Samurai Warriors 2: Empires Review

If you’ve played any of the Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors games, you’ll know what you’re in store for with Samurai Warriors 2: Empires. Much like the Dynasty Warriors Empires game the 360 saw, SW2: Empires is an updated version of Samurai Warriors 2, with an added Empire mode.

The Empire mode is nearly identical to that found in the Dynasty Empires title. Much like the Dynasty line, Samurai Warriors is a game based heavily on historic events; unlike Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors doesn’t have quite the pedigree when it comes to source material. During the Empire mode, there are two types of scenarios: Regional and Unification. Most of the time you’ll be playing in the regional scenarios, conquering and securing each of the fiefs of a region. When you complete that task, you’ll move on to the Unification scenario, where you try to unite all of Japan though a major battle. Before each battle you’ll select policies, which give you varying benefits, and whether to invade or defend. To win the game, you’ll ultimately need to rule Japan.

As you can guess from the title, Empires takes place during the Warring States era of Japan, rather than the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period known in Dynasty Warriors. While this doesn’t really matter since the gameplay is nearly identical, this does mean there are different types of weapons and areas to fight in, as well as unfamiliar names. I’m not sure if it’s something specific about the era, but it seems like the weapon variety in Empires is vastly inferior to the amount of choices in Dynasty Warriors; most people have one of three types of weapons: sword, spear or naginata.

The ability to create an officer via the New Officer mode is present, but the choices are very limited and very underwhelming. Creation takes place in the form of picking from 13 different models, and then one of the three standard movesets (the previously mentioned sword, spear and naginata). The created officers are vastly inferior to the over-400 playable characters. The limited weapon choices make a lot of them identical in playstyle, and the limited number of models to choose from makes creation seem like a pointless endeavor at times.

There are some new features, though. For starters, you can now complete Musou combos with up to four officers, as opposed to the previous limit of two. Depending on how many officers are involved, you’ll get varying bonuses to your attack. If two officers perform a combo, you’ll shoot out lightning during the attack. Throw another one with them, and all opponents hit will be temporarily frozen in ice. The four player Musou attack uses a wind elemental, and can damage blocking opponents, making it a guaranteed hit on anyone in range.

To perform these combos, you need to have a friend nearby. Each officer has a varying level of friendship with other officers, and if they aren’t friends, the attack won’t work. What this means is that many times if you want to have multiple people in on a combo, you’ll have to track down and find out who’s related to who, as established relationships are always best.

You can also raise horses in SW2: Empires. While you can still purchase horses at the shop, if you own a fief with the trait wild horses you can capture them automatically. Horses have experience now, and the more you use a horse the more their statistics increase. From stamina to power and speed, your horse’s basic abilities can be vastly improved. If you level them up enough, you can even reveal special skills including quick bursts and special attacks. Horses will never be incredibly powerful on their own, but it’s nice to see that they’re viable to use once you become stronger.

Graphically, the 360 version of Empires falls far short of other recent titles. Koei hasn’t done much to improve upon the last-gen visuals, and it shows. Officer models look different, but they’re all very bland and lack detail. Common soldiers and bodyguards all look identical, and the terrain is blocky and very sparse. Surprisingly (or not, depending on your experience with next-gen Koei titles), the 360 version has choppy moments and slowdown almost as often as the PS2 one. Get two dozen (or sometimes less) people on the screen at once, and watch performance drop. Playing in HD looks slightly better, but it’s still not even par to most Xbox 360 games on a standard TV. The PS2 version looks good, but once again recent titles far surpass it.

If you love Koei’s titles, Samurai Warriors 2: Empires is right up your alley. It’s the well-established hack ‘n slash gameplay, but with a few new features thrown in. Sure, there are some strategic elements involved, but in the long run they don’t amount to much, and you’ll find yourself breezing through those steps in order to get to the fighting. Other than achievements, there’s no reason to pay an extra ten bucks to get the 360 version, however, as both are limited to 2 player offline co-op. For people looking for a solid title with a lot of replay value, look elsewhere. If you want a game to rent for a weekend and play with some friends, though, Empires may be worth looking at. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary, and get ready for a lot of repetitive button pressing.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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