At this point, the Dynasty Warriors franchise is quite known. Players know what to expect, what to anticipate, and how the core experience will play out. Likewise, Omega Force doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, just continue to perfect the formula or at least keep it going. Over the years we’ve seen the mainline series, Dynasty Warriors advance and grow, with spin-offs showing they can further each entry. One we haven’t seen in a while is Samurai Warriors, but this is about to change with the release of Samurai Warriors 5. With a new entry in the beloved franchise finally in players’ hands, will it step forward like the mainline series or fall behind?
Like previous entries in the series, Samurai Warriors 5 takes place during the Sengoku period and adapts events leading up to the Honno-Ji incident. Those familiar with Japanese history, or at least played enough games to have a general understanding, may know this was when Nobunaga Oda committed seppuku, following the betrayal of his long-time assassin, Akechi Mitsuhide. As a result, the story focuses heavily on both figures, along with plenty of other familiar names, such as Hattori Hanzo.
Focuses on notable characters like Nobunaga Oda
As for the experience itself, it’s very similar to what we’ve seen from Omega Force in the past. Ultimately, it touches on what it needs to, providing enough fantasy and excitement to keep those otherwise uninterested parties engaged but it can be a lot to take in. Especially since these stories are generally told with a general understanding of the people following having some familiarity with the situations in question. But, for many it isn’t the story that sells the series, it’s the gameplay experience.
In its current form, Samurai Warriors 5 is in a weird place. While some new faces were added, the overall roster is reduced compared to Samurai Warriors 4. The core experience really doesn’t stand out beyond being a different version of Dynasty Warriors.
There is a leveling system, weapons drop with a variety of perks, there are generals, mounts, side objectives, and all the little details we’ve come to expect. There is a little bit more of a focus on defense, as opposed to a single combo that can bring an empire to its knees, but there is also very little done to prevent juggling or outright dominating enemies. It was actually kind of underwhelming to see how some of the AI behaves, largely due to enemies feeling dumber in this installment.
Even if there were seemingly more foes to kill, which went down flawlessly on my PlayStation 5, a lot of the AI was hardcoded to be in specific spots or do specific things. As a result, when I would juggle someone from one base to another, they didn’t want to make their last stand against me, they just wanted to go where they needed to be. When you do play as intended, with blocks and exploiting openings, it’s a very surface-level experience.
Often times it feels like both sides are dead set on playing with as little nuance as possible. Either you swing into their obvious defenses and just overwhelm them through sheer determination or they attempt the same and die horribly.
Plays like the game you love in a different art style
Like Dynasty Warriors, between the endless causalities there are quests and objectives. These are often killing this general or take over that location that adds meaning to the bloodshed. A willingness to do every task can increase your rank and rewards, though ultimately it comes down to ensuring someone dies, something is captured or something doesn’t happen.
Perhaps that is really the biggest issue with Samurai Warriors 5. The biggest thing that makes it stand out next to the mainline series is the sumi-e-esque paintbrush art style and a notably edgy depiction of one of Japan’s most notable historical figures. Beyond that, it’s the series players know and enjoy. This really isn’t a criticism of the franchise, it’s fun in its own unique way, it is just important to know what you’re getting into.
Samurai Warriors 5 Review Verdict
For better or worse, it’s basically Dynasty Warriors with some tweaks. Fans of the franchise will enjoy it, even if it is scaled back compared to previous titles, with those uninterested will remain so. Some of the modernization is nice to see in Samurai Warriors 5, as is some of the stylistic choices but at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel like it’s touching up a classic as much as releasing a sequel.
[Editor’s Note: Samurai Warriors 5 was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]