Arslan: The Warriors of Legend PS4 Review
Most times when I am covering an anime-based game for the site, I have normally watched the anime that the game is based upon, but Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is the first time I have gone into one without knowing all that much about the source material. I had an idea that Hiromu Arakawa, of Fullmetal Alchemist fame, had adapted the novel into manga format, and that was turned into an anime, but that is all I knew. I can safely say after playing Koei Tecmo’s adaptation of the anime into one of their ever increasing catalogue of Warriors titles, I want to watch the anime to learn more about the characters and get more story that plays out in Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. But enough about that, you are reading this to see if Omega Force is keeping the momentum going with this latest Warriors entry, or has their winning formula finally began to crack under the vast amount of releases? Let’s find out.
One of the first clear indications that something is a little different about this latest Warriors game is evident as soon as you start. From pressing the option button on the menu, a quick cutscene begins, and then you are on the field as Arslan ready to take down troops through the easy to understand tutorial. No menus, no pre-mission setup, no character select. It’s just straight into the action from one button press. There is clearly a focus on presenting an interesting story here. The player is here for the ride, with control of which characters you play and what missions are in line are all in the hands of the story, jumping from action to cutscene without a hint of interruption. It’s certainly weird having spent years with the standard mission construction of Koei Tecmo’s action series to suddenly see none of that and be lead into each battle through quality cohesive cutscenes, which can last up to 10 minutes a pop, then slip into gameplay in a smooth transition.
It probably helps that the game has a good source material to base the story from. The characters are interesting, political turmoil happens with lots of twists and turns, which anyone who has seen the anime will known about, as this is a straight conversion of the show to appeal to anime fans. The overall plot follows 14 year old Arslan, the prince of Pars, as he tries to fight against a rebellion with a rival nation that has overthrown his kingdom. It’s also a good job that Arslan: The Warriors of Legend features what is the best story of any Warriors game so far, with polish and length to keep you occupied for a few nights, because otherwise, the game is shy on content that fans have come to expect. Each title is often packed with additional modes as a a way to keep the life of the game active way past the expiration of the story, but once story mode is over, all you are left with is the ability to replay the stages at a harder difficulty or take part in free mode, which enables any mission to be played as any character. Not exactly flourishing with options, which makes me wonder if this title was aimed more at the anime crowd to bring fans of the show to the trusted Omega Force formula that they can churn out now with expertise, rather than the hardcore fans, who are probably going to buy the game anyway, as it’s a new IP in this gameplay style.
Combat complexity takes a step back compared to the recent Samurai Warriors 4-II. This feels like a return to the old, where each character has a light and heavy attack, which opens up combos based on the order you press the buttons. Each character also has a special (musou) attack that can be used once charged up from dealing/taking damage, but only one, again, different from the multiple musou attacks that the heroes from the Japanese era had implemented. One feature that has made it across from the newer titles is the unique skill button. Pressing this will activate that hero’s specialist trait, for example, the painter and strategist, Narsus, lobs explosive paint at a group of enemies, or Elam, the archer, who jumps into the air and rains down arrows from above. Another feature that has survived is extending combos by using charge shifts. This is where a character has a secondary weapon (can be switched on the fly with the dpad) and after hitting a heavy attack at the end of a combo, it can be extended by pressing R1 that switches to the other weapon to finish up with chain finisher for extra damage. In terms of Arslan: The Warriors of Legend‘s combat, it’s not as deep as other entries, but there is just enough unique characters that switching between them kills the monotonous that could happen with the limited amount of attacks each character has.
Fighting enemy generals, the “heroes” of the rival army, feels more intimate in Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. They initially have a shield that protects their health bar, and it needs breaking before you can deal damage. The shield replenishes after a specific amount of time, so while the strategy needs repeating to eventually kill them, it can often drag and feel tedious when they just will not go down. What makes it harder to fight the generals is that there is no lock-on mechanic, which makes trying to dodge a move slightly harder to do, as the help of a lock-on to help your character face the right direction is no longer implemented. It took me a couple of missions to get used to this. Using powerful moves often meant I was going past my target, needing to spin the camera around to get my bearings correct. I’m not sure what was the reasoning behind the absent of a lock-on, but it does make it more frustrating to tackle a specific target without it.
But where one area falters, another is fleshed out – horse combat has been given an upgrade with specialised move sets for each character while they mount the stallions. Light moves will perform light swipe combos that can whirlwind together groups of troops, while using heavy makes the horse charge forward, with additional taps creating a powerful hit – even the horse joins in with a back foot kick to the face. It makes riding horses a viable way to take down enemies, rather than being a transporting tool that often handicaps your hero’s ability to increase that KO counter.
Horses make up part of the new Mardan Rush mechanic, an aura that spawns on the battlefield that offers a powerful move to take down thousands of enemies in a few seconds. It is also often used to progress through the mission, either to charge through a blockage or rain down arrows to set campsites on fire. The Mardan Rush has three variations, horse charge, unit charge or arrow barrage, but whichever one is activated, you can expect to be surrounded by ally soldiers ready to cause mass destruction for a few seconds – the bodies truly hit the floor with it. Mardan Rush, along with the skill card system – this acts like weapon drops, where finding new and improved cards and equipping them, up to three cards per character, offer statistical buffs – is this game’s unique identity against the rest of the Koei Tecmo’s 16 year catalogue of hack-and-slash games that started with Dynasty Warriors 2.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is another solid take on the Warriors formula, one with a clear, and above all else, focus on bringing the anime’s entertaining story to life in an action filled video game. While that makes for a great story play through, it means that the rest of the game leaves something to be desired when it comes to additional content. Arslan: The Warriors of Legend wonderfully captures the art of Hiromu Arakawa, and fans of the show will enjoy seeing all the characters putting in their signature moves against thousands of enemies, but pretty cel-shaded graphics and a genuine representation of its source material doesn’t make up for the lack of content, and with a step back with the combat mechanics, this is one Warriors game that is entertaining for a while, but doesn’t have the stamina to keep people hooked unlike previous titles before it.