Hey now, you’re an all star.
Hey look! It’s another Warriors game from Tecmo Koei – no, don’t give me that look. It might be easy to frown on Omega Force’s work as they churn out a seemingly endless stream of their signature Musou titles, but it really is doing their efforts a bit of a disservice. And as this latest crossover proves, Omega Force certainly aren’t afraid to mix up the formula, whilst at the same time keeping the core gameplay the genre is known for intact.
Warriors All-Stars, then, is a sort-of successor to the Warriors Orochi series, but with a wider-ranging cast to draw from. Whilst Orochi primarily featured characters from the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series’, All-Stars plucks it’s heroes from other titles in the Tecmo Koei library and transports them to a magical world full of dog-people and monsters, where a sacred spring that gives the world it’s life is failing and three factions are vying for control of it. So, naturally, characters from other worlds are summoned to help.
You’re given a selection of a handful of heroes at the outset, each of whom is aligned with one of the three main factions (Kind-hearted Tamaki, hotheaded but earnest Setsuna, and stoic Shiki). You can unlock more heroes as you progress through the story mode, which presents you with a sizeable map full of battles to engage in. Most of these battles are optional, there to act as the game’s ‘Free Mode’ which is otherwise missing and allow you to grind out materials and character cards (more on those later), but some, denoted by special icons, are core story missions, hero missions, or dramatic battles. Each of the story missions and dramatic battles must be unlocked by fulfilling certain conditions; since some of these conditions require you to have not completed certain battles it becomes a bit of a branching path through the game’s storyline, leading to multiple different endings. Repeated playthroughs, therefore, are a must, but thankfully your character advancement and materials / card collections carry over.
In battle, All-Stars is more or less the same Musou gameplay you’d expect: you control your hero and battle through hundreds of rank-and-file enemies, capturing bases and completing objectives, as well as occasionally squaring off against opposing heroes. Though the combat itself is rarely challenging, it’s satisfying and empowering, but the greater challenge comes from the constant flow of mission objectives. Balancing a desire to control regions of the battlefield with the need to defeat key opponents, protect allies, and enact strategic plans can be tricky in the more difficult battles, which quickly become a battle more of time management than of combat skill. Whilst most objectives rotate through certain core themes, the way they’re implemented on each of the game’s sprawling maps remains interesting even after dozens of encounters, though some of the story missions and hero recruitment missions can get old when you’re playing through the game for the fifth or sixth time.
Differentiating All-Stars from its peers are the new party system, which gives you primary control of one hero but allows you to be accompanied by four more; these will fight alongside you under the AI’s control, but can be swapped into combat for a while or called upon to trigger special moves, which range from basic attacks to longterm buffs and healing magics. There’s also a new Musou Rush ability, which when triggered supercharges your character and magically makes hundreds of enemies spawn in all around them, waiting to be cut down.
A more consequential new mechanic is the introduction of the Bravery system. Your character starts each battle with 1 bravery, but can earn more by completing objectives and defeating opponents. Doing so is crucial: opposing heroes also have bravery ratings, and if you’re fighting an enemy with a much higher bravery rating than you they’ll inflict a lot more damage with their attacks, whilst your own abilities will inflict much less. It’s a clever way of encouraging you to follow the mission objectives and complete side goals, rather than just letting you charge straight at the enemy commander and down them with a special attack (which is totally not something I’ve done in other Warriors games, honest).
Outside of battle, collecting and upgrading weapons is a thing of the past, partly due to the fact that some of the game’s character’s don’t use any weapons. Instead you now have character cards that can be equipped to their respective characters; these cards confer basic damage boosts and add elemental damage, but can be upgraded to include special skills and abilities by using materials gathered in battle.
As for the characters themselves, whilst they represent a good cross-section of Tecmo’s library, there are a few questionable choices and some characters that are notable for their absence. One of Warriors Orochi’s endearing features was the presence of ‘guest characters’ such as Sophitia from the Soul Blade franchise, but there are no such inclusions here, nor are there characters from outside Tecmo Koei published games, so don’t expect to see heroes even from Omega Force games that aren’t published by Tecmo – there are no Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest Heroes or Berserk cameos, for example. Whilst this is likely due to licensing issues, it’s a shame these games don’t have any representation in the All-Stars lineup, and makes this feel more like a Tecmo Koei All-Stars than a Warriors All-Stars.
So who do you get? Most of Tecmo’s core franchises are represented with characters from Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, Toukiden, Deception and Atelier all turning up in various numbers, but there are a few curios to add to the bunch – Nights of Azure’s Arnice and Samurai Cat’s Nobunyaga Oda are a bit unexpected, but more so are Opoona – the title character from an obscure Wii RPG – and Rio – a hostess character from a Pachinko series of games. The character choices aren’t always the most obvious either – Dead or Alive gives us Kasumi, but also lesser-known DOA5 characters Honoka and Marie Rose, whilst the Dynasty Warriors selection stars fan-favourites Zhao Yun, Wang Yuanji and Lu Bu, but pairs them with previously unplayable Zhou Cang.
Warriors All-Stars boasts a cheerful, vibrant presentation full of lush colours and thematically appropriate music. The world the heroes are dragged to is similarly colourful, though stages representing other worlds (a Casino for Rio, a haunted forest for Toukiden, etc) are present and serve to keep things varied. The visuals are definitely a case of art style over technical prowess, but the game looks attractive enough and maintains a solid framerate even on a standard PS4.
Whilst Warriors All-Stars could more accurately be described as Tecmo Koei All-Stars, there’s still plenty here to enjoy. The lack of game modes and complete absence of multiplayer are disappointing, and whilst the Story mode offers a ton of side content it doesn’t quite measure up to the generous offerings Omega Force are known for. There are some neat new features, and like any crossover it’s fun to see your favourite characters interacting with one another, but All-Stars still feels a little too tied to the core Musou mechanics and relies heavily on the player’s affection for a cast of relatively unknown characters. That said, the basic gameplay is as entertaining and addictive as it’s ever been, and even if All-Stars is just a stop-gap before the more radical changes coming in Dynasty Warriors 9, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.