It'd be fair to say that musou titles occupy a very specific space in gaming. Rather than a Souls-like constantly pushing back, musou games are all about the power fantasy - and few have done it better in the past than the Samurai Warriors franchise.
After a seven year hiatus, Samurai Warriors 5 encapsulates the best of the franchise, but some newer design elements don't quite gel with the overall 1 vs 1000 combat.
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New Look Warriors
We're following the story of Nobunaga Oda and Mitsuhide Akechi again, only this time they're looking a little different. In a first for the franchise, the game now plays out in a pseudo-cel-shaded style.
Not only do the thick lines and colours stand out more in comparison to the prior games in the series, but when playing on a big TV it's easier to spot what's going on when you hoist half a platoon into the air with your weapon of choice.
Split into Story and Citadel modes, the former sends players into battle in that tried and tested tradition of racking up multiple thousand-hit combos and working their way across a battlefield (with some new flourishes we'll come to shortly).
The latter is a stop-gap between those missions, essentially, offering a chance to increase a character's level and earn new materials. The thinking is sound - a chance to stretch your legs (or sword) and power-level into a more efficient killing machine. Unfortunately, the loop feels a tad skewed when a story mission demands players take control of one character that may be vastly under-levelled.
Whirling Dervish Of Death
The good news is that while this can facilitate some grinding, Samurai Warriors 5 feels like Koei Tecmo flexing its musou muscle. The studio's output has always offered a great sense of scale, all the way back to the PS2, but here we see our heroes carving through troops like a hot knife through butter with some new tricks.
Chief among thoseare new Ultimate skills. Given that your character is so relentlessly powerful against rank and file enemies, these feel more like the cherry on top of your arsenal than a chance to turn the tide of battle, and can be activated mid-combo.
Avalanche, for example, can create a shockwave, while Pulse can boost combos. These ultimates, when tied into combos, Musou attacks, Rage attacks and the ability to deal damage while riding a horse make Samurai Warriors 5 the most flexible combat system in the franchise so far.
Musou Your Own Way
Speaking of flexibility, the game's skill trees are a great chance to buff your attacks and stats. While there's little scope for game-changing builds, it offers a tangible feeling of your warrior gaining in power.
The game's Castle area, unlocked through playing the story, is also full of RPG-inspired number crunching. Want to buff your weapon, or would you rather create a new one? It all coalesces into the most customisable Warriors title we've seen.
If musou titles haven't been your bag in the past, it's unlikely Samurai Warriors 5 will break new ground. It's still, by its nature, a button-mashing battler.
If you've been looking for a little more depth, though, then you'll be pleased to know that you'll have more fun carving through hordes of enemies than you have in any prior game in the series.
Reviewed on PS4
Review copy provided by the publisher