With several suitors having come and gone, the “Dynasty Warrior” franchise found itself at a cross roads, having been heart broken after the dismantling of its relationship with lover Dragon Quest that resulted in a love child born to a rave review. Fortunately, the heartache wouldn’t last too long as eventually, there was another in the form of Arslan; a series of fantasy novels turned manga. But was this a courtship shrouded in bliss, or would there be issues that would be cause for concern?
From Developer’s Omega Force and Publisher Koei Tecmo comes another entry into their best-selling Musou-Style of games titled Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. From the moment the wallpaper popped onto my PS4 screen, the manga influence took centre stage. It continued to be that way as I pressed start, with the overall in-game graphics beautifully cell-shaded, mimicking the appearance of an anime. It had me breathless as the colours popped; the yellows were bright and as were the darks. However, beauty is only skin deep I thought and so with that, I dove deeper into what was in store for me.
In typical Musou Fashion, you will be tasked with having to fend off waves of enemies that luckily didn’t prove a taunting task as I found the controls to be extremely responsive. However, there was a particular instance that I had trouble with and that was whenever I’d attempt to mount my horse. I would be prompted to press the “X” button and as I did so, I wouldn’t get on my horse, instead jumping over the animal. This would be a small complaint, however in a game where it’s ranking system relies on how fast you can conquer an area; those valuable wasted seconds could be the difference between an “S” rank and “A” rank. While on the subject of horse-back; I do want to mention how clunky the mounted attacking felt. I found that it really only worked well with characters that used bows, and even then, it wasn’t perfect. As such, I’d never really battle on horse back, always opting to dismount in order to kick some butt.
One of the flaws for me was the voice-over, as it lacked an English dub. I do appreciate that with it’s cell-shaded graphic engine and anime inspiration, this decision drove home the authenticity but during combat, it proved distracting. I would find myself constantly shifting my eyes downwards towards the bottom of the screen to catch what was being said, causing me to falter in combat. The snippets of dialogue that occurred, while not important to the overall plot, does offer up character interaction and development. But because of the continued action on-screen; a lot of it went unnoticed in my play through. This was especially an issue during your “special attacks”; characters would continue to speak but the subtitles vanished, meaning if you aren’t natively Japanese, you missed that portion of dialogue altogether. Another flaw was the AI, a continued weakness to the Musou-Series from Koei. While I do welcome an easier difficulty when facing thousands of enemies; it was excoriating during escort portions, as AI controlled characters couldn’t advance unless there were no enemies blocking the way. For example, while escorting three AI controlled characters, you face a group of twenty enemies, to which you kill off nine-teen. Because of the timed nature of the ranking system, you want to hurry which means you sacrifice being precise. However, despite escorting three characters, that one enemy you left behind stops them from moving forward, halting your progress until you kill off the remaining baddie. This AI issue carries on to their ability to attack, as enemies and allies unlike aren’t the smartest, at times just walking side to side aimlessly. However, much like many Musou-style games; this doesn’t carry over to the bosses, as they do have better AI .
In the midst of the AI flaws and the tiny misstep of a responsive mounting action; what this game does great is the story. In-between each section of game-play, you are treated to beautifully drawn cut-scenes, depicting the struggle of Arslan and his band of merry men. Okay, his band of loyal followers; I just really wanted to say merry men, so sue me. The artwork is very reminiscent of an anime, making you feel as though you’re watching a cartoon which commercial breaks of gaming between episodes. I am not familiar with Arslan, with this game being my first exposure to the property but to what I understand, the story of the game follows that of the manga and novels. That said, it might not offer much to those who are familiar with this series, whereas to a new comer such as myself, I found it interesting. However, as a whole, I found the story did include some cheesy plot-points that were ultimately generic. Of course, as I writer myself, I do tend to be quite critical of stories, hungering for insane plot-twists which I wasn’t given here.
In conclusion, this game still offers a good time, especially for those that are enthusiasts of the Musou genre. If you are much like myself, gamers that enjoy collecting all a game has to offer, then you will have plenty to explore and unlock. However, be warned as this ultimately boils down to a repetitive button masher so if you aren’t much for that, this may not be your game. For me personally, I enjoyed my time with this game and while I had issues here and there, it gave me enough variety to keep me engaged. Arslan does not do a great job of standing out, getting bogged down by the other games that Omega Force have developed such as Dragon Quest Heroes or Hyrule Warriors. Still, as a game, Arslan is definitely worth a play through but probably not at full price. Wait for a price drop then definitely pick this one up; it provides mindless fun and a challenge to those who love collecting!
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