IGN Review of Samurai Warriors: State of War
Koei's second stab at the PSP hack'n'slash action manages to be just as mindless as the first one and adamantly refuses to raise the bar at all. Just like Dynasty Warriors before it, Samurai Warriors: State of War presents a more limited version of the console games and once again lets opportunities slip right by it.
There have been some graphical refinements and gameplay changes, but the excitement of the original games remains solidly out of reach. If you absolutely need your Samurai Warriors fix on a train, a plane, or somewhere else, this is a decent reminder, but by no means is it a substitute.
The organization this time around is that of Samurai Warriors: The Board Game. Each level is laid out on a grid with paths allowing for travel through it as well as some fortresses and camps that can be taken over. In the Strategy phase of the game players can make their moves on the board. If they land on an opposing army, then there's a battle in a non-descript area with an enemy officer leading some soldiers or maybe a nameless major.
Just how well the players do in the action, such as a quick victory or lots of KOs, determines how many squares they can move in the next Strategy phase of the game. It's a novel concept, but it quickly becomes obvious that there are just a few different scenarios to fight through. Going on a mindless killing spree to see how many soldiers you can KO in 75 seconds doesn't pack so much of a punch when it's done several times in one level.
What makes a mockery of the strategy concept is that while the player controls the movements and fighting of the main character there is no control of the allied armies. They pretty much go along and do whatever they want to do and the most you can say for them is that they're pretty consistent in making bad decisions on the battlefield.
Armies will abandon a crucial base and be slow to return when an enemy is bearing down on it. Sometimes, even when they're in the adjacent square, they won't even make any moves to defend an important site at all. Several defeats can be blamed solely on the shoulders of incompetent officers. This means that the players themselves have to work extra hard, like an overprotective parent, to make sure that nothing goes wrong.
Running around the map to help out various armies can be done in the console games, but that's far from the case here. On the consoles, there's the ability to clean up one situation and rush off on a stolen horse to another hot spot. With the movement more limited on the board game map here it's impossible to race to an armies rescue. It can take quite a few turns to move across the map and by then the enemy might be on top of the home base. The only option is to memorize how all the armies will move in each map, which is surprisingly easy, as well as to use charms that can be earned in battle or found on the map.
The inclusion of charms that have a variety of effects is a novel one and is easily the biggest missed opportunity here. By picking up these special abilities, players can paralyze an enemy army, hurt them with a spell, heal an ally, and cause other game-deciding actions. But they're limited to being found in each map and since they can be random they make the strategy feel more like Chutes and Ladders than Stratego. Combine that with the brain-addled allies and there are more possibilities for defeat due to chance than should be here.
The biggest asset to Samurai Warriors: State of War is that the action of the series is still pretty intact. Those familiar with the different fighting styles of the 19 characters from the Samurai Warriors games will be ready to go right away. The graphics have been cleaned up a little from Dynasty Warriors and pop-in is less of an issue, but sometimes you still won't see enemies appear until they're five feet away. The camera system is still clumsy with just the ability to reset the camera while guarding. Doing so requires the character to stop running or fighting and thus a pause. Running in one direction, turning around in a flash, resetting the camera to see pursuers, and launching an attack is sadly not possible.
Expanding beyond the single-player there's an ad hoc mode, but players don't even get to play against each other directly. In the two game modes, up to four players can play at the same time and their actions will affect each other, but there is no direct competition and there is definitely no multiplayer co-op either. It does provide a bullet point for the box, but little else.
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