IGN Review of Warriors: Orochi
If you can think back on one of your many gaming moments and recall a title that pits you against over seven hundred guys, you've probably played a KOEI game.
KOEI has been giving its fans a taste of insanely one-sided battles for many years now, with their Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games, and Warriors Orochi, developed by Omega Force, is bringing those two worlds together. A title that merges the characters of the two franchises to form a massive, blade-toting ensemble, Warriors Orochi allows you to gather a team of three warriors and jump headfirst into battle against the mighty Orochi and his demonic forces. And while this title has a number of problems, this entry in KOEI's lineup definitely has its moments and can be rather fun when taken with a grain of salt.
In Warriors Orochi, the aforementioned Serpent King uses his incredible powers to bend the fabric of time and space (which is never a good idea, honestly). In doing so, he gathers the heroes of the Three Kingdoms era of China and also the Warring States period of Japan, and squares off against them to amuse himself (we imagine). In this tattered and torn world, the various heroes must band together to triumph over the time-shattering evil that threatens to unravel the very substance of the universe. In other words, some bad stuff is going down and your favorite heroes have to step in and put an end to it. Not exactly an original plotline, but it gives you the motivation you need, so let's move on.
This title gives you the ability to build a team of three fighters (no more, no less), each belonging to a particular Attack Category, including Power, Speed and Technique. Each category, while for the most part similar, has a different emphasis and special category-specific ability to take advantage of. Power characters are generally stronger (of course), and are able to increase their attributes and execute unblockable attacks with the press of a button. Characters from the Speed category move faster, boast special jump techniques and can usually stun or quickly attack an opponent using their category-specific ability. Technique characters, on the other hand, are far more defensive, can counter incoming attacks, and they can use more powerful moves during their combos. Although there isn't an incredible amount of depth to this system, it certainly makes the subsequent button-mashing somewhat more poignant.
And yes, there will be button-mashing, but that's to be expected from a game of this type. Every character has a Normal Attack, Charge Attack and Musou Attack to use (along with the category-specific ability mentioned above), and you spend the majority, if not the entirety of the game, pounding away at those buttons. Warriors Orochi really offers nothing else besides this simple combat formula and you'll be sticking to that formula for a long time. Essentially, the game only has two modes, and they're basically the same thing. Story Mode lets you play through a series of scenarios from the perspective of four different military factions: Shu, Wei, Wu and the Samurai Warriors faction (Free Mode lets you do the same thing, just with any character you've unlocked, and without the story elements). Each faction sports eight regular missions and seven "side missions," though each faction follows just about the same series of events that comprise the overarching story. Don't expect anything drastically different for each military power - everyone will eventually square off with the same final boss.
Warriors Orochi has a handful of good qualities that we should mention, including the massive character roster (almost eighty to choose from). Although, as you may imagine, the characters can't be too unique when there's just so many of them to use. In fact, some of them are almost clones of one another, but the ability to unlock and team up such a wide variety of warriors is still very appealing and definitely stands as one of this game's greatest strengths. Mixing the different Attack Categories together in order to get the proper balance, and searching for your favorite heroes, can be surprisingly fun and satisfying.
Another definite highlight of the title is the insane amount of level-building one can undertake. Each character has the potential to reach level 99, and their weapons can be upgraded with eight different effect slots. Furthermore, characters can acquire team abilities that benefit all three warriors in your party, giving you another avenue of customization to play around with. In using these options, you can make some very specific, very powerful teams to take into battle and Warriors Orochi should certainly get a thumbs up for that.
Lastly, we should say that the fundamental idea of running through hordes of enemies and laying waste to all who stand in your way is pretty rad. Especially when on horseback, the feeling of charging through an enemy troop and cutting them down is absolutely entertaining. Furthermore, you can engage in all these semi-violent practices with a friend in split-screen co-op, which can be very entertaining. Unfortunately, this intrinsic premise doesn't shine so brilliantly under the weight of the game's flaws, ones that KOEI fans should be used to (and perhaps even tolerant of) by now.
The first, most obvious problem with Warriors Orochi is the story. For anyone who doesn't have an intimate knowledge of these various characters' backgrounds, this plot can be extremely convoluted. You'll be overwhelmed by a veritable cascade of names and places that all start to blend together until you've completely lost the will to comprehend the information, and you melt away into a bumbling, button-mashing heap. Besides this torrent of stuff that pours from the screen, you'll also be forced to deal with a horribly bland, mostly unoriginal story that's been told a thousand times over, in one way or another. We're big fans of Eastern myth, history and martial arts flicks, but that doesn't spice up the completely uninspired storytelling (including both the material and the method) that plagues every scenario we tried.
Another serious issue to consider is the graphics. The poor quality doesn't necessarily impair your ability to play the game, but it certainly isn't pretty. The environments are horrendously bland, character models are generally lackluster, and the special effects fail to impress. The PS2 version of the game looks awful, and doesn't even feature widescreen support. If you have the option of getting the 360 version as opposed to the PS2 one, we recommend you go for it, because the difference is painfully dramatic.
And while we shouldn't be too harsh on the voice acting for a game that doesn't rely heavily upon it, the performances are so terrible (at least for the majority of the characters) that it's almost too difficult to ignore. Half-hearted translations, nonsensical casting and oftentimes cringe-worthy deliveries leave this action game feeling like a demented vocal circus. We found that, if it becomes too intolerable, turning off the voices completely and reading the subtitles helped a little, if you don't mind a more classical narrative style. This is really your only other option, since there is a complete and mysterious lack of the Japanese voice track. We silently weep.
Lastly (and you knew this was coming), Warriors Orochi is just downright repetitive. Like the previous Warriors games, there's only so much fun you can have from mindlessly hacking and slashing through a bunch of brain-dead baddies. Although the tag team system is refreshing, we found that the combat mechanics were still on the shallow side of things, and didn't deliver a really exciting experience.
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