Advisory: I know nothing of the Dynasty Wars, Warriors or Orochi canon.
Ok, I said it, I am ignorant of this series. I’ve seen them, I’ve heard of them, but I have never fully engaged. There may have been a dim past, where I dabbled briefly because I loved the idea of wading through an army with my magical katana, but the button mashing reality was not for me.
So, here we are many years later, there is still some mystical story at the throbbing heart of this game, but like so many narratives it passes me by. The wealth of characters and their emotional ties or motivations are too much for my puny human brain. I like the skip button, I really don’t care about who has the most honour, just throw me out and give me a flashing objective to run at.
Let’s do the basics, each level is a multi route map choc-full of enemies, thousands of them, literally. Your team of super warriors will have a number of side objectives to achieve, but the main one will be Victory against an equally super powered leader. There is generally story to back this up, but it has more soap that Neighbours.
The mechanics are deceptively simple at the outset, mash your attack buttons and build a combo meter. As the meter(s) rank up you get the chance to unleash various style of attack depending on your character, the meat on these bones is however being able to swap between your deployable characters. Pre-battle you pick your team and swapping between them on the fly gives you access to their own weapons or skills, but also swapping at the right time, primarily being during a Rush attack will cause some kind of magical tornado. This tornado can rack up huge damage as it gathers enemies and can be kept going by continuing to swap characters.
For the first battle or two, the game seems quite limiting and listless, trying to build up hit counts in the chaos and keep an eye on the objectives feels like busy work. Then a chapter later, once more interesting characters start to be introduced your roster expands, weapons and loot start to appear, the essence of building a team with a support crew, adding levels to characters and making upgrades to your ‘base’ that essentially provide buffs. All these things suddenly make the game more interesting and where the combat was feeling like a chore, it actually becomes more relaxing.
Once your eyes and brain can accommodate the madness on the battlefield it starts to make sense, timing certain attacks, favouring certain combos or magical powers over others. Then once the big meter is full, unleashing a full power attack from your reserve characters, effectively decimating whatever is in your way like a magical Smart Bomb by a mystical Magnificent Seven Samurai, the eighties kids will understand.
It’s safe to say, I still don’t really know much about the record breaking 170-odd playable characters characters or their motivations, but I have started to like my favourites and have a feel for how to best use them. Warriors won’t be a game I will play for a long time, but it is a satisfying diversion now I see more of what is going on in the chaos and feel that I actually have some control over it. I see myself going back to it when I want a quick switch off half hour and that will last as long as I don’t need the space on my hard drive.
People can change.