***NOTE: Samurai Warriors 4: Empires was given to Dashing Nerds by Koei Tecmo as a pre-release review copy for the PlayStation 4. I would like to thank them for this opportunity to review their game and have had a blast playing it. This was the first time that I have ever played a Samurai Warrior game and I was very impressed with it overall. Great job!***
Samurai Warriors 4: Empires is available for the PS4, PS3, and PlayStation Vita. It was published by Koei Tecmo, known for the fantastic Dynasty Warriors, Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, Fatal Frame, and Atelier series. This title is the second expansion to Samurai Warriors 4, which was released back in 2014 and also had a revised version, Samurai Warriors 4-II, release in 2015.
Brace yourself for some amazing scenery in this beautiful and involved game. The part that I enjoyed most about Empires is that it is set in Medieval Japan, from the end of the Muromachi period to the Edo period of Modern Japan. If you enjoy the strategy of Fire Emblem, or time-trial combat missions, then you would enjoy this game’s style. There is so much that I want to mention, so I think it’s about time to get started…
There are two game modes–Campaign, which is where the story is told, and Genesis, which allows the player to create their own battles. Genesis Mode lets you choose a battle scenario, who is in the clans from all available officers, including custom characters, and the same settings that can be chosen in campaign as well. There is an option that has a completely blank map, which allows for complete customization of the clans and who is involved, while also deciding what the ambition will be for each clan. Wow, makes you feel like you’re literally running the country. Once the customization of the clans and scenario is done, its runs the same way as the Campaign Mode.
In the Campaign, The player can start in one of three timeframes in Japan. More become unlocked as the game is played through. While in one of these timeframes, the player can choose from many different Daimyo who occupy one or more of the 40 various countries scattered across the Japan map. Just imagine having to travel that distance yourself, yesh. That’s the advantage of it being a game!! The player gets to see various lands and battlefields as they fight for supremacy, or discover what that land’s ambition is. They may strive to unify a region, or gain alliances with certain nations.
Before Campaign Mode begins, you can change the game difficulty, import data of castle details, and unlock political directives. Character customization allows you to impact exchanges and appearances, such as whether or not you would like to execute opposing officers you capture. You can also choose a female officer in your playthrough. With the female officer setting, you can select from a cast of famous female officers. While in the clan selection, there is an option to add a custom character.
The Politics of Empires
Then there’s the next step, the political season!! At least it’s not as hard to handle as our elections; the player has full control as to who is in office! Couldn’t resist. This takes place during spring, one of the four seasons that are played through. There are three magistrate job types available: Development, Military, and Personnel.
In Development, the varying seasons hold a lot of directives to choose from. Cultivating in Autumn increases rice field production so that there can be supplies for the army to invade other countries. Investing, which is available in every season, increases the commerce (gold) that a territory can bring to your Daimyo. Inspecting your citizens and listening to them like a good leader will increase your fame. Or be a jerk and impose a levy on the citizens for 5,000 supplies. Hint: they will get very angry. Such actions result in a lost to fame. Then, finally, construct, which is very useful since it expands the castle and adds rooms that can host shops, increase military strength, and more options. There’s a tree system in construction, so some structures can only be selected if the previous base unit was chosen. Wow, that was a mouth full.
On to Military! There’s many options worth mentioning here as well. Recruiting is a useful, as it recovers an officer’s army by 1,000, in a way, healing your forces. Formations have a rock, paper, scissors aspect, with the names “fish” for strength, “wings” for defense, and “serpent” for speed. Then there’s fortify, which strengthens the defense of a selected castle that the player controls. Finally, basic tactics provide extra aid and challenges that the player can impose on the army from boosting time, increasing strength, increasing experience, and much more!
