By: Brian Gunn
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is one of the latest Musou from Koei-Tecmo, this time based on a moderately popular anime series rather than historical figures. Does it offer anything to audiences that might not know the anime or be among the Musou genre faithful?
Like most Musou, Arslan requires players to drop into large battlefields and beat the tar out of hundreds (if not thousands) of low rank soldiers, and it has a relatively simply control scheme. Combos are short and easy to memorize for the most part, and it’s easy to get into a battlefield clearing rhythm even if you’re just button mashing away.
There’s some mounted combat that feels a bit stiff, so much so that I often bailed off my horse as soon as it wasn’t needed. An ability to switch weapons mid combo is one of the highlights, allowing for some crazy and spectacular looking moves.
The art style of the game is taken from the anime, which is from Hiromu Arakawa, the acclaimed artist known mainly for Full Metal Alchemist. This gives the game a unique appearance, especially compared to the many other similar games from Koei-Tecmo. While characters look great, environments are often lackluster and barren. This creates a visual clash when the highly stylized characters interact with level designs that could be in any other game.
Although The Warriors of Legend is a 60 FPS title on next-gen consoles and PC, it tends to dip quite frequently during heavy battles, and some moves are capped at 30 FPS. This can be quite jarring when going back and forth so frequently.
Given the modest popularity of the source anime in the west, it’s not much of a surprise that the title is not dubbed. Voice acting is good and appears to be from the anime, and most of the story elements tend to be lifted directly from that.
It is often surprisingly dialogue heavy, which can be a little hard to focus on when dealing with a 300-hit combo. Sound effects are gloriously over the top as you crush your enemies. Music doesn’t stand out too much except for a great main theme.
The story of Arslan: The Warriors of Legend thrusts players into the role of Arslan and his various cohorts as his kingdom is usurped when he’s young, and he aims to get it back. While the countries in the game are fictional, the story seems heavily inspired by Persia, dealing with shahs rather than kings. The setting ends up being a decent selling point as it’s not one seen very often, with games often focusing on European or Japanese kingdoms.
There are a few modes to play in, but in order to unlock most things in the self explanatory Free Mode, players will need to venture through the story first. Story mode has you bouncing around between a variety of characters, which can lead to finding ones you like more than expected, but it can also mean spending long stretches stuck with characters you find a little dull.
Each battle takes place on massive fields without much to make them standout, and your objective is often about crossing it to either escape or encounter a boss fight. Along the way paths may be blocked and force you into minor objectives like killing certain officer type enemies nearby.
So, basically, it ends up playing like most Dynasty Warriors games, though often a bit less strict. Others in the genre typically force you to defend something or capture something, but many of the battles in The Warriors of Legend are just about cutting through to points on the map.
The big differences between this game and others like it are the weapon combos and mounted combat. Weapon combos have been around to an extent, but they are worked into the combos themselves now. If you use a unique skill after a power attack, the skill transforms into your second or third weapon briefly and allows a short combo period before switching back to the original weapon. This allows for some incredibly stylish combos.
Mounted combat is fairly simple, allowing for simple sweeping attacks and a charge attack, but it can be useful for clearing an area depending on the character. The main focus of mounted combat, however, is a maneuver called Mardan Rush, which allows players to call a large amount of cavalry to their side and speed around the battlefield. It decimates everything in its way, as well as plowing though certain blockades that hinder progress.
While these two things help set Arslan apart, it’s still the familiar style of simple combat for the most part, and it can quickly get repetitive. There are also some block and evade maneuvers that are almost required on boss fights, but the camera and generally chaotic nature of the game makes using them kind of a chore.
The story isn’t much to write home about, though that’s likely due to attempting to fit a long stretch of anime into a few minutes of time between missions. Twists and turns are often lost on the player when they don’t spend any time with the characters. Still, the setting allows for some unique fighting styles, like one that attacks with painting, and another with a lute.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend isn’t likely to win anyone over to the genre or source material, but it has a solid base of mechanics that makes it worth a look for those searching for a colorful world in which to beat up thousands of soldiers.