Warriors Orochi 4 (WO4) is the latest entry in the “Warriors Orochi” series from publisher Koei Tecmo for Switch/Xbox/PS4/PC. It’s a fairly standard Warriors style game at first play, jumping you right into the action with very little fanfare.
New comers to the series in particular (this humble reviewer included) may find the story a bit on the impenetrable side at first, with a cast that very rapidly fills out to over 170 playable characters and a fairly heavy leaning on the previous games plots. It does trickle the story to you in bits and pieces as well as some helpful loading screen cards, but it does lean more heavily to returning players having a bit more knowledge to really understand what’s going on. That being said, following the plot is hardly essential to a warriors game.
It deviates little from the standard “warriors” game formula, smash your way through hordes of weaker opponents often hundreds at a time on screen (a most impressive feat for the switch especially) with the goal of most missions being to eliminate key “boss” characters on each map.
Smashing together the cast of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, it does have to somewhat merge the abilities from the two games with DW characters retaining the Musou attack (but lacking the secondary one) and SW characters retaining their hyper attacks but losing their specials from their main game. The game does introduce a new “Magic” system based on a series of Sacred Treasures that each of the various characters have access to, some of which charge you forward on a wave, others acting as a giant lasso to round up and send enemy groups airborne.
Handily the magic system also doubles as your mount summon, letting you zip around the battlefield on horseback to get from one fight to another dishing out some occasional damage to minions but mostly just barging them out of your way. It remains a lot easier to fight on foot for the better part of the game, but some quick travel around does alleviate some of the stress of battlefield management.
You take control of a party of three characters picked out of the ever-expanding roster as you play through the story mode, with characters split into three different classes; Power, Speed, and Technique. Each has their own play style with enough variations between characters that the majority do feel unique, however, the magic system does let this down a little as there seems to be a limited array of relics and thus spells, so you will often find yourself using the same spells regardless of character choice.
Controls for the game are super simple to pick up and learn, a single button for your basic attack, one for your charge attack and one for your Musou attack with simple combinations of the first two allowing for some very flowing combos and keeping the pace of gameplay moving, you feel like a powerhouse from the very first mission with very little effort. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity though as it leads into quite a complex array of combos and juggles as you progress through the game and unlock more abilities, a “Simple to learn, hard to master” style of game if you will.
Playing through the game on standard difficulty gives you a decent enough challenge without having to spend too much time grinding to keep characters sufficiently powerful but as the roster expands it can get a lot tricker to keep track of who’s who and at what level. The game does have a quick party type assembly that automatically fills your party with the three characters that would be present for what could be called the “canon” version of the mission, but you aren’t restricted to using just the three it suggests, you are free to play with whomever you’ve unlocked so far.
Despite the enormous roster, character management is surprisingly easy to do, as each character’s inventory is unique to them. You don’t need to wade through pages and pages of gear trying to find the one weapon for that one character. The same goes for applying skill points earned through the match.
The game does try and keep items collected from battle unique to whomever you happen to have in party with only the occasional rare item for other characters popping up, further streamlining item management just a bit.
The downside to all of this is it is very easy to have three characters in particular well above the story level and a host of others left languishing at level one which can leave you in a bit of a lurch and needing to go back and grind out some gear/xp for when you find yourself suddenly in need of said low level character.
Graphically the game holds up surprisingly well on the Switch both docked and in hand held mode. Despite the obvious processing power difference, it still manages to cram hundreds of enemies on screen at a time. If you start getting heavy on the spells and specials as well as having a boss or two around then the game can chug a little bit, compensation for this seems to occur by dropping out some of the generic mobs so you will sometimes find the battlefield weirdly empty. At least until you flick the camera around and it loads in some more. That being said, it wasn’t anything near bad enough to stop me playing or enjoying the game at all.