Review: Warriors All-Stars
Bringing together some of Tecmo Koei’s biggest stars in a convoluted furry cloud of deja vu.
If there's a single franchise that carries the Tecmo Koei banner, it's Dynasty Warriors. While people in the US joke that there are far too many of these games, the cultural appeal of 1-versus-1000 is huge in Japan and Asian countries, and there's quite a nice following for them based on recent titles that have come Stateside. We've seen Warriors spin offs for The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, and later this year we'll see Fire Emblem's crack at it.
These games all feature heroes meant to be legendary or "unrivaled, " and that's why these titles are named Musou in their origin countries. That said, with all these games we've yet to see a proper meshing of guest characters show up to a proper Warriors title, so that's exactly what Warriors All-Stars is. For lack of a better description, Warriors All-Stars is quite literally a generic Musou game peppered full of cameos from other franchises.
You'll find some familiar faces here if you're familiar with Dynasty Warriors - such as Xhao Yun, Lu Bu, Zhou Cang (who's finally playable for the first time), and the super popular Wang Yuanji from Dynasty Warriors 7. I wouldn't have picked Wang or Zhou over Guan Yu or Cao Cao, but that's how it goes when you're delivering fan service.
You'll also find fighters from Dead or Alive, such as Katsumi, Marie Rose, or Honoka, while Ryu Hayabusa and Ayame from Ninja Gaiden are also here because they're easily the most recognizable faces on the Tecmo Koei roster. Alongside them, you'll find William from Sony's 2017 breakout hit Ni-oh, Sanada and the gang from Samurai Warriors, and characters from other less popular franchises such as Toukiden, Nights of Azure, and Deception. Perhaps the biggest surprise character is Sophie from the Atlier series and her book (who's now human for some reason) companion Platcha.
As a fan of these games since Dynasty Warriors 2 on the PS2, I've stuck with the series through all of the iterations - including the painfully bad Strikeforce - and yet, while I want to love Warriors All-Stars I can't because it's so incredibly bare bones. That isn't to say that it isn't a fairly decent or even a good game because it is. I'm just prefacing this from the perspective of someone who's a big fan of the series, and I would have preferred seeing a mash-up meant to appeal to larger audiences have a bit more meat to it.
"There's a lot to do in Warriors All-Stars, but in truth, it's really just the same thing over and over."
The story mode is the only mode. There's no free roam, co-op, multiplayer, or anything other than just starting a new game with the character equipment/gold/levels once you see an ending. In the center of the map is the shrine area around the oasis, and combat is approached by a large map full of icons that lead to new battles. Ally or Enemy garrisons leave you to take or defend a camp. Treasure Hunts allow you to gain treasures for taking over camps on a map marked by Treasure icons. Monster hunts grant large EXP gains, Merchant rescue grants large gold gains, and Card battles allow you to fight for stronger cards. There's a lot to do in Warriors All-Stars, but in truth, it's really just the same thing over and over.
The basic premise of the story is convoluted and silly, which the game does not attempt to even hide. These legendary heroes are summoned to a world full of furries that depend on the magic of this Oasis to thrive, and suddenly the Oasis is losing its water flow. When the heroes ask how they got there, they're cheerfully told that Sakura and the others summoned them with what's left of the Oasis's power so they can't go home til it's restored.
You'd think if they bothered bringing evil people in that they'd fear being conquered and enslaved, but I guess the counterbalance to that is that they're sure the good guys will make sure that doesn't happen. In one of the best things you can possibly do to this silly story while playing through with Laegrinna, I managed to take Millenia and peace out on the furries, causing the main story to end about 4 hours into my playthrough.
Multiple endings and changing relationships are what make Warriors All-Stars most interesting, but it never really seems to matter how someone favors you. As you use companions in battle, they build affinity for you and will start cheering you on and praising your combat efforts though it comes across fairly creepy when the male characters are endlessly flirting with the females. Part of that interaction also includes hot springs where you'll take communal baths with other characters as your reputation gets better with each character.
"There's also a lot of balancing issues, where some characters feel exceptionally strong while others feel like they couldn't bruise a grape
I've encountered masked characters who were unmasked and angry when you stormed in on them in the bath, characters that apologize for interrupting you even though you walked in on them, and then the always hilarious encounters where Nobunyaga, the demon cat or Platcha the book not caring about what gender the characters are and inviting everyone to bathe with them. The interactions between the other characters who stand around idle are often more endearing than their encounters with whomever you're playing as. Lu Bu wanting to challenge William and Ryu to fights is awesome, yet Lu Bu is fairly flippant to female characters who could rival him in power.
There's also a lot of balancing issues, where some characters feel exceptionally strong while others feel like they couldn't bruise a grape. Laegrinna's trap attacks are powerful and actually work rather well adapted to this style of gameplay, but their distance leaves her quite vulnerable when it comes to close combat. William feels very strong, while Kasumi's kicks feel like you're sneezing on enemies.
The game uses a Bravery system which is basically your character level on each map - encountering enemies with a higher Bravery means you're going to have a much harder time defeating them. To assist you, your team has Hero Skills which you can use to drop a buff on your allies, summon someone in for a devastating blow, or you can option to temporarily swap to another character while being linked to your main hero who will attack by your side.
Combo abilities are unlocked based on your team composition and their bravery levels in each battle. You can also use Rush Stars to summon a horde of enemies to slaughter for 20 seconds, and during this rush, as you rack up kills while your allies cheer you on. After the onslaught, you're rewarded with a slew of enemy drops including crafting materials, exp, gold, and health/special gauge (musou) restoration foods.
Speaking of crafting materials, there's a card system here that you can equip your character instead of having to upgrade individual weapons, but it's haphazardly explained, and even through 20 hours of trial and error, I'm still not sure what creating cards actually do other than combining three cards to make a shitty one.
All and all, Warriors All-Stars is an excellent introduction to the idea of Musou for newcomers who want to see what the fuss is about but aren't interested in the spin offs with Nintendo or Square Enix. While I do feel like Warriors All-Stars has an excellent map system, the lack of depth makes it struggle to hold interest for very long. For now, Hyrule Warriors still remains the best collaboration with Omega Force, despite how much more I like All-Stars map ideas.
A copy of this game was provided to KnowTechie for the purpose of this review.