Koei Tecmo’s Samurai Warriors 5 is a hack ‘n’ slash experience that is easy to fall in love with. The latest game in the Musou series features beautiful art and character design. The action speaks for itself when you see it in full flow. However, there are a few minor niggles that affect the experience.
Sengoku-period Japan is fertile ground for interesting characters and events upon which to base a game series. Nobunanga Oda, Mitsuhide Akechi, Mitsuki, Hideyoshi Hashiba and more carry the events brilliantly through the force of their personalities and their characterisation. Hideyoshi in particular has an infectious energy that permeates everything whenever he’s on screen. There are more than enough different personalities and motivations at play for everyone to find a favourite or two.
I like the structure of the story developer Omega Force has presented. Playing through Oda’s story and then Akechi’s after – which fills in more details and context for events you’ve already experienced, as well as new events – is an interesting approach. Focusing on the events related to these two individuals instead of covering the whole of the Sengoku period feels like a smart choice. However, despite the beautiful presentation of the narrated interstitials between chapters, I still felt like I needed a little more information than that which was provided. In particular, showing the year or date when the events were taking place would have helped me to keep track of how the story was progressing.
Each chapter has a number of stages, or battles, which you play in order along with some extra battles outside of the two main paths that focus on events from other characters’ perspectives. There’s plenty more to occupy your attention in the form of other modes and the ability to buy building upgrades that give you access to better items and so on.
The action in the battles is a veritable visual feast. Power attacks and special moves have a lovely style to them with detailed ink-painted animations that really allow them to pop on screen and draw the eye. Some moves even trigger their own full-screen character art panel at the end, which is a really nice touch. However, as I mentioned in my impressions article, the combat does lack a bit of impact. Landing hits doesn’t always feel as satisfying as I would like it too. This lack of crunch gives the impression that the combat is all bark and no bite; it isn’t but it hovers dangerously close to that line at times.
The battles themselves are fairly enjoyable with nicely designed maps and layouts suited to each one. Progressing through the battles requires the completion of objectives that pop up as the battle progresses. There are also hidden objectives that you might stumble upon as you fight your way across the battlefield. Battles flow fairly quickly, perhaps a little too quickly at times. One thing is guaranteed though; there won’t be a shortage of opponents lining up for you to pummel with your visually flashy attacks.
The frustration I have with how the battles proceed is that controlling the battlefield doesn’t seem to matter. Capturing the bases through which enemy or allied troops can enter the battlefield makes little to no difference in determining how the battles play out. If anything, the game design actively discourages the player from trying to clear the field of enemies and instead promotes focusing squarely on the objectives. That isn’t necessarily wrong; it’s just the design they’ve gone for. However it doesn’t quite sit right with me.
Ultimately – though some niggles dampened my enthusiasm for the game, in the end I had a great time mopping the floor with my enemies. So it delivers on exactly what a Musou game is all about.
Should you play it? Yes
Why… It’s a fun, action-packed hack ‘n’ slash title with some spectacular attacks and a swathe of enemies for you to mow down.
But… Be prepared for the combat to feel a little disconnected at times and the presentation of the story is a little disjointed.
Reviewed on: PC (Steam)
Developer/Publisher: Omega Force/Koei Tecmo
Playable on: PC (Windows), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Released: 24 June 2021
Our thanks to Koei Tecmo for providing us with a review code.