PREVIEW: Samurai Warriors 5

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

The Dynasty Warriors games have an illustrious reputation for their consistency. Famed for being games where players can choose one of many characters from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and wade through armies of disposable rank-and-file soldiers, the series has lived for long enough to even allow for spin-offs based off of beloved franchises like The Legend of Zelda or Dragon Quest. But sometimes, all it takes is a simple palette swap; changing Lu Bu for Nobunaga Oda, the Samurai Warriors spin-off takes the Warriors series setting from the mainland of China to Japan's Warring States period. The Samurai Warriors line itself has also crossed over with Dynasty Warriors more than a few times courtesy of the Warriors Orochi spin-off. With Samurai Warriors 5 due to release soon for the Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One, we were able to sit down and try out the beloved button-masher.

As mentioned above, Samurai Warriors 5 focuses on the story of Nobunaga Oda, from humble beginnings as a foolish warlord with eyes bigger than his stomach to famed conqueror. Other famed historical figures join him, such as Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo. The game plays out as a series of maps where your character can assault wave after wave of enemies. You can unleash combos by mixing in weak and heavy attacks, mowing down waves of footsoldiers in the process. On its surface, the game is simple—and to an extent, it is. Go to “x” point, defeat so-and-so, attack and dethrone such-and-such historical footnote. However, there are just enough mechanics at play to help Samurai Warriors 5 fall on this side of “satisfying”. Some groups of enemies might have special properties, such as impenetrable shields or lances that will attack you within range. You must use special skills in order to defeat them. Landing attacks builds up your Musou meter, which can be used to unleash Musou attacks. Using Musou attacks when your health is low unleashes a stronger variant. You can also build up your Spirit meter, which can either be used to temporarily buff your character or unleash another variant of your Musou attack. Or, you can hang onto your Spirit and enjoy the passive buffs to your stats that it grants. All in all, there is plenty of strategy in your pursuit of being a one-person army.

Maps are also quite satisfying in their options. While many have a planned sequence of events, exploring maps can reveal bonus objectives and hidden bosses, many of which offer bonus rewards upon completing a map. In our playthrough, we came across a map where the objective was to retreat from the front lines. We nevertheless found out it was possible to fight your way to the enemy commander and engage them. Presumably, he could have been defeated—we were unable to do so, however.

For this reason, there's a Castle mode between maps where you can use bonus experience and other resources to improve your characters. You can forge weapons, attach new skills to weapons, and purchase abilities for your officers. Upgrade potential is limited at the start, requiring you to invest gold and materials to expand your facilities and allow for further upgrades.

Finally, there are also Free Play and Co-Op modes. While story mode forces you to use certain characters on certain maps, Free Play mode allows you to use whichever characters you've unlocked to play whichever map you want. It's also possible for a second player to join in and fight alongside you; there is even a special Dual Musou attack if both players unleash their Musou moves at the same time.

All of this mechanical jargon is to say that Samurai Warriors 5 is, thus far, shaping up to be another satisfying entry in the Warriors line. While missing the immediate glitz or appeal of having another franchise to serve as its facade, the mechanics and gameplay are as engaging and satisfying as ever. Seeing waves of soldiers tossed around like rag dolls in the wake of your attacks is just deeply entertaining to one's lizard brain, and it'll definitely be fun to go back and clear maps with stronger characters once we unlock more upgrade options.

In the version we played, the maps and battles played smoothly with the scores of characters displayed on-screen at any given moment. Cutscenes were a different story, marred by stuttering and dropped frames—hopefully, these issues will be worked on. There was also an issue with letters in message boxes—sometimes, longer letters like “y” or “g” would get cut in half horizontally. Again, the game is a work in progress.

Samurai Warriors 5 is due for release in the United States on June 24. It'll be available on the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows platforms.

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