Ancient Japan was a pretty chaotic place! Chaos doesn’t necessarily make for prosperity, though, and there ended up being a procession of figures who sought to unify the nation. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Nobunaga Oda, a complex sort of guy who was willing to do whatever it took to see his vision come to life. He’s alternatively portrayed as a great hero and a dastardly villain depending on the medium.
In Samurai Warriors 5, we’ll primarily follow Oda as he cuts a swath through the nation, forming alliances and battling foes along the way in an effort to bring Japan together under his rule.
As you’d probably expect from a Musou game, you’re going to spend most of your time in Samurai Warriors 5 beating the crap out of thousands and thousands of enemy soldiers. You’ll stop only when confronted by an enemy officer, which tend to be the only opposition forces that stand a chance against you. These encounters tend to result in more strategic one-on-one duels, with death for any unfortunate mooks that get caught up in the crossfire. It’s a classic formula that feels great in practice, especially with the sheer amount of graphical polish and gameplay fine-tuning that’s gone into this entry of the series.
You’ll usually battle with several officers on the field at once, and you’re able to switch between your characters in order to better control a greater swath of the battlefield. Taking out bunches of baddies feels just like it did back in the good old days – well, the good old days after Hyper Attacks were introduced, allowing you to quickly mow down mooks as you go. You’ll effortlessly rack up kill counts in the thousands during most missions, which is just as satisfying as it ever was.
Likewise, this keeps the modern Musou concept of allowing officers to use any weapon, but each officer is also better at a specific weapon class. You can give Nobunaga Oda a bow if you want, but he’d definitely prefer his traditional odachi and will have a greater number of move options available if he uses that. The main way that combat is shaken up is with the addition of Ultimate Abilities. Each officer can equip four before battle and they can be activated on a cooldown and provide buffs, additional damage and resource restoration as needed, so they’re basically an additional tactical option to help you out.
You’ll do all this battle via both a standard Musou mode, featuring plots that follow both Nobunaga and his eventual killer Mitsuhide Akechi, and a new Citadel mode consisting of an array of base defense missions. By performing well in Citadel missions you’ll earn resources to upgrade buildings in My Castle, offering additional upgrades and buffs for your officers.
Progression through the game typically means bouncing back between Musou and Citadel modes, so you’re never hurting for battle. There’s around 40 officers that are all going to need upgrading, after all. What’s more, the game often forces you to use officers you might not have been keeping up to par, so there’s a real demand for a constant stream of resources.
The most striking thing about Samurai Warriors 5 might be the fantastic presentation. The thick, heavy lines on the graphics give the game a dynamic feel that really suits the action. Likewise, this is one of those series where I really look forward to the music and Samurai Warriors 5 doesn’t disappoint. You want dumb butt-rock guitar laid over classic Japanese melodies? We’ve got that. Savor it. From a performance standpoint, meanwhile, we primarily looked at the stellar PC version of Samurai Warriors 5, but every indication is that the console versions – including the Switch version – are pretty reliable as well.
Samurai Warriors 5 is a refreshing return to form for the Musou series, especially after the somewhat catastrophic Dynasty Warriors 9, but Koei would very much appreciate it if you just forgot about that one. More recent Musou games, including the Persona and Zelda spin-offs released sense then, have helped to redeem the series a bit and Samurai Warriors 5 rides that wave. It doesn’t drastically shake up the experience, but drastically shaking up this experience was definitely not the way to go back in 2018. When you’ve got a winning formula, you’ll want to stick to it!