Warriors Orochi 4 review – "A great combat system struggles within a tired product"
| Warriors Orochi 4

It's all too predictable to roll your eyes and disregard the Musou games as basic "button mashers", a term that I still see used as a lazy pejorative.

And while their core combat might outwardly appear somewhat basic, the series has long offered a visceral, ridiculous, but oddly cathartic experience that few games have managed to emulate.

I mean, you could just mash the buttons, and maybe doing so will carry you through the opening hours of each game, but you'd be doing yourself a massive disservice by neglecting to experiment with the series' rolling combos and near-endless attack variations.

Warriors Orochi 4, a crossover of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, revisits that solid Musou template laid out by its predecessors, but ultimately fails to make any meaningful alterations of its own while simultaneously bringing the series' longstanding issues into sharp focus.

Hot take

I'm of the mind that many recent video game releases, including the crème of the crop, could do with a very liberal trimming down. In this grump's view, even Nintendo's beloved Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey suffer from a perceived need to throw masses of recycled gameplay ideas, needless space, and just general filler at us.

I'm certainly not the first to have a bit of a moan about bloat in video games and, in fact, doing so might appear to be a bit rote in 2018. But I can't deny that in the case of Warriors Orochi 4, this lack of self-control gradually grew from an annoyance to an outright plague.

For sure, it's easy to get lost in the propulsive combat, as you elegantly flow from move to move and character to character, often to the point where you may even temporarily forget how uninspired the level design and objectives continue to be - but there's a sickness here at the very heart of the game that can't be denied.

Frankly, there is an overabundance of content, and all it really serves to do is dilute what would otherwise have been a far more concise and effective action game.

Please stop talking

It doesn't take long to unlock dozens upon dozens of characters, all with their own skill trees, weapons, and relationships to develop.

And as much as some of us tend to focus on quantity of content as a positive in games, these constant unlocks cause definite harm to other facets of the experience.

For example, any narrative potential that the game shows is often suffocated under the sheer number of new characters that are constantly being introduced. I challenge anyone to keep up with who everyone is, how they know each other, and why we should care about them individually.

With that being said, my grievances with the narrative wouldn't have been such an issue if the game wasn't so intent on force-feeding players its convoluted tale.

Characters just love to natter incessantly, but many of those interactions are simply lost in the heat of battle. And, for some reason, subtitles are kept in a small box on the left-hand side of the screen, which only makes it harder to keep up.

The central plot itself starts out being fairly straightforward, even if this was achieved by having everyone conveniently forget the events of the earlier games. But eventually, in true Musou fashion, things become largely incomprehensible.

Lu Bu's disappearing castle

Visually - on the small screen at least - the game doesn't look too bad. However, when blown up on a 50" TV, environments have a tendency to look, well, a bit rubbish. I've seen entire castles pop in and out of existence whenever they so please, and it's made all the more jarring by the fact that the character models are actually pretty decent.

The game's framerate is variable depending on whether you're playing in docked or handheld mode, with the latter unsurprisingly offering the least stable experience, and there was often very little rhyme or reason to when exactly these dips would occur. That said, they're unlikely to become too bothersome.

These sorts of issues are compounded by the fact that the game as a whole just feels a little on the cheap side. Animated cut scenes are few and far between, and there's a pervasive ugliness to the menus and UI - both visually and in terms of usability.

In truth, I can't see many being able to go back to this after having played, say, Hyrule Warriors.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves...

The result of all of this is a game that still feels like it has both feet planted firmly in the past, having only made a few forced concessions for newcomers.

And yet, this one will likely still go down as a fan-favourite entry in the series, even if the very core of the game – its combat – continues to be frequently dulled by mundane mission structures, excessive distractions, and a story that can't help but buckle under its own weight.

Warriors Orochi 4 review – "A great combat system struggles within a tired product"

A disappointing entry that proves itself incapable of overcoming the issues of its forebears - Warriors Orochi 4 is, simply put, a relic
Cameron Bald
Cameron Bald
Cameron started out as an intern here in late 2018, then went on to join us as our News Editor in July 2019. He brings with him an encyclopedic knowledge of decade-old GamesMaster review scores and plenty of stinking takes on games, movies, and proper pizza etiquette.