Individual taste plays a huge role in deciding which games a gamer finds fun and ultimately fulfilling. We know that a large group of gamers (most of them in Japan) finds the Dynasty Warriors series infinitely fun, and eagerly scoops up each new sequel with an infinite well of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, we just don’t have access to that well. To us, the Dynasty Warriors series is mostly a samey button-masher with few redeeming qualities beyond showing off how many soldiers a given console can display onscreen at once. But let’s try to be fair. Despite our apathy towards the franchise, we can guess why the Dynasty Warriors series has remained so popular among its audience: each new game gives its fans a whole lot of what they want.
Warriors Orochi 2, the latest crossover between the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises, has a lot going for it. For one, Orochi 2 – like its predecessors – succeeds in making players feel like nearly invincible badasses, slicing through waves upon waves of enemies with relatively little effort. We found that the long-winded battles became monotonous after only an hour, but then again, if fans didn’t like this sort of thing, we wouldn’t keep seeing sequels year after year. More importantly, though, the game is effective at making players feel like they’re involved in a sweeping, epic conflict with a huge cast of characters, each with his or her own agenda or story arc.
To that end, Orochi 2 features a whopping 96 playable characters, each with his/her own unique moves and personalities. You can play through the storylines for the constantly warring but ultimately interchangeable Wu, Wei, and Shu armies, and you can even take control of the evil Orochi forces if you’re feeling particularly malicious. Of course, the overarching plot is as bland and workmanlike as you’d expect from a Dynasty Warriors game: the evil Orochi died at the end of the first game, but now somebody wants to bring him back. You and your band of heroes talk about honor and strategy and humanity and justice and the bad guys act all cocky yet run away every time you beat them, until the final battle where Orochi is inevitably resurrected and good and evil square off in a climactic blah blah blah blah blah.
As in the first Warriors Orochi, you start each mission by choosing three party members within your group of allies, and switch between them during the heat of battle. Each character specializes in strength, speed or technical maneuvers, and switching out wounded characters for a chance to heal is crucial for your survival. The scenarios in each battle usually boil down to “travel to this location and kill this boss,” and each boss is usually dispatched with the same basic techniques you use on the regular grunts. The lack of any real need for advanced moves like team assists or triple techniques is disappointing, but they’re still there if you want to mix things up.
It’s only when Orochi 2 tries to pass itself off as a statistic-rich RPG that it truly falls flat. Even if you bother to pay attention to the largely useless weapon-creation and leveling-up features, you’re going to want to stick with a single fighter throughout each campaign, as that character will keep leveling up dramatically. He or she will eventually become a comically overpowered one-man/woman army, virtually eliminating the need for the other members of your party altogether.
It seems as if the game wants you to go back and play each campaign over with every character in order to level them all up, but to what end? The Dream Mode scenarios force you to use specific combinations of characters you may or may not have ignored in the main quests, but the incentive to go through and level up all your minor characters might be gone by the time you’ve sat through the story mode’s credits. It certainly was for us, but then again, our tolerance for this sort of grinding is low.
There’s a definite emphasis on quantity over quality in Warriors Orochi 2, and not just in the numbers of mindless soldiers you slice through. The amount of content is frankly overwhelming if you’re one of those completist-types, and the drive to level up every character may appeal to those who have a lot of time to kill while traveling. However, players new to the series should consider how deep their love for button-mashing goes before picking this one up, not to mention the value they place on their free time. If you’re a die-hard fan of the Dynasty Warriors games, you can dip into your infinite well of enthusiasm, pick up Warriors Orochi 2, and count on it delivering all the comfort that comes from getting exactly what you expect. But otherwise, don’t bother.
Aug 26, 2009