PLATFORM: PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
In the year 1467, during Japan's Muromachi period, an internal power struggle within the Ashikaga shogunate devolves into all-out war that quickly spreads across the entire country, leaving the government in disarray with unruly power-hungry warriors overthrowing their Lords and disorder and chaos sweeping the land. Several decades later, a band of warriors resolve to march on Kyoto, Japan's then-capital, to send a powerful message to any would-be rivals. Fraught with danger, the battles these warriors face along their journey are brought to life in the Warriors' series signature 1 vs 1000 battles.
The core gameplay will be familiar to Warriors veterans, but for the uninitiated, you're pretty much dropped into the middle of a large battlefield and told to hack and slash your way through thousands of enemies en route to taking down their leader. SW5's story focuses on two main characters, although there are almost 40 to unlock throughout the game, each with their own unique weapons. Cutting through the hordes of enemy soldiers is a breeze thanks to some easy to grasp controls that allow for a variety of dazzling combos and special attacks, and the inclusion of a couple of different meters allow for some super-flashy moves that, if used at the right time, can potentially wipe out hundreds of enemies in one go.
SW5 features two modes. Musou mode takes you through the historically-accurate story, where your characters level up, gain new and more powerful weapons and increase their relationships (and effectiveness) with other characters. Your score at the end of each battle determines the amount of gold, experience points and skill points you receive, all useful for beefing up your stats before heading off to another battle. Then, over in Citadel Mode, you're able to take part in small-scale battles, usually against a 5-minute time limit, where you can earn materials which are then used to upgrade your Castle (basically a menu screen which allows you to upgrade everything else). Other than the time limit and rewards, there's not much to differentiate between the two modes and, to be honest, Citadel Mode feels a bit like a tacked-on afterthought. Playing through it is pretty much a necessity, though, as it's the only way to earn the things you need to fully upgrade your Castle and characters.
There are certainly plenty of fighting styles to experiment with among the decent-sized roster, and while the story mode does restrict you to using specific characters, any battle can be replayed with whichever character you want. Things start off in a fairly tame way and don't really get going until you start to unlock some of the warriors who come equipped with the more outlandish weapons, but soon enough you'll be charging around the battlefields wielding a sickle and chain, a cannon with multiple firing types, a supersonic wave-emitting bladed drum or any number of other crazy contraptions. There's no real way to escape the fact that you're not really doing anything other than taking part in an endless loop of fighting, unlocking and upgrading over and over again, but the Warriors games in general are notorious grind-fests so it wouldn't really be reasonable to go into this one expecting anything different.
Despite the real-world historical setting and slightly more serious tone of the Samurai games (compared to some of the other Warriors titles, at least), SW5 still features the fantastically over the top combat that fans of the series know and love. Whichever character you use, the action is always fast and furious and it's not uncommon to find yourself racking up insane combos that go beyond even the ten thousand mark. Musou mode is a non-stop riot from beginning to end, but the way the two intertwining stories are structured means that you often feel like you're repeating the same levels a bit more often than you might like, and Citadel Mode doesn't quite provide the engaging time sink that side-content elsewhere in the series has featured. It might not be at the top of the tree as far as the series as a whole goes, but SW5 is still very much a solid Warriors title. As long as you're on board with the nature of what Warriors games have to offer, you're sure to be entertained.