I found Samurai Warriors 5 an enjoyable gaming experience given the comfort and catharsis of it being more of the type of game I expect from Koei Tecmo.
IT has been seven long years since the release of Samurai Warriors 4 and now Samurai Warriors 5 builds on the Warriors gaming legacy that began in 1997 with Dynasty Warriors. The series now spans across generations of consoles, spinoff games, and inspired a recently released Netflix film. As a fan of the Warriors game series, I was excited to get hands on with Samurai Warriors 5 to find out what’s new. Released on all platforms on July 27, 2021, developers Koei Tecmo Europe did not disappoint this faithful fan in her time of need.
For those of you who have never played a Warriors game, let me explain to you what to expect. From a third person perspective, you control a powerful warrior that slays thousands of enemies almost effortlessly as you complete objectives across the battle field. You feel unstoppable as the combo counter reaches into the thousands. As you carve your way through the enemies, your Musou attack bar slowly fills. When unleashed, your special Musou attack deals a devastating series of blows to enemy generals in your path. Warriors games provide a cathartic power trip while maintaining challenge, with end-level scoring targets and scaling difficulty.
Samurai Warriors 5 introduces Ultimate Skills – an additional charging special bar allowing you to use an extra four assigned abilities. These abilities can be chosen before the start of battle and are a mix of special attacks and limited time stat boosts. Some of the enemies you will face carry shields or unique spears and can only be damaged by these Ultimate Skills. In many cases, these enemies are impassable ensuring you don’t forget about this new special attack function. I found coming across these patches of enemies slowed the pace of the game, and a chore to deal with.
Samurai Warriors 5 is set during the Japanese Warring states (Sengoku) historical period. Musou Mode, the main story mode for the game, focuses on the journey of Nobunaga Oda as he sets out to unite Japan. The main story also features additional playable levels from the perspective of Mitsuhide Akechi. Musou mode is quite tightly focussed on these 2 campaigns, which varies from recent Warriors titles that sprawl the story mode across multiple storylines and perspectives.
Between levels there are several cutscenes providing background on regional events and features important interactions between the main characters. The game does not have an English dub which made reading subtitles in the queue of cutscenes painful at the end of a long day when you really just want to smash enemies. An English dub being available to audibly track changes in battle conditions would also be appreciated, as when I’m tired I may miss text pop ups that provide vital information. As you play through Mousu Mode you’ll unlock new gameplay modes, additional playable characters, skills, gold, and weapons.
Ten new playable characters are available in Samurai Warriors 5. For fans of the series, you might find it jarring that there has been some significant character model redesigns. Once all characters are unlocked, you’ll have 37 characters to play with.
Once new characters are unlocked, they are playable in some Musou missions, as well as in Free Play Mode, and Citadel Mode. Citadel Mode introduces horde style gameplay where fighting with particular characters will build your friendship with them. If you are playing by yourself, you can swap between the two characters you pick to use as you fight off waves of enemies. Once you max out your friendship level, you unlock a cutscene sharing more about the connection between the two characters.
Samurai Warriors 5 lends itself to the typical grind gameplay elements fans of the series would be familiar with. As you replay levels, you can improve your level completion score, increasing the experience your character earns. You also invest in Dojo and Blacksmith upgrades that unlock more options. Replays also provide resources to upgrade your equipment. With gold earned you can buy your own horse mount and equip it with ability bonuses. Grind may sometimes be necessary if you are having trouble with a tough level, and whilst repetitive, the game ensures you are well rewarded for your time invested.
Samurai Warriors 5 features a revamped art style too. The cell shaded art is perfectly matched to the setting of the game, allowing characters to rise to the foreground in their environments thanks to the ink outlines and a colourful textured paint style. I found the art style reminiscent of Tales from the Borderlands aesthetics, but with a lot more polish. Samurai Warriors 5 also features a new weapon system. Characters have a preferred weapon, but are able to swap between some options. Warriors games always bring a unique blend of weapons to the field, like magical origami, and drum shockwaves.
The biggest concern I have with this game is that at times, the 3rd person camera view can be vertigo inducing. Occasionally you will find your character knocked into a wall, or cornered by enemies, and the camera will spin wildly often resulting in a panned view of the sky. I also found activating Musou attacks on horseback to be visually challenging. As my horse sped through packs of enemies, I felt a wave of motion sickness. Camera issues are not new in Samurai Warriors 5 and is something that has been noted as a limitation across Warriors titles. Players more experienced with managing 3rd person view camera (like my partner) are less impacted by this issue and the disorientation is only brief. Once your character is back on their feet and out of the corner, the camera is back to chasing the action as it does best.
Overall, I found Samurai Warriors 5 an enjoyable gaming experience given the comfort and catharsis of it being more of the same type of game I expect from Koei Tecmo. The new art style is perfect and on medium settings, it ran very well on my potato PC. I expect it would look fantastic on a more powerful kit.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Koei Tecmo Europe and Samurai Warriors 5 is out now on PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Written by: @NattyWW