Review – Samurai Warriors 5
I’m a fan of the mindless button-mashing catharsis that is the Musou genre, but I’ve mostly played Omega Force’s licensed outings, such as Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors. The last proper Koei Tecmo-published “mainline” Warriors game I’ve previously played was Dynasty Warriors 9, the video game equivalent of replacing the brakes of a fully functional Mercedes with spoiled pancakes just for the sake of it. Suffice to say, I hated that trainwreck, and was worried about what would Omega Force and KT do next with their mainline titles. Thankfully, they have apparently learned with their mistakes, as Samurai Warriors 5 feels and plays like pretty much every other Musou released prior to that catastrophe.
Samurai Warriors 5 is yet another version of Omega Force’s take on Sengoku-era Japan. It includes all of your favorite historical characters, such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Hattori Hanzo (portrayed by the voice of Yakuza‘s Kiryu, Takaya Kuroda), in a slightly more fantastical and exaggerated version of the historical events. It’s basically a Sengoku-era shonen: loud, overdramatic, and over-the-top, and I’m okay with that. It’s hard to take any Musou story seriously when you’re literally killing two to three thousand enemies per mission with such ease.
Unlike Dynasty Warriors 9, Samurai Warriors 5 reverts back to the franchise’s classic level design and utterly mindless gameplay loop. You’re thrown into large yet corridor-like arenas and you’re told to complete a handful of objectives per mission. These are almost always revolved around killing a certain amount of enemies, killing a specific enemy roaming the field, or going to a certain area in the map… to kill a specific enemy. I will admit, this game requires half a dozen of your brain cells at the very most, but I don’t see that as a problem.
In fact, the gameplay being so dumb and mindless is one of my favorite things about Samurai Warriors 5. It’s a cathartic experience. It gives you tons of massively overpowered characters for you to play. No matter who you decide to pick, you’ll be a lot stronger than the literal thousands of enemies surrounding you, giving you a sensation of superiority that very few games can even dream of providing. There are still strategic elements in place, such as improving your weapon’s stats, leveling each character up, upgrading your military structures, and so on. In theory, you can ignore all of these features if all you want to do is mash the Square button until it falls off from the DualShock.
In order to improve these structures, you need to unlock some features on a brand new “tower defense” mode included alongside the main campaign, but despite the promising name, this is still, by and large, the same old gameplay loop you know and either love or despise. You’re told to defend your structure from invaders, but in order to do so, you’re told to advance towards enemy armies and kill hundreds of foes with your overpowered sword attacks. No need to fix what isn’t broken.
It’s hard not to like the game’s presentation, even if it’s far from being the prettiest or most polished game published by Koei Tecmo. The characters don’t look overly detailed; a decision most certainly tied to the fact the game had to run on the Switch’s hardware as well. Although, the game makes up for it with a nice art style, with everything, be them characters or levels, featuring slight hints of ukiyo-e drawings in their design. It also runs flawlessly, with the framerate never missing a beat even when a literal hundred enemies are polluting the screen at any given time. Samurai Warriors 5 might not be a fidelity masterpiece, but it still wowed me with its technical prowess.
The sound design, like most Musou games made by Omega Force, is one of, if not the biggest highlights of the entire game. Most Musou soundtracks are a compilation of hard rock rearrangements of whatever the source material sounds like, such as Zelda rock covers in case of Hyrule Warriors. That’s no different in here, as Samurai Warriors 5 features traditional Japanese instrumentation, such as shamisen, clashing with heavy guitars and the occasional double-bass drum. Can’t say I disliked it. In fact, it was the very opposite: I loved it.
For as much as I like Samurai Warriors 5‘s
stupidity simplicity, I did have a few issues with it. Just like with most games from this series, the camera is a bit iffy, often having a mind of its own. You can get used to it, but it’s a nuisance nevertheless. There are a few glitches here and there, such as dead enemies shaking around the screen like they’re being possessed by a poltergeist, but this is more hilarious than a proper issue.
Finally, an issue that might sound weird is the lack of an autosave feature when you’re browsing through menus. Given the amount of strategic work you can do in between battles, occasionally losing your stat allocation and weapon creation progress due to a lack of an autosave feature frustrated me more than once. I got so used to this feature in other games that I got caught off-guard by the lack of said option in this specific situation.
Samurai Warriors 5 is proof that you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. Instead of trying to deviate from its predecessors like Dynasty Warriors 9 did, it reverted back to the franchise’s characteristic formula of mindless-but-cathartic button mashing coupled with a shocking amount of content and unlockables. Be advised, this is a shallow game, and it’s meant to please a very specific niche. But boy oh boy, does it know how to please said niche with its simple yet addictive gameplay loop.
It is not exactly the prettiest of games, with character models not being overly detailed, but it makes up for it with a nice art style and fantastic framerate. There might be literal hundreds of enemies onscreen at any point, and the framerate won’t suffer any drops.
It’s the same mindless button-mashing control scheme you know and love/hate. It’s fast-paced, the controls are (for the most part) responsive, but it suffers from an annoying camera, though.
Like most Omega Force outings, the soundtrack is a compilation of rock rearrangements of the source material (in this case, feudal Japanese folk), coupled with a ton of decent voice acting. Even Takaya Kuroda shows up in this one!
Samurai Warriors 5, like any other Musou game, is shallow as a puddle, requiring just half a dozen brain cells from you in order to play it. With that being said, it sure knows how to massively entertain players with its cathartic gameplay loop, as well as its shocking amount of content.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Samurai Warriors 5 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Samurai Warriors 5 was provided by the publisher.