Review: Arslan: The Warriors of Legend

Release Date
PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PC (Steam)
Publisher / Developer
Koei Tecmo / Omega Force
Hack and slash
Single Player, Multiplayer

I’m a huge fan of Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series, and their spin-off titles especially. 2015 was a great year for Warriors games and 2016 looks set to continue this trend with Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. As a fan of the recent manga adaptation for this story, I was ready to dive right into this game and I expect great things.

Koei Tecmo is back with another entry in their Warriors (Musou) series, this time based on the recent re-imagining of the classic The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Originally a novel series by Yoshiki Tanaka, The Heroic Legend of Arslan has seen numerous adaptations. The most recent adaptation being a manga by Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist, Silver Spoon). This version of the story also received an anime adaptation in 2015 which, along with the manga, serves as the basis for this game. What better story to use within a Warriors game than Arslan which is full of large battles between warring nations and a cast of unique characters.

The story follows Arslan, the prince of Pars, which is suddenly taken over by the Lusitanian army after the king of Pars, Andragoras III, falls victim to a treacherous plot by one of his trusted retainers. During the battle, Prince Arslan manages to escape and re-joins his loyal retainer, Daryun. With Daryun’s help, the pair escapes the battle and seek to add trusted companions to their ranks, all the while being pursued by the treacherous Kharlan. They eventually meet with Daryun’s friend and brilliant tactician, Narsus, and his aid, Elam, where they plot to evade and defeat Kharlan’s forces. They are soon joined by the beautiful priestess, Farangis, and the travelling musician, con-man, and sleazeball, Gieve. With the help of his new companions, Arslan stands against overwhelming odds with Lusitanian soldiers at every turn and the mysterious warrior known as “Silvermask” hunting them down.

Upon starting the game you’re thrust into the lengthy story mode that follows the events of the manga and anime. Between battles, you’re treated to some awesome enhanced animation stills along with some fully voiced Japanese audio making the whole thing feel like you’re watching an episode of the anime. The story provides a very in-depth retelling of the source material which is surprising but very welcome and makes it great for people who haven’t experienced the story yet. The gripe I have here is the lack of a scenario complete screen after each battle, instead, you just continue to proceed from battle to battle, only having the option to quit when reaching the next battle preparation screen. It’s not a huge issue but it feels odd not having one and then having to skip through cutscenes you’ve already seen when you return can get a little tedious. Apart from that, the story elements of the game are brilliant and I can’t praise the effort put in highly enough.

Battles, like other spin-off titles, follow a linear formula that’s tied into the source material’s narrative. Usually requiring you to make it to an escape point or protect an area for a set amount of time and then topped off with a boss battle. This is to be expected as it has been the way with previous titles based on existing franchises. It has to be said that the controls don’t feel as fluid as previous titles; the camera controls are rather clunky as are executing attacks, and horses are a real pain as they seem to have a mind of their own. The game does feature some great new additions to its attack line-up such as a weapon switching and chaining mechanic, and “Mardān Rush”. These make combat a lot more interesting giving you more options when mowing down hundreds of enemies at a time.

The game also features a skill card system; much like coins in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, equipping these will boost a character’s attributes and you can equip up to three at a time, with bonus sets granting greater bonuses. Skill cards are dropped during battle by defeating officers, the mechanic behind this works will but doesn’t have as much focus as Pirate Warriors 3 and can easily be forgotten. Don’t neglect it though as it can give you an edge in battle, you can even synthesize your lower rank cards into newer more powerful ones. Ultimately it’s a nice feature that could have been focused on a little more to make it relevant to the rest of the game.

The characters and anime-inspired cut scenes are visually impressive but sadly I can’t say the same for the majority of the maps. The game also doesn’t have the greatest roster of characters with only fifteen, of which only twelve are playable, but with the story, it’s based on only reaching so far it’s to be expected. Like Dragon Quest Heroes the game employs the use of the PlayStation 4 controller’s speaker to relay character dialogue during battles. A rather useless feature in this title given that there is no English audio option leaving you to read the on-screen dialogue at the risk of being attacked.

The story mode is easily the best part of the game a lot of attention and effort has clearly been put into it. Unfortunately, other areas of the game have suffered slightly but thankfully not to the point where it’s unenjoyable. The anime-like cutscenes and character designs are highly praiseworthy and the new features in combat make battles just as exciting as previous Warrior iterations. Ultimately Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is a great game but feels somewhat lacking in areas, the biggest question though is when is its sequel coming out?