ARSLAN: THE WARRIORS OF LEGEND

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Complete Review & Description

The struggle of pulling myself away from Arslan: Warriors of Legend to write this review was definitely real. If you’ve ever wondered how badass a Japanese game developer can be, you need to look no further than Koei. The story of Arslan was originally intended as a novella, published in the ‘80s, born out of a time when electric guitars and glam rock were hitting Japan. Every frame of every moment in the game can be paused and leave you with a dumb expression, as you try figure out what’s actually going on between fighting thousands of NPC’s charging around on screen and where your course of direction.

This is actually the second video game adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka’s fantasy novel, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and let me tell you – it’s a goodie. You can’t really argue with a piece of writing that’s already been crafted into a manga, two anime films, and a four-part animation series. Actually, the same animation team that was involved in the 2015 TV series are also involved in production to the game. I’ll also note that although it’s an adaption of the anime, there’s bunch of new content; so if you’ve seen it, there are extra treats in here just for you. Incidentally, it has nothing to do with a similarly named novel ‘Arslan’, written by M. J. Engh in 1976, which is set in the present.

Warriors of Legend brings a tale not yet told to western gamers through a 25-episode story arc from start to finish. Although the entire story’s told in Japanese and subbed in English, it should be no reason to deter you from the epic saga. The translated English is a little weird in parts, but by far one of the best storylines I’ve played. Arslan, a kind 14-year-old Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Pars is forced to take the reins of his kingdom when a traitor gives the neighbouring Kingdom of Lusitania some key intelligence, inevitably leading to the fall of Arslan’s entire army and a takeover of Pars. The Kingdom of Lusitania consists of religious zealots, ruled by an eclectic General simply known as Silver Mask. Arslan must try and make as many allies as possible to reclaim Pars.

Built on the backbone of some of Koei’s finest, like the battle system borrowed from the Dynasty Warriors franchise, this is the sixth Omega Force third-party collaboration title. A lot of Koei battle features translate into Arslan, which makes it a pick-up-and-play if you’re familiar with the developers’ other titles. To new players, the first 20 or so minutes can be daunting, but I beg you to give it a moment to adjust.

It’s a strikingly stimulating story for what is essentially a Warriors game. It might not sound like much, but once you get into it, it’s very difficult to figure out where to stop for the night. The story weaves its way through gameplay and cutscenes seamlessly, loading next levels while more cutscenes unfold. There is no part in this game where I felt there was enough of a break to check my phone or go to the toilet. Over the last week my flatmates have had to get used to seeing me sprint down the hallway and back so that I could get straight back at it. Between the anime and in-game graphics, only a marginal amount of detail is lost in facial and background definition, but it’s obvious the studio favoured the exaggeration of NPC’s on-screen over detailed scenarios.

There were also many times during battle where I had complete sensory overload, going from trying to digest what are usually 5-10 minutes cutscenes pulled straight from the manga back into fighting – where there’s even more dialogue flowing on screen from your allies talking around you, again similar to Dynasty Warriors. A bunch of times I got completely lost in guidance because I’d missed out on a couple of lines of subtitles while I was in a fight. When you’ve got 1000 NPC’s running towards you, things get busy. In saying that, you’re given a hefty health bar that I never managed to deplete lower than 50% so don’t be scared to look away every once in a while.

It’s surprising to see Warriors of Legend handle so many NPCs on the screen with little-to-no frame drops, after having to fight with the framerate in Dynasty Warriors 8. Warriors of Legend outputs at an effortless 60fps full-HD, and you really see the effect in battle; though, I use the term ‘battle’ very loosely. For the most part, it’s more like herding cattle with a sword. I’m not sure why Koei didn’t have soldiers proactively attacking as soon as an enemy appeared nearby, but slaughtering hundreds upon thousands of soldiers is like blowing hot air through butter. It’s highly satisfying and weirdly therapeutic, as though I’ve actually achieved something.

The boss fights are sort of similar, with infrequent counter attacks and a lot of sword-swinging. There’s a mode that I live for, called Rush Zone, that unlocks at certain parts during the in-battle story which allows you to unleash nuclear-like fury on surrounding enemies, usually reaching K.O’s between 10 and 20,000. In the most un-nerdiest way possible, the feeling is closer to an orgasm than anything else.

Each character also comes with a unique attack tailored to their weapon of specialty, activated once you’ve filled up a yellow bar with basic attacks. Daryun, an ally to Arslan wields a striking spear, where Gieve brandishes a citar, causing enemies to gather, allowing you to swiftly remove all their heads in one swoop. A few of them are a bit weird, like Narsus the inept painter, who uses offensive art drawings to wipe out entire lines of enemies, but so is the nature of this title; weird, but totally into it. The battle system on the whole is polished and a lot of fun.

The in-battle story also keeps things from getting too laborious. You’re still fighting the same NPC over and over, but you’re constantly being picked up and switched with other characters playing in the same map with different skillsets. During battle you’ll also pick up Skill Cards that can be synthesized from the pause menu – or up to three added to the current character you’re playing – giving them a boost in different areas. Your weapons also level up, but you’ll need to manually equip the better versions as they unlock. I highly recommend you take the chance to have a quick study on the button combinations for each weapon while you’re there to make sure you’re using them correctly.

During story mode, you’ll also be able to collect Recipe Books that can be used in a new ‘Free Mode’ prior to battle, which will give your controlled character an ability boost, most useful later in the more daring battles. The theme of food continues throughout with health and attack items symbolised as lamb skewers, potluck soup and stewed chicken. It’s a good representation for how odd, but how awesome, this game is.

It’s very rare to find a hack and slash title where satisfaction exists between a beautifully crafted storyline, and the ability to go H.A.M on everything in sight; it’s the perfect balance for an ultimate stress-reliever. Arslan: Warriors of Legend may be taxing to some western gamers, having to actually pay attention to the subtitles, but every moment that unfolds leaves you wanting more. There were a few times where objectives weren’t very clear, but on the whole it’s pretty straight-forward and I highly recommend any gamer to spare it at least a few moments. I didn’t think I was into Musou games, but consider me converted.

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