- Release Date (NA): July 26, 2021
- Release Date (EU): July 26, 2021
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo
- Developer: Koei Tecmo
- Genres: Warriors
- Also For: Computer, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
It's been a while since I've played a Warriors game. After being disappointed by the latest Hyrule Warriors title in its performance on Nintendo's hybrid console, Samurai Warriors 5 has had me excited for months. My favourite era of history with the fun and frantic formula I've come to love, on systems that are capable of showing it at its best? Sign me up.
Though I've been hooked on Warriors titles since the original Hyrule Warriors in 2014, I've never had the chance to venture into the Sengoku-era Samurai titles. At the core though, if you've played one Warriors game, you've played them all, and you'll know exactly what kind of game you're in for. This title follows the legendary fool Nobunaga as he takes some of the first significant steps in unifying a nation of warring states. The campaign is broken down into chapters which signify story arcs of sorts, with there being several individual scenarios to play to progress through each. The scenarios play out pretty much how you'd imagine. It's a relatively large battlefield where you're guided from point to point completing objectives, all while clearing out hordes of enemies with style.
Playing the first scenario I decided to see how the game fared on hard difficulty, and I can say it's something I don't really recommend. As with various other Warriors titles, Samurai Warriors 5 starts out slow. You only have one character, you only have one weapon, your movement is excruciating with no option to run, and your combos are limited. Naturally, it doesn't stay this way for long. You build up your character choices, your armoury, you level up your characters, but at the start you have a slog. And this slog is only made worse by elevating the difficulty. Where standard enemies would drop in a few hits, they survive for four or even five. Add to this officers that that take upwards of a minute to take down and you have something entirely unlike the Warriors experience I come to expect. If there is a positive to the longer fights against officers, it gives you a good amount of time to learn basic mechanics like parrying and dodging, but it just isn't worth it. After getting through the first scenario, I dropped the game down to easy, with the intent to return for the harder difficulties when better equipped.
With enemies falling faster, the game soon picks up pace. Even with limited resources at the start, you feel as though you're making meaningful progress as things unlock throughout the first chapter. By the end of what is ultimately the tutorial segment, you have far more freedom to experiment and find what's the most fun for you and then roll with it. The real turning point for me was unlocking Ieyasu Tokugawa and getting to experience his violent and frantic twin blades. Much faster and fluid than Nobunaga's default odachi great sword, I was instantly drawn in and set to work upgrading the first one I found. Unlike the Nintendo Warriors games I'd mostly played before this, any character can use any weapon. Each character has a preference where you'll get a mastery bonus, but ultimately, you're free to use whatever with whoever. It's fantastic. Where in Hyrule or Fire Emblem Warriors you may have been stuck using a character and by extension, a moveset, you don't like for various story chapters, you can mix and match here to have as consistent or varied an experience as you'd like. Even if you do find the weapon you think will be the one, experimenting is something I really do encourage, if only for a bit of a break from your regular routine. With the Warriors franchise known for a certain degree of monotony, these small changes can go a long way.
Outside of the main campaign, Samurai Warriors 5 features a secondary mode as most other Warriors titles before it. I have to say this one is a little lacklustre to the other titles I've tried. Citadel mode, accessible after completing the first chapter, is really quite a simple concept. You progress through a list of scenarios, each time repelling enemies coming towards your base. If a certain number of enemies get into your base, you lose, and you receive various rewards based on your performance. The rewards in this mode go towards upgrading facilities such as the dojo or blacksmith, to upgrade your characters and weapons respectively. The higher level the facility, the more you you'll be able to use them. With the way the game is structured, you won't be able to get the most out of citadel mode right out of the gate. This is because to upgrade structures, your castle rank needs to be of an adequate level, this increasing with progress in the standard campaign. While I do feel this mode can be a little bit of a slog if you're just going to sit there and try to get through it all in one go, I have to concede that probably isn't how it's intended to be played. Instead of thinking of this as a separate entity to the campaign, I feel it's much better served as a supplement, a break of sorts. It comes again back to the breaking up of samey gameplay by providing a twist, if only a small one. By switching from the campaign as your castle levels up, to citadel mode to increase your facility levels, you have a back and forth that helps keep either mode from becoming stale. On top of that, you're also rewarded with the time-saves that come from having these facilities upgraded, helping you diversify by training characters and upgrading weapons you perhaps may not have tried before.
Having played the Xbox version of the game on a Series X console, the visual experience was divine. Using Quick Resume I did experience a stutter just after I loaded back into a map, but aside from that the game ran brilliantly. With the game available on such a wide range of consoles though, perhaps most notably the Switch, your mileage may vary. The only real flaw I can take from the presentation is the lack of English dubbing for the dialogue. While this may seem like a matter of taste in many games, the Atelier series notably dropping English dubs in their new titles, this is a case where it has a genuine negative impact. In a game like Atelier, you have voiced dialogue you can read at your own pace. It's supplementary to the larger game and allows you to better relate with the characters on-screen. In Samurai Warriors 5 you can say this still holds true. Before each scenario, you're treated to a cutscene, and sometimes in-engine dialogue sequences. These are all fine with subtitles, or the usual dialogue boxes you can advance with a button press. Where things are a little less than ideal is during the gameplay, where you'll hear a character call out that they're in trouble, or alert you of a new objective. These are subtitled just the same, but in taking a moment to read them, you're diverting your attention from the action, which can in turn have a larger impact on your overall performance if you're trying to work up a high combo for a better score. A dub would have helped tremendously here.
As with any Warriors game though, I dare say this review serves as little more than a reminder a new game is out. At this point, everybody knows what a Warriors game is. Everybody knows of the frantic hacking and slashing through hordes, and everybody knows if it's for them. If you love it, you'll love this. If you don't, this game won't be the one to change your mind. While the series escalates over time, becoming more fluid and visually appealing, at its core it's changed less than Pokemon over the years, for better or worse. I had a great time with the game, and hope to see it revisited down the line with an Empires edition to perhaps bulk it out a bit with more secondary gameplay. If you like the Sengoku era and you like hack and slash though, pick this up. You won't regret it.
- It's a Warriors game
- Great sense of progression and development for characters
- Fun retelling of key Sengoku era battles
- Fantastic assortment of weapons available to every character to keep the game fresh
- It's a Warriors game
- No English dub for dialogue
- Citadel mode is a little underwhelming