Last year, Koei decided that having two different franchises based around the same engine and premise wasn't enough. It needed a third, and thus it was that Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors were merged into a whole "new" IP, Warriors Orochi.
The premise was simple -- a demon bent time and space to bring together the soldiers of Sanguo era China and Sengoku period Japan. Cao Cao starts hanging out with Nobunaga, Zhao Yun and Yukimura Sanada become best friends, dogs marry cats and button mashing shenanigans ensue.
As a lover of all things Warriors, I enjoyed it a lot, especially the PSP version, but I was surprised to see that the game I believed was bookending the last-gen Warriors titles had a sequel in the works. Why I was surprised, I have no idea -- this is Koei we're talking about, after all.
So, Warriors Orochi 2 is soon to be released, and I have spent the last few days making my thumb sore as I hack n' slash my way through it. Read on to find out how I got on ... and prepare yourself for a shock.
Warriors Orochi 2 (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PS2)
Orochi has returned to plague a land inhabited by Chinese generals and Japanese samurai, resurrected by his demonic stragest Da Ji and a sinister mystic by the name of Kiyomori. Once again, the Dynasty Warriors and the Samurai Warriors must unite to fight off the Serpent King while talking about honor and might and saying things like "I'm feeling ready for a serious scrap."
As is the way with Warriors games, the story does the bare minimum needed to get the point across before throwing you into the action. While I don't play a Warriors game for the story, I must admit that with this sequel, Koei's Omega Force had a chance to craft something a bit more interesting than simply "here are some guys, here's this guy, make these guys kill that guy." There are five story modes, one for each of the Three Kingdoms, one for the Samurai and a brand new story revolving around Orochi himself, but the chance to tell a good tale with any of them is not taken.
Still, Warriors Orochi 2 isn't about storytelling, it's about hack n' slash, and this time around there are an obscene amount of characters to mash buttons with. As well as the usual DW and SW crowd, WO2 includes all the characters from Samurai Warriors 2: Xtreme Legends along with six brand new characters. For Warriors fans, that's a staggering amount of content, and each of the characters can be leveled up and have their own weapons to choose from.
On the subject of weapons, weapon fusion has returned from the original Warriors Orochi, a neat little system which allows you to combine the various properties and strenghts of obtained weaponry to create a new and stronger one. It's not exactly deep stuff, but it's fun nonetheless. In addition to weapon fusion, you can also find treasure on the battlefield and use it to create new skills for your characters and weaponry.
All this is fine and dandy, but the game's main draw, as it has been for years, is in the one-versus-all battlefields and unfortunately, this time around I have to confess that I disapprove. Yes, the biggest Koei fan in the gaming press actually disliked playing Warriors Orochi 2, and I'll tell you why.
This game has the worst slowdown issues I have ever seen in any game. I'm not just talking Warriors games, where a little occasional slowdown has always popped up. I have never seen any game suffer from framerate issues this badly in my entire life. If you take The Matrix and reverse the Bullet Time to Real Time ratio, you can begin to get an idea of how bad this is.
The above video is a small demonstration of the problem, but this is only a tiny example of how awful it is. Speaking purely from the Xbox 360 version I played for review, I can tell you that it's horrible. With so many enemies onscreen, previous games have always had some minor framerate dips at times, but I'm talking about certain stages being played almost 90% in slow motion. A vast amount of the game is practically unplayable and it's inexcusable.
That's a shame too, because the game looks like it might have been a very decent one for fans of the series. The new characters are really interesting and the music is taken from various Warriors games, including past sequels for a little nostalgia. The battlefields are also bigger and more crammed with soldiers than ever, but it seems to be for that very reason that a half-decent framerate was sacrificed. I respect the desire to get tens upon tens of characters onscreen, but it simply isn't worth it if it renders the game a chugging a mess, which is what Warriors Orochi 2 is.
I wish I could talk about something else, but the problem is simply too overbearing. For the sake of being thorough though, there are other modes to discuss. Dream Mode is a series of one-off stages which pits pre-selected teams of characters together in specific scenarios. If we ignore the slow motion, they're actually nice little stages and a good way of giving certain characters more of a spotlight, but unfortunately we can't ignore the slow motion. Such a thing is impossible,
There is a Versus Mode in which two players can go head to head in various challenges, but inexplicably there is still no online play. A one-player Survival Mode is also present, in which you can face the AI in an ongoing series of increasingly difficult tag team bouts. There is an online leaderboard for Survival, but again, the lack of online play is really starting to become a glaring omission in Warriors titles.
I love Koei and I greatly enjoy the Warriors franchise, so it really does disappoint me that I have to give it a bad review. I have to, though. I simply don't understand how this got the green light in its current condition and I am gravely concerned that something like this is going to be sold to people. Maybe it's fine on the PS2, but the Xbox 360 version is poison for your disc tray.
The way it exists now, Warriors Orochi 2 needs to be avoided.
Score: 2 -- Bad (2s are a disaster. Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by glitches, poor design choices or a plethora of other issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.)