Alright so if you are a fan of this series and at least somewhat interested in playing this new one, I probably do not really need to sell you on it. It’s literally just the same classic Musou formula, but with upgraded visuals, an expanded storyline, some neat gameplay additions, and even an entirely new gameplay mode kinda reminiscent of a Dynasty Warriors: Empires game. Is the overall game good though? Well, as with most Musou games, it has its ups and downs.
I’ll start with the visuals because, honestly, this is probably the best-looking Musou game to date that isn’t a spin-off. It’s a bit more stylized, but the studio decided to go for a “Japanese painting” aesthetic and I was a bit surprised with just how fitting that is for this series. Fluid animations, great character models, detailed 2D art – I mean yeah, it is a Musou game so it isn’t gonna blow your mind or anything, but it’s pretty good for the series and worth praising.
As for the gameplay though – it plays just like any other Musou game before it. You have a large cast of characters to choose from and a mountain of literal thousands of enemies to mow through in EACH level. You have a bunch of different skills, combo strings, and other mechanics to aid in this destruction and new to 5 are hyper attacks and ultimate skills. Both can be used to continue combo strings even longer than a standard string and the latter can even be customized before battle – you can equip a variety of different damaging abilities or buffs, for example.
At its core though, the combat is still immensely satisfying, even before you add all the bells and whistles. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of just racking up combos and kills in the thousands, then you’re probably going to have a good time here. Responsive movement, hits with actual impact, plenty of customization – it’s one of the more refined Musou games to date and the only real negatives are the same that plague others in the series.
Specifically, I am referring to the absurd damage sponging on higher difficulties, the general lack of mission variety, and the braindead AI. Fans of the series will already be familiar with all of these negatives, but it’s worth noting for newcomers. If anything, the game at least doesn’t make any of these even worse.
A new negative comes in the form of the added “citadel mode”. It basically takes the tried-and-true gameplay of the base game and spins it into this new castle-building grindfest where you’re dumped into different scenarios to complete in order to farm for material. The main game already can drag a bit, so this mode was completely wasted on me given that its sole purpose is to inflate the game time through grinding. Some might enjoy it, but it’s a definite pass for me. Fortunately, it is completely optional.
Story is also worth noting, as this is probably the most expansive one to date in any mainline Musou game. There’s more dialogue, more context, more character building – they actually tried to make it interesting this time around even if they can’t completely escape some past faults (wonky pacing, misplaced plot developments, etc.). They also upped the presentation across the board. Gone are the mostly 2D sprites talking back and forth – now we have actual 3D dialogue parts and even full-blown action cutscenes.
Granted, it’s still the same old Sengoku-era history lesson, but it is a flashy one at least. And yes, that means you can just jump in with this game without playing any of the previous ones – it felt like it was designed that way after all.
Then there’s the technical aspects – very important to note for a Koei Tecmo PC port. Fortunately, they’re actually not terrible this time around. I mean yes, fps is still capped to 60, but it is a constant 60. I never had any dips, no crashes, no freezing, no technical issues like that even with hundreds of enemies on-screen flying around.
That and there’s actually a decent selection of graphical settings – including shadows, grass, bloom, and fog options to name a few. It’s much better than what we just got with the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection and I had no issues running the game at 1440p max settings on my 1070 Ti.
Controls are – as usual with Koei Tecmo PC releases – a mixed bag. It plays great on controller and can even be rebound, but keyboard and mouse is a bit more iffy. It technically works, but the mouse movement is kinda jerky and I wasn’t a fan. There’s at least the option to rebind these controls, but this is still definitely a game I’d recommend a controller for.
Overall, I’d say Samurai Warriors 5 is deserving of a light recommendation. It takes the same classic Musou formula, adds a few cool additions, and wraps it up in a nice package – the best-looking from the series thus far and a very good starting point for newcomers. Not all of its new additions might land and it still carries over the negatives from past games in the series, but it’s a worthwhile play if you’re into hack and slash games and especially so if you’re into Japanese history like myself.
Quote: Samurai Warriors 5 takes the classic Musou formula, adds a few cool additions, and wraps it up in a nice package – the best-looking from the series thus far and a good starting point for newcomers.
Samurai Warriors 5 retails for $60 USD on Steam for the regular version and $90 USD for the deluxe. It is also available on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.