Sometimes I don’t want a complicated game, I just want hordes of enemies to destroy whilst mindlessly pressing some buttons, but still looks cool, and for that you have games like Dynasty warriors, Samurai warriors 4. But sometimes, whilst causing a national genocide I want to pretend that I am good at strategy games, and not play Total war shogun 2 and get destroyed, so I play Samurai warriors 4 Empires instead.
Finally, the next instalment of Samurai warriors is out, and isn’t anywhere near as disappointing as the confusingly titled Samurai warriors 4-2, this time you actually have new features and a mode worth your money. As with pretty much every iteration of Dynasty warriors has had their empires game, and now we have Samurai warriors 4’s instalment.
The empire games all follow similar patterns, here is your chosen lord, and clan, now go bash heads and slowly take over Japan. You have at the start a handful of officers with a few troops each, showing your overall strength, you need to slowly take over other lands by fighting, levelling up your characters and in turn their number of troops, rinse and repeat.
Though there are slight differences, as there are two modes to choose from;
The first is a more historically accurate version, Conquest mode, where you can choose a scenario from history, and battle out through those years, in this mode officers are correctly assigned to their clans, and you can use this to create your own army, sweeping through Japan.
The second mode, which is my personal favourite of the two is Genesis mode, where the officers are freely spread out, and each clan has a range of officers, and you start from an early point and move forward to take over Japan. This is a freer mode, where you can actually choose where to attack, how to develop your army, and much more interesting for me.
You can choose the officer you want to play as, and which lord you want to serve, you can either stay as an officer and destroy all enemies, or you can slowly work your way up to become a personal guard of your lord and become one of his most trusted generals.
There is a lot of strategy that you could potentially ignore in each of the levels, you can first take different formations into battle, each raising one of three stats, speed, defence and attack, this is a rock paper scissors kind of setup where Speed trumps defence, defence beats attack and attack wins over speed. There isn’t really anything more than luck available here to use, but you can use more than one in a level. Picking a winning formation can help you steamroll over a level pretty quickly, but if you are on the losing side you will have to be more defensive until the formation finishes.
You can also take up to 3 tactics, these are a abilities that can be activated at any time to give you a boost during the level, making it easier to take camps, making you have arrows surrounding you. Each can be used at any time, but when used in the right time can really turn a fight around.
Finally, you have smaller things such as friendships between officers will allow them to use duo muso attacks, to increase the strength of your attack. You can affect loyalty of your officers, as they can be bribed by your enemy and you can do the same to help you during a match.
You can also forge and increase your weapons, giving them different status to increase damage or defence depending on your playstyle.
If you enjoyed the playstyle of previous Samurai warrior’s games, you will not find much else here, there are little changes here and here, but for what I can tell the games are almost identical, only difference I can see is that you have some body guards following you, that level up as you increase, though it would have been nice to customize these guys.
Some of the new elements in the strategy of the game though is a bit vague, it felt like I was guessing a lot of the time to understand what I needed to do to activate a skill. I was also told of a shop pretty early on, but I did not know that I needed to upgrade my castle beforehand, and nowhere in the tutorial identified this to me as a problem, which was frustrating.
Graphically the game is pretty similar to previous instalments, there is little slowdown, and a very impressive number of enemies on the screen at once, which is what you would want in these kind of games. Though a little complaint is that if you do clear a screen of enemies, it can sometimes take a little while for the game to pop in the rest of the soldiers that you need to fight, making some fights where you need to capture a point much longer than they needed to be, and when you are under a time limit, it is frustrating. Characters are detailed and all special effects look great, but if you were hoping for an increase from the previous game, you may be a little disappointed.
Overall Samurai warriors 4 Empires is a great game, and if you are like me, and enjoy strategy games, but suck at grand strategy (Total war shogun) this may be the perfect way for you to finally capture Japan like you have always dreamed of. With great gameplay, interesting and fun strategy mechanics and game modes that will keep you busy for a long time, it is easily a great addition to the series, 9/10.