Then finally for this portion, Personnel! These directives help gain officers and increase skills. Employ lets the player gain a random officer to add to the army. Reward gives higher rewards of gold, supplies, or mounts (mount option can be chosen after getting the shop from the construct option in Development). See how intertwined this game gets?! Next is Instruct, which increases an officer’s leadership or wisdom. Fraternize–yes, this is an option– strengthens the bond between two officers and improve their condition. The final option that can be chosen is… Expel. With this, you can remove one officer from the army. Why would someone would want to do that? Gee, I don’t know…
This Means War
All done with choosing what to do with you politicians? Yay! Now let’s get ready for combat! After the politicking, it’s time for the combat phase. Makes sense, right? Here the player chooses who the clan is going to attack and which officers are going to go into battle. The officer in the first slot is the one the player will be controlling on the battlefield.
When choosing a target, a perk is that you can see the supply numbers, army strength, and gold the opposing clan has going towards the battle. When the cursor is over a territory, it displays this information, along with the strength of the enemy clan. Also, how much time you have to complete to invasion depends on the amount of supplies owned by the clan. Max time is 15 minutes and minimum time is 6 minutes.
There is a little more set up before going into the battle if you choose. Once a territory and officers are chosen, the next menu brings up a comparison of the player clan to the AI clan. Here the battle music, battle strategies, and even the officer placement can be changed and set, similar to Fire Emblem, actually. This brings us to the battlefield, where the mayhem begins. What the player wants to do is move from their start location to the red base (usually in a corner). In order to get there, smaller bases must first be taken to support the army. Beware! The enemy can also take the player bases as well, so timing and strategy must be used if playing on a higher difficulty. Smart AI on high difficulty provides a satisfying challenge.
Holy Customization, Batman!
Edit Mode in Empires is great if you enjoy creating characters or a team to play with. There are several options to choose from for faces, weapon, hair, body types, and even the armor. There are plenty of clothing combinations available between the male and female options. Some revealing, some not so much, but I can say there’s an armor set that has the look of a superhero! There is also an option to change the costumes of the Daimyo. This appears to be gained from dlc or by conquering the map with that Daimyo.
But there’s more to it than external looks. These custom characters come with lineage! Select compatible parents with whom they share similarities. And of course, choosing their family affects the gameplay as well. There is enough room to create more than 200 characters!!!
The Hidden Treasures
The Vault is a section that keeps track of all the unlockable content, including cutscenes shown in the Campaign or Genesis modes, biographies of the many different characters, and the wonderful musical scores from the battlefield. Unlockable cutscenes occur under certain circumstances while characters fight together, interact in the same room as magistrates, or fraternize dictation from the Daimyo options of directives. It only shows the characters that have already experienced it, so you’ll have to collect them all by having each character interact with all the other characters. Some are bonds of friendship, while others can be scenes of romance.
The biography section is filled with the information about most of the characters that are available. The most famous ones have their own section, along with a drawing of them to go with the info. There is information available in the biography section for other officers that appear, but they are not as fortunate to have a drawing of themselves displayed.
If you’re accustomed to a lock-on type of mechanic, you’re gonna have a bad time. You’ll just have to learn pay attention! Where are those enemy officers at in the sea of friendly and enemy units surrounding you? The names of friendly officers can get in the way of spotting your target. There is also a lot going on with the GUI setup on the screen, with the map in the upper right corner, character information in the bottom left, and the KOs in the bottom right. That, plus character conversations that occur at the top of the screen throughout battle, can block your visuals. The only section that doesn’t have anything is on the left and upper left side of the screen.
In Conclusion with a Victory!
There’s no question this is a very well-made game. The way the story unfolds is simple and functions very well with the gameplay. Everyone plays at different levels and pacing, so you’ll get a unique experience with this game depending on your tactics and characters. The main menu also has a section for downloadable content, so there are more expansions of this already extensive game to look forward to.
- Satisfying, Complex Combat
- Smart AI Opponent
- Simple Storytelling
- Varied Character Customization
- No Lock-On Against Officers
- Cluttered Screen