Taking place in the Sengoku period of Japanese history, and featuring many historical figures and scenarios, Samurai Warriors 4 Empires provides an atmosphere and a world that begs to explored. Filled with countless options and a ton of content, this repackaging of 2014’s Samurai Warriors 4 is a worthy addition to your collection if you love the Musou-style gameplay and the culture that this title embraces. However, if you’ve never been a fan of these style of games, and can’t deal with constant repetition and a middling story, then this may be a tale better left to the history books.
When you are welcomed to the title screen of Samurai Warriors 4 Empires, you are presented with a few different options. First off, you can jump into Conquest Mode, which allows you to pledge allegiance to a clan of your choice. Throughout the multiple campaigns, you help them conquer or ally with all others in their path, and “relive” historical battles, fighting alongside actual figures from Japan’s storied past. Throughout the campaign, you also take control of “castles”, where you assign magistrates, invoke diplomatic polices, form relationships, and help grow and conquer the land.
Alternatively, you can also jump into Genesis Mode, which allows you to take the structure of Conquest Mode, and customize it to your liking. Feel free to set conditions, relocate clans, and choose how you want to play. This mode allows you to rewrite history, and create battles that you desire.
One of my favorite features is that you can create your own officer. Take your newly created warrior and rise the ranks to bring glory to your clan, or see it become but a distant memory. Being a fan of The Last Samurai, of course I created my own version of Katsumoto. The sheer amount of customization is staggering, and the tools are there to create many of your favorite characters, if you feel so inclined. Also, the variety of weapons and armor available to you, each with their own set of skills and special abilities, provides a great amount of replay value and should provide a style for even the most picky warrior-to-be.
Once in the main game, there are two phases, Politics and Battle. In the Politics phase, you have a certain amount of actions to improve your clan. Do you choose to invest in the commerce of the area to increase gold production? Or do you sacrifice some fame to ensure there are enough supplies to contribute to your next battle. Speaking of which, when you are finished making political decisions you move over to the Battle phase. You are then given the option to invade other castles or potentially defend one of your own. When you head into battle, you assign certain officers and pledge a certain amount of supplies. These all factor into how strong your team will be and how long you have to win a battle. Do you sacrifice time and spend more gold to allow more officers to join your siege? Or do you trust in your military prowess, and choose to take only your most trusted officers, but spend more supplies to extend the time limit? These choices, and many more, are all up to you.
When it’s finally time to take the battlefield, you can do so with an enormous cast of characters. As you fight through the countless hordes of enemies, attempting to capture points on a map, you rack up combos and fill your special meter, in which you can unleash a devastating Area-Of-Effect skill to deal massive damage. The combat feels satisfying and challenging, but as with many musou-style games the repetition shows its face pretty quickly. You can issue commands to officers, and even switch between two characters if you raise their affection for each other, but these additions don’t really save the tedious nature that tends to set in. Each battle feels very similar, and the story beats between them don’t help move it along in any significant way. There are special occasions though, such as if you take certain officers who participated in a particular battle in “real life”, you will be rewarded with an extra bit of dialogue and conversation.
The game runs relatively smoothly, though I did run into a few bugs where enemies would keep popping in out of nowhere as if they were teleporting, which, if I have my facts straight, was not common in this time period. Also, the enemy variety is severely lacking. When you are racking up hundreds or even thousands of kills, seeing the same enemies continuously pulls you out of the experience.
Also, the castle management can be tricky to grasp, and you may find yourself with very little money and supplies to even participate in a battle. This forces you to be patient and play the political game, even though you may just want to continue to tear through enemy armies.
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is a worthy addition to the Musou genre, but doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting to lure in a new audience. If you are a fan of these titles, there is more to love and sink 50, 60, even 100 hours into. From customizing battles and characters, to playing through each clan’s campaign, there is a ton of content. However, the content that is there is not diverse or engaging enough to recommend to everyone.