other people's franchises. When it comes to its own franchises, frankly, the developer is going backwards. Following the disappointment of what Dynasty Warriors became, Samurai Warriors has now joined the club as a shadow of its former self.

5

/10

User Comments
#1 Sandy Wilson - on 28.09.2022 at 08:36

Such a shame! Samurai Warriros 4 is an absolute gem. I had hoped the sequel would match up!


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