Koei Tecmo and Omega Force have finally delivered the long-awaited sequel, but is Samurai Warriors 5 worth the wait?
Samurai Warriors 5 belongs to a niche genre of gaming, something known as Musou. These are hack-n-slash games that give players the feeling of being absolute bad arses by having them carve through hundreds and thousands of enemies during the course of a single battle.
My first Musou game was 99 Knights for the Xbox 360. A mate left his copy at my house one weekend and being a 16-year-old kid with nothing better to do, I sat and played it the entire weekend. I loved its simplicity and how it was just so satisfying to sweep my way through crowds of enemies.
I’ve since grown up a lot and, unfortunately, I’ve grown out of a lot, too. I used to play the Dynasty Warriors games, though not obsessively, but I never played Samurai Warriors, despite being familiar with the sister series.
Samurai Warriors 5 is my first go at the franchise and even though I’m a newcomer, it’s instantly familiar. The core gameplay is the standard hacking and slashing through huge battlefields, racking up ridiculous combos and kill counts to match.
Even though I’ve not played a Musou game in years – our last Dynasty Warriors review was by somebody else – I was a proper warrior on the battlefield within a couple of minutes, slashing dozens of foot soldiers into the air wit eaase. That said, I was a little disappointed to see that in all the years since my last proper Musou game, things hadn’t come along all that much on the technical front.
The game is janky and the hallmarks of a typical Musou are all there. You know what I mean, right? Enemy soldiers materialising out in the open with the game not making any effort to hide it. They’re also painfully dim-witted. Often they’ll just stand around doing nothing and you can run past the majority of them without any trouble as they’ll actually slide around as you run into them.
I suppose with the game being built for standard PS4 and Xbox One consoles and not the more powerful PS5 and Series X|S, the safe option is to go with what works, so I can understand the reasoning, even if I don’t like it.
What I did like on the technical front was that performance was near perfect, though I must give a disclaimer and say that I did only play on PS5 – my PS4 Pro has been packed into the attic, and given that we’ve discovered we have mice living up there, I’ll never see that console ever again.
The graphics are also really nice and a breakaway from what Omega Force normally works with. Here, we get a nice cel-shaded/comic-book animation style and it works really well, complimenting the absurd gameplay, rooting it in the fantastical.
The story, though, is something else. I enjoyed the cutscenes but the way the story is presented means I struggled to follow the major beats. And given that my knowledge of Japanese is limited to “gomen’nasai” (I’m sorry) – a phrase I’ve learned in over a dozen languages, because I know I’m a fuck up – means I miss out on the in-battle dialogue, too.
Characters will often exposit during battles and for us non-Japanese speakers, we have to make do with subtitles. Normally, I don’t mind subtitles in games, but I found that here I rarely caught them because I was too focused on maintaining my ridiculously huge combo. Does anybody play these games for their stories? If you do, then maybe you’ll have an easier time following the narrative which follows Nobunaga Oda and Mitsuhide Akechi, two warlords who, at least from what I could tell, are secret lovers or something.
In one level they’re fighting each other. The next they’re working together. They’re gazing into each other’s eyes one minute, and trying to chop off each others head the next. I didn’t know what was going on with them, even though I got to play as both through the story mode.
Interestingly, the game offers two paths. One for Nobunaga, and another for Mitsuhide, with his missions that take place from his point of view opening up after Nobunaga’s second chapter. It’s a nice way to extend the playtime naturally, not that the game needed to be any longer than it already is. And long it is. But it’s also good fun.
The battles are a good challenge so long as you’re not playing on Easy mode, though there’s nothing wrong with that and I actually got about halfway through on Easy Mode before I pushed the difficulty up to normal.
Mostly, you’ll be given objectives like go and kill this person, go and kill these generals, kill X amount of enemies in a certain area and so on. It’s very simple stuff and it’s true to form. Where the game gets interesting is in mastering the combat and using each character’s abilities, and using the right moves on the right enemies.
What I didn’t like was that the game was constantly shifting its objectives around. It would tell me to go and kill so and so on one end of the map, so I’d make tracks to that location. I’d get halfway there and then the game would give me another objective back where I’ve just travelled from. There’s a lot of back and forth then, and this, alongside the boss battles, is what pads out the level length.
While I was playing the story mode I found myself wishing I could command an army of my own. I wished that there was a bit more tactical decision making involved. One of my favourite programs as a kid was a BBC program called Time Commanders, and it was basically Rome: Total War, and it put kids against each other as they battled with historical armies.
I think that Samurai Warriors 5 – and the Dynasty Warriors series for that matter – could do with a bit more depth akin to the Total War games. To be fair, Samurai Warriors 5 does kind of flirt with the idea with its Citadel Mode, which is separate from the story
Citadel Mode is basically a tower defence game where you need to protect your base for a set amount of time while enemy soldiers attack in waves. You can place your own units on the battlefield to help stem the flow of attackers streaming towards your base. I liked this mode for its one-and-done challenges and even though it’s not quite as deep as I’d have liked, I can definitely see it evolving to become something special.
Samurai Warriors 5 is a good time and even though I’m a newcomer to this series, I’m not a newcomer to the Musou genre, and I can say with confidence that if you’re a long-time fan, you won’t be disappointed with what Koei Tecmo and Omega Force have done this time around.
Samurai Warriors 5 PS5, PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Whether you’re a grizzled Musou veteran with the calloused thumbs to prove it, or a blister-free newcomer to the genre, Samurai Warriors 5 is a fantastic game to play. With more content than you can wave a battle-bloodied katana at, it’s a great value game that’ll keep you in the war for a long time to come.
- The comic book graphics really suit the game
- Easy to pick up and play for newcomers
- Lots of content across the game modes
- Combat is simple, overpowered fun
- Citadel mode has huge potential
- Typical Musou jank
- Too many ongoing objectives can be confusing, especially with the map indicators
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.