The amount of games that Omega Force has been putting out has been growing at such a rate that it’s hard to keep up with all of them. Their newest title is Samurai Warriors 4 Empires, the third entry in the Samurai Warriors 4 series, which promises to add a lot of strategic elements to the mix.
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires consists of two main modes, Conquest and Genesis. Conquest mode functions as this game’s main campaign. After selecting the specific scenario you want, the game offers you a map of Japan and lets you decide as which clan you wish to play. It marks recommended ones on the map, but ultimately the choice is up to you to pick whichever clan you wish.
Genesis is more of a custom game, where you are free to decide every single little detail before setting out on your quest to unite Japan. You will even be able to match up rivals and use people who could have never physically met on the battlefield. If editing every officer in every single province sounds too time consuming, you can always pick a base scenario and edit it to your liking.
The length of each scenario directly corresponds to the faction you chose. Every faction has its own ambition, which serves as the end goal in that scenario. Some may task you with defeating an arch nemesis, while others may ask of you to capture the capital. Once you do manage to complete your faction’s ambition you can either end it there or try your luck with uniting all of warring Japan.
The game is divided into two core segments: the politics phase, where you develop your base, character relationships and prepare for war, and the battle phase, where you either successfully expand your territory or otherwise meet an untimely demise.
While the battle phase plays more like you’d expect from a Warriors title, the politics phase is what sets the Empires games apart.
Considering Koei Tecmo’s portfolio, it’s little wonder Samurai Warriors 4 Empires borrows a lot from their other franchises, mainly Nobunaga’s Ambition and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. You will be improving commerce and rice yield, replenishing troop strength, increasing your fame, raising the stats of your officers and upgrading your castle. The amount of actions you can take per turn depends on your overall fame so it is an important stat to look out for, especially in the early game.
The game offers you a nice overview of your castle where you can directly peer into rooms. Rooms are divided by function such as development, military, personnel and diplomacy, and it’s up to you decide which of your officers will be placed in what rooms.
Unfortunately, there seems to be little that can impede your progress other than a direct attack from one of your neighboring enemies. Ultimately, you shouldn’t expect the depth of Nobunaga’s Ambition here, but the political side of things nevertheless adds a nice amount of depth to the brainless hack and slash gameplay of the series.
As far as battles go, Omega Force has done a good job of adding an additional layer of complexity. Before setting out into battle you can choose which officers and troops you wish to bring and what your overall formation will be. You will have to pay 100 gold per officer you decide on sending into the battle, while the time limit you get in a map is tied to the amount of supplies you opt bringing. If you are not effectively managing your province, you can be sure that battles will be much tougher for it.
Sadly, once the battle actually starts there is not a lot of strategic possibilities available. Other than ordering your troops to charge, defend or act freely, there is little you can do to influence the flow of the battle other than mindlessly murdering whole platoons of enemies.
Things do get repetitive here, even faster than in the typical Warriors games. All maps will have you capturing outposts, while slowly creeping to the enemy’s main base. In order to capture an outpost you need to defeat a number of soldiers until the bar at the top of the screen depletes. You can skip a few outposts and go straight for the main enemy’s camp, but expect a ton of powerful enemies waiting for you there.
It does make for a challenge sometimes. The enemy can outsmart you by aiming to take your main base from another direction instead of fighting you directly. Quite a few times I was on the verge of winning, just to blankly stare at the defeat screen moments later when the enemy successfully took my base camp.
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires offers a surprisingly deep relationship system. Being an Omega Force game expect all those quirky events you’ve grown accustomed to. Each one of these builds the relationship between your officers. Characters can have a spouse, sworn ally, rival, master, protégé, nemesis, and multiple friends. This adds a lot of dynamic story to your officers and it also makes for some hilarious situations. In one instance a very old officer came up to a much younger one to ask to become his protégé, before being outright declined.
The relationship system comes into play in battles as well. You generally cannot freely switch between characters, however if you are in a familial relationship with that person you can swap freely. Sometimes you even get to play as your protégé in an attempt to win favor of his master. Getting a nemesis on the other hand requires you to match up against a specific enemy officer multiple times, which later even gives you special events between the two.
If you are a Japanese history buff, you will absolutely love Samurai Warriors 4 Empires. There are 949 biographies to read, 56 of them for famous playable officers and the rest for other officers that appear in the game. For the important officers you even have the possibilities to jump between pages for any one they are related to for more comprehensive reading. While some are bound to have a few inaccuracies added for the enjoyment of players, it is still a nice addition nevertheless.
The game offers a character creation system which allows you to pretty much customize your character however you want. And if you already own Samurai Warriors 4 or Samurai Warriors 4-II you will be pleased to know that the Empires version allows you to import your custom created characters. You can even load custom images off a USB Flash drive for use as portraits or as a substitute for the Kanji used for Musou attacks. There are 200 available slots to fill with your own characters so you can go wild.
If you have long grown tired of the mindless button mashing in this series, Samurai Warriors 4 Empires may be just the thing you are looking for. The strategy elements of the game may not be as refined as Nobunaga’s Ambition and the focus on capturing outposts kind of hurts the open map structure of the typical Warriors games, but as a whole it certainly makes for a much more enjoyable experience.