When I think of Samurai, I tend to think of honourable code and occasionally battles. I don’t think of hundreds of chained attacks in a one vs many (very many!) battlefield, mowing down vast amounts of enemies without breaking a sweat. This is what Samarai Warriors 5 delivers.
Samurai Warriors 5 focuses on two heroes predominantly, with each mission being divided across each of them. The campaign is a mixture of cutscenes and animated comics, all outlined with a hand-drawn inking style which looks very cool.
There’s a story here set in Japan’s ‘Warring States’ period, but the meat and potatoes are absolutely wrecking hundreds of enemy troops. Combos are fairly easily strung together using simple button presses, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was simply a button smasher type of game. In my first attempt, I managed a combo of well over 2000. That’s not a typo – 2000 consecutive, chained hits! It’s with this that Samarai Warriors is both very cool, but also can quickly turn into a repetitive routine.
On the battlefield, you’ll see groups of identical enemies all huddled together. Running through them often results in them being catapulted into the air or smashed around, as you manipulate the crowd close to another group, to be able to continue your combo. Mixing up light and heavy strikes gives you some variety, with Hyper attacks and Ultimate Skills rounding out your utilities.
Certain enemies will require certain attacks in order to penetrate their defences. This is good in a way that forces you to mix up your attacks, but if your gauge isn’t ready for a super attack, you can be forced to expand a killer combo and this creates an unnatural break in the action. For a game so depending on smashing hundreds of enemies at pace, it’s quite jarring.
Too much of a good thing can be bad for you, and I think that summarises Samurai Warriors 5 perfectly. Whilst it’s great fun, it does get boring pretty quickly, and I found myself wanting more story to flesh out the action, but I almost wanted it integrated more. Instead, hacking and slashing becomes the journey to the next piece of content that I can sink my teeth into, which was a shame.
Outside of the standard ‘go here, kill this’ approach, there is a meta-system behind the fighting. There is a Citadel Mode, which lets you smash enemies in a co-op in a defensive activity, earning resources which in turn can be used to upgrade your dojo and blacksmiths. These let you upgrade weapons and other characters – of which there are a vast number to play as (over 30!!) which adds to the variety considerably.
Co-op play further enhances the enjoyment, along with the complexity of the potential combos. Ultimately, if you like it to begin with, you’re probably in it for the long haul. I think Samurai Warriors 5 knows what it’s good at, and sticks to it (probably at a fault). Whilst there’s no PS5 version, it runs nicely on a PS5 and keeps ticking at a decent clip given the sheer amount of activity and effects on screen.
What you have, is a fun game. It’s probably a short-burst sort of fun game, but a fun game nonetheless.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4