Samurai Warriors 4 Empires Review
Player(s): 1-2 (local co-op)
Extra Features: N/A
Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is the third expansion for Samurai Warriors 4 and the second game to have the "Empires" style gameplay for the Samurai Warriors franchise. If you're not familiar with the Empires style of Warriors games then it focuses more on the strategy of the battles but it still retains the usual constant action in between fights. Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is my first time playing an Empires game so it was all new to me when the political phases rolled around. The game actually feels a lot better than the original Samurai Warriors 4-II with the added variety that we gain in between the action.
Empires brings back the full cast that we know from Samurai Warriors 4-II. The goal of the game is to take control of one empire and fulfill the leader's ambition. Once the ambition is fulfilled the game can be over if you choose not to go on and conquer the rest of the map. The two main phases of gameplay are the political phase and the battle phase. The political phase allows you to prepare for battle through many categories that help to build your empire.
The political phase starts out with a 3D castle where you appoint a magistrate and then leaders of each political branch that oversee certain groups in your castle. You start out with a political subordinate, military subordinate and a personnel subordinate. All of these groups give you choices per political phase that you can accept to raise the stats in your castle or you can choose to raise them independently through your leader. The game walks you through the political phase with tutorials but I was still all thumbs on my first playthrough. It's not that the game doesn't explain enough to you, it's just that there is so much to absorb at one time. Anyway, after the first playthrough of the game, I got a good idea of the way it works.
Along with raising stats of your castle, the political phase allows your army personnel to level up through decision making and it helps to deepen relationships between characters. During some political phases, the game offers small cutscenes that change based on what soldiers are in your army and these cutscenes might give your characters enhancements. You can only issue a certain amount of commands during each political phase then you are forced into a battle phase where you can choose to invade, defend or skip out on battle altogether. Each full political and battle phase represents a full season's worth of work for your empire. As the seasons go by, you get to witness empires rise and fall on the world map and you can choose to get involved or take action when an enemy empire chooses to invade.
Once a battle starts, the overall action gameplay is just like it was in Samurai Warriors 4-II. You take control of the leader of your army and are able to plow your way through the enemy army out on the field. You still have each character's unique attacks such as Musou, Rage and special attacks all from the past games. Each battle can get more difficult based on the amount of troops that you have compared to the enemy's troops. If you are significantly outnumbered then you will have more troops to battle through and they will have higher defense and attack stats. This can make the game way harder than the past games in the series.
In Empires, I kept having the constant threat of generals sneaking by me and taking over my main enemy camp. The first to take over the other army's enemy camp is the one that claims victory so you really, REALLY have to keep an eye on the map and make sure that no generals sneak into your camp or make good use of your "defense" strategy command and advance the battlefield solo for a while. Before each battle, you get to choose which generals to take into battle along with their supply of troops. Each battle has a certain time limit that you can extend by using more supplies per battle. If you fail to capture the enemy camp within the time limit then the opposing side automatically wins. Each enemy camp has a boss soldier that you'll have to defeat in order to claim victory. Generals and bosses can put up a good fight, but you can still cheese them out with Rage and Musou attacks just like in past games. The defense and attack power of bosses and their armies are determined by how many enemy camps you take out along the way so they can be a great deal harder if you just rush in.
Failing to take over an enemy castle can come with great costs in the depletion of your materials, gold and personnel that you set up in that raid, but thankfully, the game saves manually, so you get to choose if you want to save or not in between turns. Early on in the game, loosing out on an invasion and then getting invaded directly after the losing season will nearly kill off your entire empire so you have to be very careful at times. After each battle, you take over the enemy castle and gain prisoners that you can ask to fight for your army. Prisoners can refuse to work for your empire and you can either release them or kill them. It's pretty cool the number of key characters that you can recruit into your army through invasions or through normal recruitment during the political phases. You can get enemy leaders to join your army and get access to all their special attacks while using them out in the battlefield.
As your empire grows, you can add on extra floors to your castle that can open up new groups such as shops or a room for making military strategies. Strategies in the game seem to come in the form of attribute bonuses that last for a certain amount of time during the battle phases. The shops allow you to trade your supplies for gold and upgrade individual soldier weapons. Shops also establish a trade system where you can ally yourself with other empires in order to trade goods for gold.
The game features a Conquest mode and a Genesis mode as its two main modes of play. The Conquest mode allows you to choose from several empires based on different war periods. The period chosen will change the empires that appear on the world map and some periods have their own exclusive empires and starting points for those empires - such as starting off with one or three castle on the map. Along with these starting empires, you can choose the difficulty between easy, normal and hard. The empire's leaders all have different ambitions that you can choose to fulfill or go on and take over the whole map. As already mentioned, the game can end once you fulfill an ambition or you can choose to keep going and conquer more of the land.
Genesis mode has the same overall structure of Conquest mode but it allows you to make up empires however you want. You can go with the empires in the order they are placed per battle period or you can completely customize enemy empires and your own empire. There is an option to clear out all current empires and there is also an option to randomize all empires. You can control or fight against an empire made up of nearly every characters from the Samurai Warriors 4 expansions if you want to. You can also choose to set each leader's ambition.
There is also an Edit Mode and Vault mode. The Vault mode allows you to look through cutscenes, character biographies and music. You can watch the cutscenes with a variety of characters in each cutscene through the settings. Almost all of the information in the vault is unlocked while playing the main two modes. The character creation has a decent enough depth for overall character looks and it's really fun to make up a character and give him one of the established fighting styles that are in the game. You can use customized characters in both Conquest and Genesis mode.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Samurai Warriors 4 Empires. I must say that I actually enjoyed it more than Samurai Warriors 4-II thanks to the added bit of strategy and the game is overall more difficult since you have to plan ahead before rushing straight into battle. I found Empires to be highly addicting and hard to put down once I got started with a good run. The game moves just as smooth as Samurai Warriors 4-II. All voices are in Japanese once again so you'll need to read subtitles. The only flaws that I found in the game were the same ones from Samurai Warriors 4-II - camera that is hard to focus at times, calling on a horse doesn't always work, trying to read subtitles during battles is not always easy, etc. If you really liked Samurai Warriors 4-II then you will probably enjoy this game as well. The extra strategy and overall depth it has is a good break from the usual Samurai Warriors action and the action is still just as heavy as it was in Samurai Warriors 4-II once the battles break out.
+ Very smooth gameplay
+ Political phases provide a nice break from battles
+ The game is very addicting
- All the flaws during the action phases are still intact from Samurai Warriors 4-II
Final Rating: 83% - Samurai Warriors Empires adds extra strategy in between the battles which makes the overall game much more addicting than the other Samurai Warriors 4 expansions.