Would You Rather…
I don’t know what’s worse: playing a game that is bad, but at least it made me feel something and therefore comes off as memorable in some way, or playing a game that isn’t bad, but it’s not good either. An experience so empty, forgettable and middle of the road where after playing it, I don’t feel anything at all. This was my experience with Samurai Warriors 4 Empires, a game that felt like one of those generic looking parodies of video games that you see in the background of a sitcom or in a Simpsons episode.
Feeling the way that I do about this game is quite a sad thing for me, considering that I’m actually a big fan of the “Musou” genre of games, like Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors, One Piece: Pirate Warriors and any other game that either has the word “Warriors” on it or involves one person with the capacity of destroying small villages worth of identical looking people in a 10 yard radius. In Japan, this genre is so common and popular that it’s like talking about the First Person Shooter genre in North America, which I think is a fair comparison, since that’s how I felt like when playing this game. I felt like I was playing the Japanese equivalent of one of those flat FPS game that feature buff white military men that have to fight terrorism or something, forgotten about as soon one puts the controller down.
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is a “Musou” game that is very, very loosely based on Japanese historical events from the 1500s. I want to be clear about how loosely based it is, since other than having characters with names like Masamune Date and Nobunaga Oda, the characters and setting could’ve easily been changed with anything else and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Each of the characters and the things they are capable of are so far removed from actual history that it makes me wonder if it would’ve been a better idea to just come up with their own original thing instead of using someone’s real life name and slapping it on to a guy that looks like Dracula and Balder from Bayonetta 2 put together, spouting off generic lines like “I’ll show you how fearful I really am” or “This is just the beginning” and other such phrases that blend with the background noise of the game.
Speaking of the dialogue, I feel the need to describe the irony in how this game is somewhat based on historical events and yet this game feels like it has absolutely no story at all. Sure, you have an entire map where you can choose your clan, each with their own “ambition” to strive for, but all of them feel like you are choosing exactly the same thing, but with a different looking banner. This even goes as far as activating exactly the same cutscenes every single time. Even when you access the Vault, which is this game’s gallery mode, you can select whatever character you want to become the puppet of whatever incredibly short-lived cutscene you wish to see. To make my point stand stronger still, there is a character editor in the game where you can take your own creations and flat-out replace which ever pre-established character with whatever you made, which goes to show how much these character’s names and likeness actually matter. From what I can gather, it doesn’t.
No Point To This Sword
Now that I’m on the topic of things that don’t seem to matter, the game has two more game modes called Conquest and Genesis Mode. These modes are pretty much the meat of the game where most of your time will be spent. Sad to say that both these modes are essentially the same thing, except one has customizable scenarios while the other one doesn’t. When you select a clan to play as, you are given a castle where you have a clan leader, an advisor and magistrates that manage different aspects of your territory such as money, fame and military. You get the opportunity to decide what policies you wish to implement, which makes some numbers on the screen change, but there never truly seems to be any kind of visible or apparent changes based on your decisions, since you will almost always have more than enough resources to invade other clans without much of a problem.
This is what I’m getting at with this game. Most of the things that you decide on, the characters that are involved, the setting, the enemies and even the clan you choose at the beginning never seem to matter. No matter what you do, it always boils down to doing the same mundane thing of mowing down rivers of enemies with most of the fun factor of other Musou games taken out. To make matters worse, if there is no story, character progression or interesting characters to push you forward, it all feels more like a boring chore than anything else.
For Better or Worse
With all of that said, I would like to wrap up by saying that this isn’t a bad game, but rather an empty one. There is nothing outstanding or memorable about this game, which to me makes it worse than a bad game where at least I’ll find something to remember it by. For a game that looks like you’ll spend many hours playing to unlock everything, I feel like I’ve seen everything I’ve ever needed to see in about 6-7 hours and probably won’t play it again after I finish this review.
If you wish to play this game or any other game of this style, I recommend you don’t play this and start taking a look at other offshoots like One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, Hyrule Warriors and even the Senran Kagura games, because most of those are made by the pretty much the same people and are much more fun that Samurai Warrior 4 Empires.