Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Samurai Warriors 4-II (PS4) Review

The original Samurai Warriors 4 was really fun.  I loved the new hyper attacks.  However, the story mode was more focused on the factions, which I guess some people didn't like as much.  Instead of an Extreme Legends version, we have the character-focused stories in Samurai Warriors 4-II.  Honestly, I wish they stuck with the previous nomenclature, as mixing numbering systems is... silly to me.

Putting the name aside, let's focus on what actually matters: the game.  As mentioned previously, this entry focuses on more individual stories for the characters introduced in SW 4 and added for this iteration.  For each story, you must use the main character, but then can also choose one other from the list of available people to accompany you into battle.  Switching between them is quick, but it is on the Options button (PS4), which was kind of awkward to hit easily.  There are 13 total story modes, 8 of which have to be unlocked, and each containing 5 stages.

The newest character to join the roster is Naomasa Li.  He is Naotora Li's adopted son who just happens to look the same age.  I don't think it's intentional, but I thought it was pretty funny that it looks in no way like he is Naotora's son, but sure, why not?  He's pretty solid with some good hyper attacks (he is hyper attack inclined) and a few really good charge moves that hit huge areas.  His rage super is also really funny if you watch sentai shows.  The create-a-character also returns, which is always a plus.  All of the costumes are available at the start, but you can only give them weapons of characters you have unlocked.  Coincidentally I made a sentai-looking character, and gave him Naomasa's move set.  Boy was I surprised it was an accidental perfect fit.

Combat is largely unchanged from the previous iteration, with the hyper attacks seemingly less powerful.  You still have your standard attack string with various finishing moves based off when you use the other attack button in the combo.  The biggest addition is the skills you can use in battle.  The d-pad can scroll through skills you learn and then activate them.  These have a variety of effects, from stat buffs to heals to gaining more exp or money from kills.  They are on a cooldown, so use them when you need them.  Plus, you can equip several at once, so there's no reason not to load up when a character unlocks them.

Battle Objectives are still present in SW 4-II.  If you don't know, each stage has a checklist of objectives and bonus objectives for you to try and do during battle.  Normal ones are part of the flow of battle, like defeat some person before they attack your leader and stuff like that.  The bonus ones can range from "make sure no one dies" to "use this character to beat this one" and similar things.  While I like the replayability aspect of the objectives, they are pretty obtrusive when they first come up.  The action pauses and it shows the player what the objective is.  Yes, it is nice that you can't really miss them, but it gets annoying when it stops you mid combo to tell you to beat the enemy you are currently fighting.  In the other games, the bonus objectives tended to give you extra rewards, but it seems like they just give bonus experience now.  It does give you a reason to play the levels in Free mode, though, if you want to clean them up.

Again they have changed how to combine weapons in the Warriors games.  This time, adding a weapons to your chosen base weapon will increase the experience of that weapon.  If it gets enough experience, it will level up and get stronger.  This will thankfully also increase the skills on it.  However, you cannot transfer skills or elements from one weapon to another, so it isn't perfect.  There is a level cap based on the star rating of the weapon.  If you combine two weapons of similar compatibility, there is a chance you will increase the max level.  This system also applies to the mounts, which is cool and kind of silly if you think about it.  (You are merging horses... is that legal?)  Anyway, the system is pretty nice, but I would prefer if there was a way to replace skills or add them to a weapon, so it was easier to make your perfect equipment.

There are now skill trees for each of the characters, laid out on a big hex-based grid.  You have to spend skill tomes that are acquired as battle drops or purchased from the shop.  Each skill costs certain numbers of different color tomes.  Once a skill is purchased, the ones next to it are then unlocked for purchase.  If you buy a skill next to an unlocked and unpurchased skill, then that one receives a discount, which is very nice.  Even more nice is some skills can become free if you surround them with purchased ones.  The skills are either passive ones that will do standard stuff like increasing attack damage or health, or active skills discussed above.  This system is new, and once I got the hang of it, is pretty cool.  The only thing I'm not too keen on is it can be hard to buy a lot of skills, since you don't seem to get many tomes per battle, and I don't want to fork over the cash since I need that for weapon and mount synthesis.

There is also a Survival Mode in SW 4-II.  It feels like a mix of the one from Samurai Warriors 2 and Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3.  Since you only have one character to keep track of, it is much more focused and easier to understand what you are doing.  It's also more fun because of it.  The standard survival is a 100 floor tower that you have to fight your way to the top of.  You have a time limit that gets extended every time you go up a floor.  It's a good way to get some experience, and there are nice bonuses the higher up you go.  However, it's not advisable to push your luck, since dying makes you lose all the stuff you collected.  You can exit on any floor once it is cleared by activating the circle near the stairway up.  There are also really strong versions of the characters that appear on some floors.  They are always pretty obvious since they have blue skin, and they pack a punch!

The survival challenge has four specific battles that have weekly rankings.  While at first I wasn't sure I'd like them, the rewards changed my mind.  These challenges are timed, and task you with a specific task, like killing a lot of enemies or gaining a lot of gold.  Those two are fun, but I'm not too keen on the racing one.  You have to kill standard bearers and run to the exit.  They've had similar racing ones in the Warriors games before, and I didn't like them there either.  Getting high ranks will give you strategy tomes or money.  Every week the rankings will reset and give you another opportunity to get the top spot.  The mode is more fun than I thought it would be, and can be a good source of cash and skill tomes.

At first I wasn't sure there was enough content in the game, but at about 2-3 hours per story mode and 13 stories, that's pretty decent.  The survival and survival challenge modes are more fun than I initially thought as well.  The focus on the characters more than the factions/groups should appeal to those that complained about that in SW 4.  If you are a fan of the Warriors games and somehow skipped SW 4, then I would recommend Samurai Warriors 4-II.  I'm sure fans of the series will also enjoy it, but most of the content is focused on the story, which may not be enough to get owners of SW 4 to buy 4-II.

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