Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is my long-awaited return to the Warriors series. The series as a whole started in the year 2000, with the Orochi titles popping up near the latter half of the decade. This particular one is the expanded version of Warriors Orochi 4, with some additional side stories, characters, and other content.
For those less familiar with this title, it is essentially a crossover of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series’ with a more fantastical storyline. These are all 3D hack’n’slash games, where you need to defeat a number of generals and millions of their disposable soldiers. In most of the titles, these are generals somewhat based on historical figures but in Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate they also include more mythical figures such as Zeus or anthropomorphic bulls.
This title is the series’ ‘Everyone is here’ moment. It includes 177 characters, both from the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors titles, but also ones original to the Orochi spin-off and a handful from elsewhere.
If you have only ever played the more well-known Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors, the story in Warriors Orochi may come as a bit of a shock to you. Instead of being based on an admittedly less than accurate retelling of history, it goes full-on magic and myth.
The story opens with the gods causing realities twisting together to make a new world. Characters from various times and places have been transported there. We find ourselves finding Naotora, Naomasa, and Tadakatsu.
Nobunaga appears and starts conquering the land, using a mysterious power. He has recruited people, both from his own world and his others to join him. You decide to form an alliance, both to stand against him and to learn about the power he has somehow gained. This is while searching for a way back to your own worlds.
We soon learn that things are not as they seem. Throughout the story, quite a few different events happen but the most common event is defeating other generals on the battlefield and convincing them to join your side. After almost any level, you will find that you have at least a couple of new characters to play as.
While I wouldn’t say that the story is amazing, there are a fair amount of surprising turns and it kept me interested enough. It’s told in a nice mix of CG scenes and voiced textboxes. I’ve never found the draw of these games to be the story though, but instead the next section.
If you’ve played one of the Warriors titles before, there aren’t too many surprises in the basics. You run around a battlefield and chain together a mixture of normal attacks, heavy attacks and special attacks to defeat enemies. Despite this, you have a great variety of choices in how you do this, some of which are unlockable later.
I’ll talk about the special attacks first. You can use both Musou attacks and magical attacks. Musou attacks are pretty straightforward – kill enough and the gauge fills up. You can then trigger a powerful attack that hits most things nearby and depletes it. Magic attacks are a bit more flexible. You have another gauge for that which automatically fills up over time. You can use a few different magic attacks with this, which hit different types of areas. Some enemies can only be defeated by magic too. There’s also a particularly powerful magic attack that charges through combat and allows all seven characters to come together and attack. The amount of variety between normal and special attacks and how they chain together is really satisfying.
You may note I said seven characters before. It isn’t that you just play as one character in this, but you choose three main characters and four support characters. You can switch between your three main characters during gameplay. The characters not currently being used can take a break and recover, but I found the main benefit is to switch between different weapon styles, powers and to rack up some huge combos with a switching attack.
I really enjoyed the switching of the three characters concept. As you can play with any unlocked character, this lets you keep in a main character throughout as is always tempting to do (as my level 100 Naotora Ii shows), but still explore other playstyles. Admittedly the choice of support characters never felt too important to me, even if they do provide benefits.
The game is divided into four modes; Story, challenge, battle arena and infinity. I’ll focus on the story first, as it’s the main mode.
In short, you go through many levels, completing objectives. It has voicing both during and between levels to explain what is happening. You can do this in easy, normal, hard or later chaotic difficulty modes, as well as pandemonium mode which appears randomly.
One thing I’ll note and this may prove important to some who have played the series before – there is no focus on taking bases in this game. It’s all about defeating generals or occasionally completing other objectives. Generally playing through a level in the story consists of being told to defeat a particular set of generals and keep allies alive while doing so. There are often other enemy generals and other enemies around to optionally defeat too.
One feature I particularly enjoyed in Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate was battle objectives. Each battle had three optional objectives to complete, such as defeating a particular general within a time limit. Completing these rewards you with one of the game’s currencies. Completing all of them in the highest unlockable difficulty awards you with one of the most powerful weapons. I found myself going out of my way to complete these, even when I didn’t really need to.
