Warriors All-Stars is a hodgepodge of ideas, mechanics, and even characters that struggles to straddle the line between catering to newcomers while still offering something new and rewarding for fans of the classic Musou hack-and-slash action.
In this spin-off of both the Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors series, you'll find a huge ensemble cast from both franchises and many other random Koei Tecmo series from over the years.
Gotta Play 'Em All
Unlike the Warriors Orochi series that's already attempted to crossover the respective Japanese and Chinese-themed games, Warriors All-Stars incorporates some rather unusual faces that you may be legitimately surprised to find in the character selection screen. From the aforementioned Warriors series to the voluptuous Dead or Alive girls to even the recently released Nioh, you'll find a wide range of characters that you would normally not expect to see fighting together in the same game.
Admittedly, seeing Ryu from Ninja Gaiden square off against Nioh's William is a gamer's dream come to life and that is easily the biggest allure of All-Stars. The title features 30 total playable characters spanning across 13 different franchises (if you include the pre-order exclusive Opoona), including three original characters created solely for the purpose of the story. Selecting from the initial 12 characters at the start of the game, you are locked into that person for the remainder of the game unless you start over.
Each character has their own storyline that, much like a fighting game, is unique to them alone. This allows for immense replayability, as there are numerous storylines that span several hours each, along with 15 various endings. All of the playable characters are divided up between three different factions that are at the crux of the plot. You play as one of the many strangers summoned to a magical fantasy kingdom to fight for three different family members vying for the empty throne.
The story itself is decent, working as a reasonable enough gateway for characters like Atelier's Sophie and Toukiden's Oka to join together and fight in massive Musou battles. Though it sounds like it should be the perfect beginner's Warriors game for fans of the several franchises featured, it is unfortunately far from it.
Too Many Layers
Right off the bat, you are presented with three different tutorial fights that each last several minutes that must be completed before moving onto the actual game. This is a little much even for a Warriors game, but it still isn't enough to both explain and ingrain in the player's mind all of the various moves and features that you use to fight with in battle.
Normal attack, strong attack, charge attack, blocking, ukemi, special, hero skill, awakening, Musou rush, hero combo; the list goes on. These are just some of the mechanics you deal with in every single battle. The seemingly endless layers of this hack-and-slash onion are just too hard to swallow at times, locking out all but the most diligent of players willing to frequently dive deep into the tutorial menus.
All-Stars has a MOBA-like level of depth in its gameplay that extends to the battlefield and beyond as well. The game seems to take a page from the League of Legends and DOTA's of the world by applying more than one leveling system to your characters. The typical leveling system you'd expect is here, increasing your overall strength and health as you complete objectives and missions.
Inside of each individual battle, though, you also have a level of Bravery that resets with each mission you complete. Rising based on defeating enemies and clearing objectives, your Bravery is similar to the levels in games like Smite that are specific only to that match. The importance of Bravery is never quite explained until you find out through good ole' trial-and-error.
An enemy even just barely above your own level can wreck you if you aren't careful, regardless of how high your overall level is going into the battle. This causes there to be an intense difficulty and steep learning curve that doesn't hold back even on the normal setting. It doesn't help that some characters are unbalanced and far superior to others, in terms of handling and speed.
Bang for Your Buck
But if you are able to get over the hump of difficulty and understanding the insane number of mechanics, you'll find quite a lot to do that will keep you coming back again and again. Even beyond the numerous endings and characters to play as, there are many side quests and missions to discover across the game's overworld.
There are requests given to you by other characters on your team, monster nests to clear out, treasure to steal from the enemy, villages to save, and more scattered liberally across the map. The game even encourages going off the beaten path away from your main missions and finding hidden, timed battles that reward you with special materials for upgrading your team.
In the hub city, you use the various materials and gold you collect on the field to upgrade and train your characters. All-Stars takes a cue from another genre-this time card games-to add even more depth. The game generously doles out cards that are equipped in place of a weapon like other Musou games to increase your attack and grant different boons. Favorite cards can be upgraded and old ones can be sold, giving plenty to do in terms of managing your team.
It's worth noting that much like Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, the overall presentation for All-Stars, from the battlefields to the cutscenes and even the hub city, is hindered by the same engine originally used by Samurai Warriors 4. Koei Tecmo's best attempts at making the environments vibrant and colorful does little to offset the outdated map designs, along with the uninspired-looking characters that you'll come across as you attempt to take over bases and eliminate enemy commanders.
Despite the overwhelming difficulty found at the start, it is certainly worth pushing through it to enjoy the unique experience that Warriors All-Stars is. Koei Tecmo has found its own Smash Bros. mash-up game that brings together a brilliant ensemble cast of characters like Ryu, William from Nioh, and Dynasty Warriors' Zhao Yun for classic Musou hack-and-slash gameplay.
It is easily the most extensive Warriors game to date, offering so much content that is both addictive and exhilarating. The cycle of completing a mission, collecting more materials, using those materials to get stronger, and then completing even more challenging battles keeps you coming back for more.
Cody Perez is an Editor at GameRevolution. You can follow him on Twitter @Soulcap7.
A PS4 copy of Warriors All-Stars was provided by its publisher. PC and PS Vita versions are also available.