Game Review

by Dustin Bailey,

Warriors All-Stars

PlayStation 4, PC

Warriors All-Stars
Characters from Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, Atelier, Deception, Nioh, the Warriors games, and many more join forces in a new adventure, filled with that trademark brand of hacking and slashing through enemy hordes.
Tecmo has a deceptively large roster of franchises. There's the big stuff, like the Warriors games, Dead or Alive, and Ninja Gaiden. There's more niche RPGs and weird action hybrids like Atelier, Nights of Azure, and Deception. There's recent takes on popular genres with Nioh and Toukiden. Then there's the truly bizarre stuff, like the Nobunaga's Ambition mobile spin-off Samurai Cats and the pachinko mascot turned anime heroine Rio. So what happens when representatives from every series find themselves thrust into a crossover adventure? If your guess is a bog-standard Musou game, then you're a bit cynical but absolutely correct.

If you've somehow missed out on every single one of the dozens of hack and slash titles Omega Force has put out in the past two decades, the Warriors games put you in control of an uber-powerful general able to wreck enemy soldiers by the hundreds. It's super-simple two-button combat backed up by an ever-changing array of skills and additional gimmicks. At its best, Warriors combines incredibly simple basic action with an engaging loop of building up your meters and deploying skills at just the right moments, and challenges you to keep a constant eye on the battlefield to support your own troops and disrupt the enemy by taking over bases and defeating more powerful enemy commanders.

Warriors All-Stars follows that formula very closely, and it's mostly successful at hitting the high points. Even the most mismatched characters still hack and slash in satisfying ways, whether that's with traditional swords and fists or cat armies and improbably large casino amusements. You choose one particular character as the leader of your party, with four more serving as backup, offering you extra skills on the field or the option to tag in for some synchronized brawling. This is stuff you'll be using constantly, and it's essential to break up the repetitive slaughter of thousands of basic soldiers. Slash for a while to build up those meters, burn them when you get to a base or a stronger enemy, and unleash the right choice for maximum effect—over and over and over again. It's simple, but it still manages to be mostly engaging.

Yet All-Stars falls down when it comes to stage design. There are different objectives you need to complete to finish a mission, like defeating a specific character or taking a certain base. But there's a progression system in place where you've got to build up your Bravery level in order to take on more powerful enemies. You can effectively take on anybody within a couple levels of you, but anyone much past that will wreck you, so you've got to defeat weaker enemies and capture points to build that level up. In theory, this system should give a little bit more of a sense of progress in each mission, preventing you from just steamrolling toward the end. In practice, it means every single battle plays out exactly the same, with you searching for low-level enemy commanders to build up your level before just steamrolling toward the end.

The varied nature of the cast doesn't do much to change things up, either. Different areas take inspiration from various series, but the Tecmo catalog's focus on both historical and fantastical depictions of ancient Asia means that they're often scarcely distinguishable from one another, and despite the giant multi-franchise crossover, few of the stages would feel out of place in a traditional Warriors game. Even something like Nights of Azure, with its vaguely steampunk look, is recreated in only the dullest ways here, with its interminable subway level serving as inspiration.

These missions all play out in a story mode that has you selecting missions from a massive map full of various options, whether they be full missions or side bits intended to get you extra treasure and experience. In reality, both the side missions and story stages play out exactly the same, the rewards you get for sticking to the critical path are more than enough to see you through to the end, and the primary upgrade system of collecting and reconstituting cards for each hero ends up being completely superfluous.

The order in which you take on the main missions and some of the paths you take toward recruiting new heroes and building their affinity toward you can have an effect on how the story plays out and which ending you're building toward, but caring about that would require you to care about the plot, which is a rough proposition. The story's driven by a handful of what could generously be described as fanfic OCs, except instead of getting sucked into their favorite video game world, they do some magic to bring all the heroes to them so they can all save the world from ancient evil or something. You select a character from your franchise of choice and see the beginning of the game from their perspective, but if you were hoping that those existing characters—the whole draw of a crossover—would play any more than a tangential role in the events to follow, you're gonna be disappointed. None of the characters get a chance to shine, and it's rare that they even get to talk to each other in any terms but the most rote combat barking.

With a cast of 30 characters spanning a dozen different series, you might hope that this breadth would give Warriors All-Stars a little more life. But while the combat has that same basic but engaging loop to it, the repetitive levels and entirely forgettable progression systems mean that there's little reason to stick around. It might be a cast of All-Stars, but this game won't be joining their ranks.

Overall : C
Graphics : C+
Sound/Music : C
Gameplay : C
Presentation : C-

+ Hacking and slashing is still fun, really big cast with unique attacks
Levels offer little variety, story is entirely superfluous, progression systems add very little

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