Samurai Warriors 2 is back with the added tag “Empires” to its name, offering a more strategic gaming experience for hack and slash fans the world over. It might seem like yesterday when Samurai Warriors 2 was released yet KOEI have embarked on giving fans of the series an updated game. KOEI have been making these types of games for a number of years, of which additions have been made to the basic formula they started out with. However as I already said Samurai Warriors 2 was released at the end of last year and so what differences does Samurai Warriors 2 Empires have to warrant a purchase especially if you aren’t the biggest of fans for the series?
Samurai Warriors 2 Empires (SW2E) takes place in ancient Japan around 1500-1600 AD where the task of the player is to unify Japan by taking over various regions on a map. The regions are controlled by other warriors who also would like to have complete reign over Japan and so your task is to battle the opposing forces using a roster of many characters. In between the actual fighting and I guess this is what separates the play style from previous Samurai Warriors games is the use of various tactics to improve your chances.
Anyone who has played Dynasty Warrirors 5: Empires will immediately be familiar with the way the game plays as it’s pretty much identical here. For those unfamiliar then there is seemingly a lot to take in. To begin with, you control only one territory and so a decision early on is to decide whether to attack a neighbour or build up resources first. Players gain gold from areas under their control and so more areas under your control means more money for spending on policies and tactics. Policies/Tactics are like cards which cost a certain amount of gold to use and will aid you with the underlying factors of managing your army.
Between the fighting players can choose from various policies which range from spending money on troops, weapons upgrades, defence and even recruiting more officers (characters to play as). These are just the basics as there are quite a number of policies to gain and thus use to aid you. Managing your funds is the real importance here as over spending can leave you with less troops on the battle field.
The Tactics cards are a little different in that they can be used prior to battle and will often grant you an edge. The tactics range from having a squad of ninjas on your side to drafting in peasants to help. There are many of them to discover and are a valuable component to the actual fighting.
I think once players get a basic grip on the policies and tactics by simply experimenting and playing they do become less daunting and more a useful tool for progression. The game actually lets you delegate responsibility to one of your officers should you find it too much for you which is sure to please fans who simply want to get stuck into the fighting.
The fighting, which is the game’s mainstay is pretty much the same as Samurai Warriors 2 whereby players can choose an officer from your clan and then head into battle alongside other AI controlled officers. The aim is to either capture the enemy’s main camp or defeat the commanding officer. To do this, players must take over bases so that a clear supply path leading to the main camp is available. Capturing bases is a pretty simple affair which is basically kill every Captain inside the base; there are usually four to six of these guys and are pretty easy to take down. What is more, the surrounding troops will run away should their Captain be killed. It’s not an over drawn process and due to the speedy nature of the game works well ; sometimes taking seconds rather than minutes to accomplish depending on your play style and skill. The same goes for the battles in general where depending on your playing style can last the full allotted 30 minutes or be over in just a few.
The actual combat is different in terms of what character you are using and more importantly what weapon they have equipped. There are two main attack buttons X and Y with additional super attacks being performed once a special gauge has been filled. Combos are very easy to do and as characters level up so do their skills and combat moves. As with all games of this type there is never a short supply of enemies to slash and beat up as the fairly large maps have plentiful on screen enemies. Although as with many games in this genre, in combat situations there are many enemies that simply stand there and do nothing as you hack and slash away.
Samurai Warriors 2 : Empires features a few game modes and scenarios to unlock and play. The empires mode is the main mode of play for unlocking the game’s extras and of course has more of a story element to it. The other modes such as Free mode allow you to get stuck into any battle with player created characters and officers from the main game. There is also a handy archive section which reveals all of the unlocked content in the game and allows you to view movie sequences and images as well.
Again there has been no visual improvement from what I can tell from Samurai Warriors 2 which in my opinion is still under par for what Xbox 360 can handle. The character models are all very distinctive, especially for the Generals and are modelled fairly detailed and animate smoothly. It is however, the actual levels themselves which lets the game down as some very basic textures are used creating an overall lack of detail and polish to the environments. One can always argue that due to the high numbers of on screen characters the game features means that something has to give in other areas of the game. This is no doubt true but still doesn’t deter from the fact that the game could look better.
During my play time I noticed very few instances of slow downs and no screen tearing issues. In general the game runs very smoothly meaning you are left to focus on the more important stuff like having fun, rather than complaining.
Once again the soundtrack is pretty similar to Samurai Warriors 2 and in some cases features the same music. The flavour is usually fast paced madness coupled with traditional Japanese elements. I think it works well but is something you’ll either love or want to switch off. For the speedy nature of the game I would say the music is suitably fitting.
Other sound effects are as you would expect featuring sword clashes and slicing of enemies mixed with cries and moans from the vanquished. The voice actors return adding some personality to proceedings in what sound like very typical performances all round.
Samurai Warriors 2 Empires isn’t a short game and with several levels to play, difficulties to choose and armies to beat in both the Empires and Free modes means that gamers can spend a long time here. What is more, players can link up with a friend and play co-op or versus split screen for added longevity. Sadly there are no Xbox Live options.
Samurai Warriors 2 Empires takes the hack and slash formula and adds a touch of tactics to the game, perhaps to break up the somewhat repetitive nature of the combat. It certainly works and adds an entirely new level of depth if you are seeking such things. If not then luckily you can pretty much ignore all of the fiddly stuff and get stuck into the what you paid for. Although the actual combat is nothing new and in all honesty you could be playing any of the Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors games and not really tell the difference. If you purchased Samurai Warriors 2 not so long ago then you might feel a little short changed as their isn’t really much more on offer here to separate the two games when you get down to the heart of the gameplay. That said, if you are a fan of the series then obviously this is a welcome addition and one that will most certainly keep you entertained until the next game comes out. Samurai Warriors 2 Empires offers lots of characters to play with, plenty of options for added depth and finger numbing action. If you have never played any of these games before then Samurai Warriors 2 Empires would be a good start. Empires is a step in the right direction for these types of games yet I can’t help but feel like there should be more to spice things up a little; especially in terms of the game’s combat.