Reviewed: October 28, 2007
Released: September 18, 2007
Many gamers will remember fondly back to the early days of the previous generation of games – the Dreamcast, the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox – when our expectations were relatively low. The visuals suddenly became more lifelike, console performance increased tenfold, and developers’ ideas seemed fresh and new.
In those days, we saw a ton of cool game ideas emerge and then sadly, disappear; games like Airblade, Gitaroo Man, and GunValkyrie all made their appearance, and then disappeared into obscurity. And it was right around this time that a series appeared which wowed both critics and gamers with its massive battle scenes and weapons-based combat. While it was technically a sequel of a simple one-on-one fighter, Dynasty Warriors 2 was lauded for its amazing visuals and action.
It is ironic then that seven years later, the series has thoroughly outworn its welcome to the tune of a half dozen or more sequels and spin-offs – most of which (save the Tactics games) feature nearly identical gameplay and production quality of the original release. What was once the amazement of the gaming scene has become the series that makes most reviewers cringe with its mindlessly rehashed gameplay.
Koei has recently released a new addition to the series, Warriors Orochi. While not technically a Dynasty Warriors game by name, it is in every other facet. But does Orochi offer anything new to bring gamers back to the failing series? Read on.
Warriors Orochi blends together the worlds of the Dynasty Warriors series and the Samurai Warriors series, and pits the two worlds against each other at the whim of the mythical serpent lord Orochi. Whether on foot, or on horseback, the game sticks to the familiar mega-battle scenarios that have become synonymous with the Dynasty Warriors formula. For better or worse.
Ponder for a moment the following paragraph:
Slash, slash, slash, slash, slash, slash, slash, slash, slash, power move, slash, slash, slash, power move, slash, slash, slash, power move, power move, mower move, slash, slash, power move, power move, power move, slash, slash, power move, slash, slash, slash, power move, power move, power move, power move, power move, power move, power move.
Ok, now for the question; how many times did I “slash” in the previous paragraph?
The previous paragraph is dull and repetitive, and probably a bit too confusing and tedious to study at enough length to answer the question. And sadly enough, that paragraph – in all its confusing complexity – pretty much sums up 90% of the gameplay of any Dynasty Warriors game. The series is built upon mind-numbing button mashing, and that is all you get, hours upon hours of slashing.
Other than the obvious franchise crossover, Warriors Orochi does try to switch things up a bit from the previous games, by making the combat a three-person tag-team affair. The gamer can choose three characters of differing styles and specialties, and then cycle between the three on the fly. The result is a sensation similar to Panzer Dragoon Orta, in which gamers could cycle through the three different dragons (power, speed, agility) in the heat of battle.
While this mechanic does allow gamers to switch between character with particular specialties for power, technique, and speed – most gamers will simply exploit the health-restoring effect that comes when characters are not in use. The result is that most gamers can breeze through levels on the first attempt with little chance of dying. And by breeze, I mean in terms of difficulty only, since most levels seem to drag on forever as hundreds upon hundreds of enemies advance into battle.
As with any Japanese title of this ilk, the storyline is convoluted and confusing, especially to those gamers (like myself) who have little background, much less any interest, in either the Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors series of games. A sensible storyline might not have saved this game in the end, but it definitely could have helped develop some level of emotion that could have lent a bit more meaning to the mashing.
Visually, Warriors Orochi looks exactly like any of the Dynasty Warriors game from the last generation of consoles. I know reviewers are always using the “last-gen” comparison for the current-gen titles, but the argument really rings true with Orochi. The blotchy textures, the choppy animations, and the pixilated characters all look exactly like they did on the old Xbox – which itself was nothing to write home about way back when.
The backgrounds are lifeless and unexciting, with plain-Jane objects, buildings and foliage scattered around. Pop-up is a major issue, with not only background structures suddenly appearing out of nowhere, but also the throngs of enemies – while this may actually be a result of spontaneously spawning AI, it just looks bad.
I will say that the playable character models are fairly detailed and fluid – but for any gamer who has laid their hands on one of the similarly themed Otogi games in the past few years, Orochi just does not measure up.
The sound quality is actually surprisingly solid. Sure, the voice acting is about as genuine as a three-dollar bill, but at least the developers made a conscious effort to localize the game for western gamers.
As one would expect from a button masher that tasks gamers with slashing hundreds of onscreen enemies, the sound effects and quotes tend to get recycled heavily. And by heavily, I mean hundreds of times throughout each scene. Still, if you can look past all the cheesy one liners and goofy dialogue, the thematic background tracks fit nicely with the action, and the sound effects are actually quite decent.
For gamers who want to mindlessly hack and slash through thousands of enemies for hours on end – gamers who are not particularly looking for anything but a rush of adrenaline and a sore thumb – then Warriors Orochi is right up their alley. There are literally hours upon hours of brainless whacking to be found in this little disc.
But for those gamers who seek a deep gaming experience, Warriors Orochi just doesn’t cut the mustard. There is very little in the way of variety, and poses very little challenge overall. Really, the only reason the game last so long is that the levels are so darn time consuming – just one of the battles might last upwards of an hour. It would not be bad if the hour at least involved something other than slashing, but it just goes on and on.
With all respect to the developers and publishers, I hope the gaming world will finally help put an end to the Dynasty Warriors franchise with Orochi. While the game can be fun in small doses, the countless hours of hacking and slashing required to complete the levels is enough to drive a gamer batty.
The Dynasty Warriors formula has served us all well over the years, now it is time to move on.