Samurai Warriors 2 Empires

Samurai Warriors 2 Empires

Well feudal Japan isn't going to unite itself, y'know. We go hands-on with Koei's more tactical button masher.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: January 29, 2007
The other day, we were all sitting around, procrastinating on actually doing any real work when someone said, "hey, I really want to play another Samurai Warriors game, man; they don't make enough of 'em!" That person was punched a couple times in the face, as we know for a fact that just thinking about a new Warriors game means that at least sixteen of them will begin development instantaneously, but then we realized that Punchy McBlackEyeFace was kinda right.

The Samurai Warriors games, whether because of the wildly different gameplay element of being in Japan vs. China, or because we're just a bunch of sad Japanophiles, somehow seems more fun to most of us around here that can still handle hammering on the Square and Triangle Buttons. It may also be the fact that the so-called expansions to the series Empires and Xtreme Legends are starting to feel like more fun than the plain vanilla numerical entries. SW2 Empires is no different, and though it is in no uncertain terms a light extension of the main gameplay found in the original Samurai Warriors 2, it's different enough that we got hooked all over again.

We'll just get the basics out of the way: if you're wondering if developer Omega Force picked this $30 expansion to completely overhaul the graphics engine, make the game online on the PS2, added tons of awesome voice acting and completely changed the combat, we're happy to tell you that yes, you are in fact totally high right now. We also would like to buy some off you. Naw, just like 1/8th cause we do--yeaaaah, thanks.

So yes, this is the game you've played about a billion times before, but that doesn't mean things haven't been added. There's just no moment where the game suddenly because a simulation of how awesome it would be to find out your girlfriend likes that really hot waitress down at the coffee bar just as much as you do and that she fancies a delicious three-way, though you're right, that would be a pretty awesome game. No, instead, the core idea of picking a region and then slowly uniting all of Japan during the Warring States Era by way of thumping on a couple hundred thousand of your countrymen is at the fore here.

Empires is arguably the strongest of the takes on the Warriors franchise, mainly because it pours so much time into exploring the stuff between half-hour long jaunts through blurry-floored countryside. By taking over bits of land by force, you amass increasing numbers of captains (which can then be promoted to generals if you'd like), which need to be shuffled around to buffer your front lines, since you can only attack or defend once per turn.

In between bouts of kicking ass, you have the opportunity to listen to your generals or issuing your own orders that expend part of your turn and cost you a little cash. These can range from pulling money from the people to restocking troops to new things like conducting foreign trade or searching for ronin. Newly added are 50 new policies, which allow you to do things before battle that affect specific regions before you dive in and hack some folks up, as well as a handful of new actions that can be taken between fights.

Given that this is the first Empires game for Japan, Omega Force took the time to highlight a handful of historical events both in the scenarios that you can play through that divvy up the 25 different regions for multiple assaults on uniting the country, but there are also events that take place in those scenarios, punctuated by CG cutscenes and breakout cinemas that paint a more precise picture of what went down at certain moments in actual history or the way you're rewriting it. Not all of the battles are country-wide, but all follow the same basic plan/consult/decree/strategize/attack/defend flow.

The actual fighting isn't terribly different. To take over a main enemy camp, you'll have to create a string of captured bases, and as you do so, you can throw out formations on the fly to try to swing motivation, boost attack or defense and generally just keep the enemy on its toes (or at least try to even the odds when you're outnumbered), but the general experience-based leveling up and the skills that you gain from just fighting is the same as the Warriors games ever was.

Empires is, by definition, an extension of the existing gameplay you've likely experience about a bazillion times now, but no matter how many times it's presented, fans (and yes, as much crap as we give the game in little run-downs like this, we still count ourselves among them) will continue to lap up every little expansion and addition. The game won't hit for another month or so, so if we happen to get the itch to play more before then, we'll update with another preview but for now, we'll just venture that this is the strongest of Koei's Samurai Warriors games, if only because the 400-strong lineup of historical characters and seemingly endless ways to replay scenarios satisfy the basic hack-n-slash need that always seems to creep up on us.