Warriors Orochi 4 is the latest entry in the long running series of historically twisted hack ‘n slash games from KOEI TECMO. I remember initially playing these games way back in the early days on my PS2, when they were just called Dynasty Warriors and featured a large cast of Chinese heroes from legend. Along the way the games split, with a separate series – Samurai Warriors – running alongside the Dynasty Warriors games, until they started to merge once more to form the Warriors Orochi series. These games have lost all pretence at being historical affairs, featuring Serpent Kings, time travel, mystical realms and now, with the advent of the fourth game, the introduction of Norse and Greek gods into the mix. So, with this being the Ultimate version of Warriors Orochi 4, and the original base game initially being released in September 2019, I jumped onto the battlefields of a strange new world.
The story of Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is one of those ones which will make you sit up and take note. Zeus, the Greek king of the gods who is most famous for his complete lack of anything to do with Japanese or Chinese history, was bored. He created some bracelets in the shape of serpents – the Ourobouros bracelets – and then cast them into the world of humans. At the same time he created a parallel realm of sorts, where famous heroes from history were drawn together, forming two factions, as humans always do, and leaving them to fight. However, some received the bracelets from Zeus, or discovered them lying about the place, and as such their power was revealed: the bracelets had the power to deify the wearer, making them much more powerful and allowing them to access their inner power, as long as emotions were running strongly. Nobunaga Oda, the baddie for the first section of the game, has a bracelet and as such we have to take him down. However, and at risk of minor spoilers, he’s a mere pawn and when he is defeated the game then opens up to involve gods, demons and much much more. Now, I’m not going to go into the story of Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate any more than this, but suffice to say that Zeus is not alone as a god: Perseus, Ares, Athena, Loki, Odin and many more all rear their heads. In fact, the scene is set for an epic showdown.
Before I go on, I have to acknowledge that this game won KOEI TECMO a Guinness World Record – that of the most playable characters in a video game. And my goodness was it well deserved. Every mission you finish (and there are a lot of them, believe me) nets you anything between two and four new characters that join your team, and there are soon more than you can shake a katana at. At the last count, we were looking at something north of 170, and with teams that can be assembled to get special rewards, chopping and changing is encouraged. They are all divided into three basic fighting types too, which will help you divide them up again. Power characters, the bruisers of the game, rely on brute force to triumph, then there are those who prefer Speed and rapid attacks to overwhelm the enemies. Finally there are Technique type characters, who use targeted strikes to deal damage. Obviously the characters you choose affect the way the game plays out, so choosing wisely may help you. I have tended to ensure that I’ve had one of each on my active team, to get the best of all possible worlds.
But how does the game play? Well, every character has a Sacred Treasure that they can equip, which enables them to use magic attacks, but other than that it’s very much business as usual. You are usually found on one side of a very complicated map (more on that later) and your objective is generally at the other; between here and there are about a squillion cannon fodder enemies and a number of tougher, named officer type enemies. You have to hack, slash and sometimes even hack n’ slash through these swarms of enemies until you reach the goal, where there is usually a massive ruckus between the force of good and that of evil.
There are secondary objectives to be achieved as well, with goals such as assisting allies in their fights, and quite often if you fail to help in time the mission fails. The victory and defeat conditions are helpfully set out before each mission, along with optional “battle objectives” that give you additional rewards, such as gems that can be used to buy new weapon characteristics and so on. The action is a lot like the other games in the series, with multiple repeated presses of various buttons required to make progress, but this time the magic effects look very nice indeed; fire, water and electric attacks helping you clear enough room around you. With magical versions of the three main attack types and a Unity magic, which requires all three main characters and 3 support characters to cast, you’re never short of means to bring the hurt.
Graphically, and once Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate gets moving things are pretty good. There’s a variety of enemies to attack, and you’ll soon come to hate the Chaos Origin foes, seeing as they can only be damaged by magic and have a nasty habit of buffing those around them. Still, if you defeat one with a hit count of over 300 (something which can be achieved very easily) they will drop a Tear of the Gods, an item that will allow you to enter a rage state, doing more damage than usual. When characters on either side become deified, the effects are quite impressive; glowing with very flashy attack effects. Sound-wise it’s pretty much as you’d expect – swishing swords, clanging blocks, swooshing magic, and a lot of voice-over work. And I mean a lot; I for one had no idea that Zeus, Athena, Loki et al were all fluent in Japanese.
Warriors 4 plays well, even if there isn’t much in the way of impact to the attacks. Quite often it’s hard to tell you’re being attacked until your character falls over, as the vibration function seems a little bit hit and miss. And while we’re on the subject of things that aren’t really good enough in this day and age, the enemy pop-in is absolutely ridiculous. You’ll soon learn not to trust your eyes as you look ahead, instead looking to the minimap in the top right to see if there is any form of red shading on the map, indicating enemies. So many times I have run into an empty room, or down an empty road outside, to all of a sudden have 50,000 enemies pop into view and start attacking me that it isn’t even a surprise any more. Whether the engine that KOEI TECMO are using isn’t up for coping with the number of enemies on the screen or whether it’s lazy programming I don’t know, but the effect is annoying.
Also, the layout of the maps is usually needlessly complicated, and seeing where you are and where you need to be on the tiny minimap is very difficult. You can zoom in to the map but this has the effect of letting you see what’s nearby in great detail, at the expense of seeing where you need to be. Due to this I’ve spent longer than I care to remember in the pause screen, where there is a bigger map, in order to work out where I should go next. Other than those little issues the game is enjoyable, in a brain-out kind of way, and despite the repetitive nature of what you have to do it doesn’t feel overly samey.
The Ultimate part of the package brings a few new things to the table. There are new characters to find and recruit, including Joan of Arc and Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden games, as well as new weapons to be acquired. The best part of the whole Ultimate bundle though comes in the form of some new story content, both in terms of main and side missions that flesh out the world that the game tries to create. In the base game there were five chapters to complete, and the Ultimate edition raises this to seven, providing more insights into why things happened in the way they have. In addition, a new Infinity Mode is added, doing as it says on the tin, along with the ability to promote your officers up to nine times after they reach level 100. Just be aware that this will require a good investment of time and energy to get them as strong as they can be.
All in all, Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate on Xbox One does cram a lot of game into the package. With officers to train and advance, new weapons to find and upgrade, camp upgrades to be bought, and bond events between characters to manage and watch, there’s never a shortage of things to do. As such I have very much enjoyed my time with the game. Visual pop-in and map confusion aside, this game is a great deal of fun, and with so many characters to choose from finding your ideal team has never been so challenging. If you have enjoyed the previous games in the series, then this is a no brainer, but if you haven’t then Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate could well be the stepping stone you need.