Warriors games are like the fast food of the video game industry. They’re quick and simple, but oh, so satisfying. You aren’t going to McDonald’s for a hand-crafted four-course masterpiece of a meal, and you aren’t playing Dynasty Warriors for a revolutionary and artistically ground-breaking achievement in video games. Warriors games are there for you to scratch that primitive lizard brain itch in your head. Me swing big sword, me hit hundred bad guys, me make castle go boom. They’re cheesy, flashy experiences that embody the spirit of “quantity is quality”, and Warriors Orochi 4 is a prime example of the kind of 2AM Taco Bell drive-thru of a video game that I’m describing.
Dynasty Warriors games are already stuffed to the seams with content, boasting dozens of levels and 80+ characters. Warriors Orochi laughs in the face of those puny numbers by combining the rosters of both Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, as well as some original Orochi characters, to deliver a game with a straight-up offensive cast of one hundred and seventy-five damn playable characters! It’s a ridiculous number of warriors, and that insanity is only matched by the absurd reasoning for them all coming together.
The Dynasty Warriors series adapts the ancient history of China and the story of the Three Kingdoms, while Samurai Warriors follows the Japanese Warring States period that occurs over a thousand years later. Naturally, the actual Greek gods decide to smash both of these warring countries together in an alternative universe just to, like, see what happens. It’s a stupidly hilarious setup, but if you’re hoping for a story that’s in on the joke, you’ll be left disappointed.
Over the course of around 50 missions, characters will clash blades and exchange words through a handful of cutscenes and a generous helping of visual novel scenes. Warriors Orochi tries it’s damnedest to make sure every single character on the roster gets at least a few words in edgewise, but in spreading the narrative so thin, you never get any clever writing or entertaining dialogue that really embraces the absurdity of the scenario at hand. Characters develop relationship meters the more you play as them, which go on to unlock special bond scenes, but even these are far too brief and simple to be worth the effort. Plus, as is standard with Warriors games, hefty amounts of Japanese dialogue are delivered through small text-boxes mid-gameplay and are absolutely impossible to pay attention to when you’re in the middle of combat.
Unless you’re a devoted Warriors fan with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the series, it’s best to ignore the words and focus on what makes Warriors Orochi 4 truly special: the combat. When you leave on a mission, you’ll select three playable characters and four support characters to go into battle with. Like the million other Warriors games, you’ll be dropped into a huge map littered with thousands of enemy soldiers to hack and slash at. While earlier Warriors games had simple attack options that got old quick, Orochi 4 has enough variety that I never found myself getting bored or mashing out the same old combo.
For starters, you can switch between your characters at any time and keep your attack strings going almost indefinitely. Finding the most fun way to mix everyone’s attacks and maintain the momentum of battle is super satisfying. On top of your normal, charged and special Musou attacks, Orochi 4 throws in the brand new Magic system. This is an incredible set of 3-attacks for each character that gives them ridiculous, physically impossible abilities that absolutely embrace the ridiculousness of the franchise in a way I couldn’t be happier with. Summoning giant monsoons, kicking enemies into another dimension or causing giant multi-colored Power Rangers explosions are just some of the incredible abilities you’ll be able to mix in with your regular attacks. It’s some of the most varied and multi-layered combat I’ve ever experienced in a Warriors game.
On top of the meaty action bonanza of the main combat, Warriors Orochi 4 has a suite of light RPG systems to help you customise and strengthen your cast of combatants. Defeating enemy generals and clearing missions rewards you with new weapons, experience points, and skill points. You can then give your favourite character an elemental weapon upgrade or some boosts to their attack strength, or upgrade your home base to give buffs to your entire roster of characters.
The upgrade systems at play are a nice way to add some depth and replayability to the already hefty package, but I wish they were presented in a better way. Everything you do in this game is accessed via basic, bland menus. When other Warriors games have had flashy UI designs and explorable hub worlds, it’s a shame that Warriors Orochi 4 sticks with nothing but the basics. It’s infuriating late in the game when your full roster is unlocked but you have no clear way to organise or sift through the sea of pretty armour-clad warriors.
Performance and visuals are mostly solid, but hit some awkward rough patches. The game does it’s best to hit 60FPS as much as possible, and while it maintains that in almost every battle, awkward hitches and screen-tearing crops up a bit too often, especially during uneventful moments of exploration. The environments of Orochi 4 have beautiful, period-accurate depictions of war-torn villages and winding feudal castles, but they’re all rendered in a quality that is comparable to launch PS4 games at best. Character models are sharp and smooth for the most part, but a handful of characters from earlier entries in their respective series have some dusty models that stand out compared to the newer characters.
Despite rocky presentation and a ho-hum story, Warriors Orochi 4 has been some of the dumbest fun I’ve had with a video game all year. There’s always been something magical about sending dozens of foes flying with giant swords and massive spears, but to up the ante with cross-character combos and absurd magic attacks makes the whole thing even more fun. While the lacklustre story mode didn’t provide a strong hook for me to keep playing, I was driven by the swath of new characters I’d unlock with each mission and the new tools and tricks I had at my disposal when I went into the next battle with these additional soldiers. Warriors Orochi 4 doesn’t get everything right, but I’d argue it gets the most important thing spot on.