The Warriors franchise has been responsible for taking different anime and manga series subjects, as well as different periods of feudal Japanese history, and turning them into an action packed game; Warriors games are known for having stellar narratives and giving the player tons of action packed scenarios to play out in real-time. In keeping with this tradition, Koei Tecmo has created another game in the Warriors style that is based on a manga series from the late 1980’s – The Heroic Legend of Arslan – by famed creator of the wildly popular Fullmetal Alchemist, illustrator Hiromu Arakawa.
This is a ‘Warriors’ game to its core.
In Arslan: The Warriors of Legend, you follow the adventures of Arslan, the young crown prince of the land of Pars. Our hero is forced to flee his kingdom when his father – the king – is deceived, his army defeated, and his lands seized. The player takes on the role of Arslan and his band of loyal and devoted companions as they seek to reassemble the Pars army and fight against overwhelming odds to liberate the kingdom. The fast-paced tactical action gameplay of the Warriors style of game melds a spectacularly captivating adventure with a scintillating tale of greed, subterfuge and intrigue.
If you have played any of the Warriors games in the past, then you know exactly what to expect. Depending on the situation, you will be in control of Arslan or one of the other five party members accompanying him on his journey. You will face off against literally hundreds of enemy soldiers, an army comprised of foot-soldiers, Gatekeepers, Generals, Cavalry Lieutenants, Archer Captains, Assault Captains and level bosses, just to name a few, on some very large battlefields.
Those green streaks you see are the life energies that your enemies leave behind and you can absorb.
Missions are objective-based and usually have you targeting a certain enemy type, like an Assault Captain for instance, in order to open a gate so that you can proceed to the next objective. When you get to the end of the mission, you will usually have to complete another objective in a certain amount of time or face off against a level boss. You can fight every single enemy the game throws at you, but you can’t defeat them all; it is best to focus on the current objective. Sadly, there is little deviation from this formula, so it got to feel very repetitive very quickly.
In order to go into battle with the best weapons and the highest skills in your weapons mastery, the game incorporates a cool weapon arts leveling system. This not only allows you to increase the effectiveness of your weapons, but also increases the skill with which you use that weapon. Each character has access to a unique set of Normal and Power Attacks, a Unique Skill, a Chain Strike, a Special Move and the Mardan Rush.
This is what one of the Mardan Rushs looks like. During Arslan’s rush, everyone in his command rushes across the battlefield taking out anyone and anything in your path like a boss.
Normal and Power Attacks, the character’s Unique Skill, the Chain Strike, and the character’s Special Move can all usually be done anytime the player needs to use them. The only exception is the Special Move, which can only be used when a special bar meter is filled by dishing out punishment or receiving punishment. This isn’t hard to do. You can fill up fairly quickly, which means you can almost use the Special Move at will.
The Mardan Rush, on the other hand, is a special group attack that you can only use in certain situations during the missions. This group attack is different depending on the character you’re using. When you are controlling Arslan, for instance, you may gain control of every single cavalryman on the field and you rush at the enemies all at once while racking up huge bonus points, experience points and satisfying the current mission objective so that you can continue on to the next mission objective.
The environments are somewhat varied so you are not always looking at dusty battlefields all the time.
The visuals in Arslan: The Warriors of Legend are some of the most stunning cell-shaded graphics that I have seen in a long time. Every single one of the character designs are based on the anime series and you can see the care that was taken to bring this across in the game just by looking at them. The intro scene and the cutscenes looks like something right out of a Studio Ghibli feature, but when you get to the actual in-game visuals, you will be absolutely blown away.
Colors are bright and vivid and the designs of the characters is absolutely exquisite with each one having so much detail that you will wonder at how the game artists were able to capture such nuances with the cell-shader technique. While the environments are usually dusty battlefields, stone battlements and castle corridors, the anime inspired graphics will immediately suck you in and make you forget that you are actually playing a game.
The game pushes a lot of info at the player at some of the most inopportune times.
The soundtrack, sound effects and the voice overs are very polished and reflect an effort on the behalf of the developers to create an experience that is something special. The music that you hear during the time spent on the battlefields is upbeat and rhythmic, which helps to get you into the moment while communicating to you the severity of the situation that you are in. The sounds of your mount neighing in contempt as you pull back on the reigns, the explosion of a barrel of gunpowder or the cries of the hundreds of enemy soldiers as they are charging you from across the battlefield draws you in and doesn’t let go.
The voice overs are all in Japanese with English subtitles. Even so, you can still feel the emotion and glean an understanding of the words to such an extent that even though you may not understand what they are saying, you get their meanings anyway. All of this combines to create an environment where your senses are completely engaged and the real world falls away.
One issue that I should point out is how many of the instructions for completing a certain objective during a mission is given to you while you are in battle. This was an issue that I pointed out in my review of Samurai Warriors 4-II and which apparently the game developers couldn’t figure out how to remedy. My issue is, being that the voice overs are in Japanese, in order to understand exactly what they are saying you have to read the English subtitles to find out what your next task.
The problem is that, while reading the subtitles, you are actively running through a crowd of about 70 soldiers who are all trying to take you out while you are trying to get to one particular Captain to take out. If the voice overs were in English then this would not be a problem. As it stands, I would miss out on a lot of what was being spoken because I was in a situation where if I took my eyes off of the action, I would take a lot of damage from the soldiers surrounding me.
This is a still from the opening cinematic. This image doesn’t do it any justice so you will just have to download this game and see how beautiful it looks for yourself.
The jewel in this shiny crown is by far and wide the story in Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. While the gameplay is fun, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t present anything new to the Warriors franchise formula, which is fine because this is what fans of the series comes to take part in. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that I found myself wanting to hurry through the battle sections of the game to get to the next cut scene to find out what happens next. The writing is fantastic and it had me hooked from the opening scene. Japanese manga, and fantasy stories in general, are usually filled with emotion and puts the reader in moral and familial dilemmas that leave you feeling emotionally drained when you have finished reading. The same can be said for Japanese anime and this game has been able to capture those same qualities that should not be missed by fans of the multiple genres that is presented in this game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Hiromu Arakawa continues to astound
Challenge - 9/10
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Design - 8/10
+ Familiar 'Warriors' gameplay
+ Awesome visuals
+ Great soundtrack
+ The best story in a game this year
- Difficult to read and battle at the same time
- Nothing new added to gameplay formula