Samurai Warriors 2: Empires looks great on paper: based on historical Japanese events, you must lead your feudal clan of soldiers into battle, hacking away at enemies, unleashing devastating special attacks all while devising strategy and executing policy in hopes of guiding your people to ultimate victory and the unification of your beloved Nippon.
Sounds awesome, no? Well, Koei must agree because they’ve made the same game countless times already under the Dynasty Warriors moniker. As the warriors here are of the samurai persuasion, China has been traded for Japan - but with little changing or improving much.
The game's crux is made of both strategy and battle modes where you first conceive a plan of action, then carry out attacks on neighboring territories to expand your domain. The strategy part of the game is a sort of board game-style territorial battle meant to add depth to the otherwise shallow combat sequences. It's fairly superficial though. But if you enjoy tinkering with banal harvest stats or blacksmith skills, it does eventually enable some fun upgrades like horses or the ability to hire ninjas, riflemen, etc.
Once the planning's done, you slip into the familiar third-person hack 'n slash battle portion that we’ve seen a zillion times. Leading your troops with a variety of over-the-top characters, you attempt to overrun enemy bases, unleashing wild combos and special "Musou" attacks along the way.
While your fellow soldiers can serve to distract enemies pursuing you, they don’t do much else - making us wonder what the point is. Battles are almost always won or lost by your hand alone. And just as it has since Dynasty Warriors 2 rocked the PS2 launch in 2000, the skittish camera and lack of lock-on will drive some players crazy.
Visually, both versions are serviceable with the 360 version only being slightly superior to the PS2, but neither will aesthetically thrill you. Graphics aside, there is not much difference between the two apart from a couple of menu options. Aurally, you'll be treated to plenty of nonsensical lines and horrendous voice acting. Unless fierce Asian warriors actually did talk like surfer dudes ready for a kegger, in which case, it's perfect.
Once your kingdom begins to grow and abilities are upgraded the game takes on slightly more, if monotonous, charm. But ultimately Empires continues Koei’s long-standing "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" credo when it comes to Warriors games. Which, when you've made the same game nine times in a row, has us adopting the philosophy "been there, done that."