Samurai Warriors 2: Empires Xbox 360 Review
Samurai Warriors 2: Empires places you in the shoes, or would it be sandals, of a warlord in feudal Japan and as the nature of the time dictates it’s up to you to seize as much territory as possible. Along the way you’ll strike up alliances, encourage rebellion and entice rival warlord’s minions to defect to your clan. You’ll have to balance your war tactics with keeping your citizens happy and make sure your territories are prosperous, sound like fun?
The strategy side of the game is quite in-depth with plenty to do; amass troops, build weaponry, recruit lieutenants, as well as civilian activities such as mining to increase your wealth. The game structure is turn-based and you get a set amount of orders each turn, but as your territories grow, so does the amount of orders you can make. There’s a wide variety of orders to dish out covering your forces, their abilities and armaments, attack formations, battle strategies, along with orders for the civilian population to keep the funds for your war effort topped up, or you could consult your generals. The advantage of consulting a general over a regular order is that you can make two orders at the same time, you are of course limited to what they suggest but if you’re suffering losses after a defeat it comes in handy for rebuilding your depleted forces. There’s plenty of options for your strategy fans but it all feels a bit samey, each turn just builds your forces and riches and you work out which territory to invade or defend and station your troops in the appropriate region.. If you’re not heavily in to your strategy it can get a bit repetitive, but that’s what the action side of the game is for, right?
After you’ve made your orders you proceed to the invasion, or defence, of a territory, this is where the game’s action is. It’s not all action though, you’ll still need to decide on attack formations and strategies and command your lieutenants on the battlefield. The territory is made up of a network of bases that you’ll need to capture and/or defend and you’ll need to allocate your forces constantly during battle to achieve victory. When you’re not commanding the troops though you’ll be on the battlefield fighting alongside them, but unfortunately this is not all it could have been. The actual combat is all down to button bashing, your attacks are done using just the X and Y buttons, but the Y button attacks need a bit of a charge up so you’ll probably be using the X button for the most part. If you thought the strategy side of the game was a bit on the dull side and were hoping for a bit of excitement on the battlefield you are going to be sorely disappointed. All you’ll be doing is running from one base to another and then hitting the same button repeatedly for a few minutes then moving to the next base. I’m sure the strategy fans are going to be just as unhappy about the action side of the game but for different reasons, what could have been a half decent strategy game is severely brought down by the action side of the game. It really is a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.
The repetitive nature of the action in the game might have been at least partially forgiveable though if some effort had been put in to the visuals. With the strategy side being just menus and maps the action part was the chance for the game to make use of the 360’s high definition, but sadly the game’s visuals are stuck in the last generation. The game is also available on the Playstation 2 and it’s pretty evident that the 360 version is nothing more than a straight port. Character models are passable, but considering the scope of the game’s scenario there is not enough variation in them. Fair enough an army will all be dressed alike, but the samurai who make up the generals and lieutenants on the battlefield would all look different, there are maybe a dozen or so different models for them though. There’s meant to be four hundred characters in the game, but time and time again you’ll keep running in to the same characters, their name may be different, and their clothes might be a different colour, but on the battlefield they all look the same. The game’s pre-rendered cut scenes are quite good though, but they’re still probably lifted straight from the PS2 version, God knows why they bothered putting the game in to 1080p.
The sound department is a little better than the game’s graphics, but not by much, there’s some OK tunes in there and the sound effects are pretty standard stuff, but the voice acting ranges from the reasonable to the cringe worthy. Despite the game’s period setting all the characters speak English with an American accent, the language difference is completely understandable, but couldn’t they have found some Japanese actors to do the voice work? It just doesn’t sit right when one of your warriors is victorious and his victory speech sounds like it’s coming from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. They’re not all that bad but still could’ve been done so much better, but thankfully you’ll probably be on your own listening to the cheesy accents and embarrassing dialogue as the game’s multiplayer options are extremely lacking. No online play and two player co-operative is all you get, no doubt another side effect of the game’s lacklustre porting from the PS2.
If you’re looking for a strategy game with a bit of action thrown in there are better games out there, even on the Xbox 360, but if you’re a fan of Japanese history this might be worth a look. If you have access to a PS2 though you may as well get it for that, the game will be identical and you’ll save yourself a fiver.
Mindless button bashing plus strategy is not a good combination.