Something I should certainly mention is the bond system. In short, when characters spend time together their bond level grows. This can allow for some extra bonuses in battle, but I really enjoyed the other benefit; seeing discussions between different characters, often who wouldn’t normally interact. It’s quite interesting to see and could only really happen in this sort of crossover game where allies, enemies and those who would never usually meet will come together.
As you go through the story, you can upgrade a number of things to become more powerful. Upgrading your camp requires currency, as well as completing certain conditions. Upgrading your weapons in some ways requires currency too, though it’s actually much more in-depth than that. You can use skill points to buy skills for your character too, which includes both simple increases in power as well as buying new abilities.
Again, all these upgrades were impressive in how it lets you customize your experience. The weapons in particular, as you can choose from quite a few attributes and make weapons which may set fire to enemies, knock them back or regenerate your health, amongst many other things.
The challenge mode is fairly simple. It has a few different modes, but you’ll either be destroying items within a time limit or defeating enemies as quickly as possible. This mode wasn’t anything amazing, but it was a nice change of pace. It lets you get some more weapon attributes too.
The battle arena mode I wasn’t particularly impressed with. It’s essentially a case of trying to capture all three bases, while an enemy is doing the same. It’s a very small map, quite basic and it’s almost impossible to play as it requires six players. On checking online groups for this game, even people active in the groups reported it as being very rare that they could find enough people online at the same time without arranging things well in advance.
The infinity mode is only playable after completing the main story. This took me more than twenty hours, even without counting side-story or post-story content, so players starting this won’t see it for a while. In this mode, you have to try and complete levels that become more and more difficult. This again involves unlocking characters as you go through, as levels and weapons carry over from the story but unlocked characters do not. In infinity mode, you may not be defeating specified generals, but perhaps completing other objectives. One example of this is defeating a certain number of enemies and then escaping.
This is essentially the post-game content to make your characters more and more powerful. The most straightforward way of this is by collecting special treasures to build the most powerful weapons.
On a final note about the gameplay, you can play the game in both local and online co-op. While the game is niche enough that it would be difficult to find people to play with by just going online and waiting, there are communities who play together. I tested the game with Steam’s remote play function too and it worked almost perfectly.
While I’ve been fairly positive about the game so far, I should note a couple of issues I’ve had.
The first is not particularly unexpected and only applies on PC – the keyboard controls are quite awkward. This is definitely intended to be a controller game and that’s no surprise. The user interface doesn’t change to show keyboard controls either though, which is a pity. Even more so because I know a previous game in the series has done it.
The other issue I’ve had is occasionally experiencing pop in with soldiers. I’m playing this on a very powerful gaming PC, well above the recommended specifications, but the draw distance seems quite short on occasion. I have turned all setting up to their maximum too.
One final one. I didn’t personally find this to be an issue, but I know it’s always said about this series and it’s true here too – there’s a lot of recycled content. If you’re a veteran of the series, you will be seeing some very familiar sights when it comes to levels.
Graphics & Audio
Aside from the issue mentioned above, I found the graphics to be reasonably good. The characters stand out as particularly well presented and some of the levels are visually impressive. There are the odd textures that stand out as if they belong to an older game on close up, but these are few and far between.
Audio in Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is a high-point personally. Again you will be coming across some familiar tunes if you are not new to the series, but the background music is still as great as it ever was and the voice acting is well done, though notably all in Japanese.
Overall, I really enjoyed Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate. There’s something satisfying about mindlessly mowing down thousands of soldiers and then using a variety of skills to bring down more difficult enemies. The story isn’t the most amazing thing in the world, but I feel like the gameplay more than makes up for it.
The sheer amount of content in the game makes it worth the price, despite it admittedly being a bit high. Keep in mind that I had twenty hours of fun just completing the story, not including all the other hours doing side missions, playing around in co-op and going through the other modes. That’s why I’m saying the following;
WARRIORS OROCHI 4 ULTIMATE IS RECOMMENDED
If you’re looking for something with a similar style of gameplay, but more anime style, why not check out our review of Utawarerumono: ZAN?
Many thanks to Koei Tecmo for the review copy.
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Nook has been gaming since the Amstrad and DOS. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.