Samurai Warriors 5 gives you a sense of incredible herculean power as you play through it. Few other action games give you such an ability to cleave through crowds of foes that stand in your path, and it’s undeniably satisfying to be able to swat a few dozen people aside. Not that this series and other Musou titles don’t give you that same play style and feeling, but the mixture of political intrigue in its story and the striking new visual style make this entry well worth playing.
This title revisits the Sengoku period of the original Samurai Warriors game, having us join Nobunaga Oda (and many others) in a brutal conquest that will see betrayals layered on top of betrayals, surprise alliances, and vicious clashes between historical warriors. You have access to twenty-seven characters throughout the game, often seeing events through their eyes so that you get a rich perspective on the battles and political movements that form the narrative. It’s not as many characters as some other Musou titles, but I tend to only pick a handful of favorites and stick with them, so I didn’t find this bugged me much.
Having a tighter cast helped me form a better connection with the characters that were there, especially when surprise alliances cropped up throughout Samurai Warriors 5. Why did a character betray me? Well, I’d get a chance to see that for myself in some of the levels about that character and what happened to them. I always liked this aspect of the Musou games, and enjoyed seeing the character motives that played into every faction’s movements.
That Samurai Warriors 5 can do this through its actions is impressive. For a game where I spend most of my time mashing a handful of attack buttons, the story is compelling and interesting, and a great deal of it is doled out while in combat. Sure, you get some great cutscenes between stages, but having commanders show up on-scene as a surprise, calling for your defeat as you both bellow at each other over the din of the fight, made for some exciting moments.
I want to stress this about Samurai Warriors 5: the combat can feel exhilarating in how it lets you easily cleave through hundreds of soldiers at a time, but I wouldn’t say it’s mindless. Throughout every fight, you’re juggling your own survival, the well-being of your fellow commanders, the flow of combat, the morale of your troops, potential dangers to suppress, your primary objective, hidden missions, and trying to follow the story as enemy commanders reveal their plots and intentions in real-time. So much is happening all at once that it’s easy to lose yourself in cutting down foes, only to fail because you weren’t paying enough attention. Managing all of these activities is what makes this game shine.
The battle system makes it a blast, too. You have a few basic attacks that grow as you gain levels from mowing down enemies over time. You also get your Musou Gauge, which lets you carve up enemies with powerful, hard-hitting moves once it’s full. You have a Rage meter that also builds, letting you increase your power and speed for a limited time. Beyond this, you have your Ultimate Moves, which are a set of powers you choose for yourself that have various tactical uses and quick cooldowns. With so many abilities at your disposal, you’re always weighing options for the situation and frequently busting out attacks that make you feel like an unstoppable beast.
You can also customize how you play through the game to an extent. Samurai Warriors 5 allows you to equip you chosen fighter with any weapon you like. They have better attacks with their chosen weapon, but if you have a tool that you like, feel free to give it a shot on a new character for fun. Characters have an individual skill level with each weapon, though, so you’ll have to build them up to use a powerful weapon with a new character. In a smart move, the game gives you a pool of weapon and character experience you gain after each mission, so you can quickly bring a new character up to speed if you want to try them out. Or just hammer levels into a chosen warrior.
This customization has limits based on how good your castle is. You can acquire items to upgrade the various facilities of your base, allowing you to grow your characters’ powers, get better mounts, and create better equipment. You do much of this through My Castle mode, which lets you play out defensive missions where you protect your base in exchange for getting base-improving goodies. It plays out pretty much the same as all of the other missions where you just fight off a bunch of people, so you don’t have to learn a new mode just to improve your builds.
The biggest treat in Samurai Warriors 5 is its colorful visual style, though. While I wouldn’t say I had a problem with the style of most Musou games, this visual tweak helps make this new title stand out a bit better, adding sharp lines and some great-looking new character designs to catch the eye. It’s exciting to see what new characters will be joining you throughout the game and how they’ll look. Plus, it’s always interesting to see the narrative from these different character angles as well.
Samurai Warriors 5 gives players a lot to play with. It offers a compelling story filled with endless historical twists and turns, and shows it from many different perspectives with a stunning visual style. Its combat is easy to pick up but offers depth for those looking for it, and its missions can be surprisingly complex, but in an approachable way. It feels chaotic in a way that keeps everything focused and intriguing, offers tons of stuff to fiddle with and improve, and makes for great fun when you just want to beat up a few thousand enemies at a time.
Samurai Warriors 5 will be available on July 27, 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PC.