Samurai Warriors 2 Empires - PS2 - Preview
Some might deal with it by running for cover. Others might handle the situation by grabbing the biggest weapon they can find and charging head first into battle. Those who fall in the latter category should rest their arms and ready their thumbs: KOEI’s got a game for you.
Samurai Warriors 2, the sequel to Dynasty Warriors’s first major spin-off, is getting a spin-off of its own. Titled Samurai Warriors 2: Empires, this game is not entirely everything the first was. For starters, there does not appear to be much of an emphasis on the quirky board game.
Instead the gameplay is a little more focused on strategy.
“Oooh, strategy! That sounds like Romance of the Three Kingdoms!”
Now do you see what happens? You say the word strategy and gamers’ minds automatically travel to a specific place. And who could blame them? RoTK is a strategist’s dream come true, delivering the best in large-scale turn-based warfare. Samurai Warriors 2: Empires does not approach that game’s depth. It doesn’t even attempt to mimic the effects of Vandal Hearts or any other long-forgotten strategy/RPG. Empires takes its own route, gunning for just the right amount of depth mixed with the perfect amount of action combat.
The result? Mixed but promising. The first thing you’ve got to remember about this series is that, no matter how many features are added, it never really changes. For example, let’s examine the last game, Samurai Warriors 2. A new mini-game was introduced: Sugoroku. It was a board game with strong, unofficial ties to Monopoly. Built for up to four players, Sugoroku was addictive in a way that was almost sinful – I wanted to spend more time playing it than the actual game of Samurai Warriors 2.
Samurai Warriors 2: Empires is a little less risky in its mission to diversify. Before battle you'll scroll through a handful of selections that can alter how the mission starts. Options range from how and who to evade to weapon and tactic selection. Consult special warriors to mine for minerals (which are traded in for gold), expedite units (increase troop replenishment rate), cause an enemy hindrance (decrease opponent troop replenishment rate), fortify your allies (increase defense), and form alliances with others.
View conditions, and during combat you’ll be able to give your officers one of four different orders: All Attack (press up), All Defend (down), All Gather (left) and Auto (right; use this one to let officers act freely).
The graphics aren’t looking as sharp as the 360 version – textures aren’t as smooth, backgrounds aren’t as vibrant, and the resolution isn’t as high. However, they do appear to be slightly improved over the last version for PlayStation 2. Objects are still pixelated, but not as much as before. Water flows are still flat (and look more like a conveyer belt than H2O). But overall the game is crisper. It’s not a hugely noticeable difference. Casual players are likely to go into the game without spotting a single change. But they’re there – you just have to look hard.
Though I doubt anyone anticipated otherwise, the controls are exactly the same as they were in the previous game. You have control over the camera, and all combat is executed via the face buttons. Attacks can be performed either on the ground or in the air. Leap over short distances, unleash a quick aerial slash, and enjoy a smile as your enemies are blown away.
Hacking and slashing its way into stores this month, Samurai Warriors 2: Empires is just the thing gamers need to get their monthly fix of Dynasty and/or Samurai Warriors. Expect to spend hours going through the enemy-assaulting motions the series is known for producing. Expect to be surrounded by opponents from all sides, without warning and with very few breaks. Most of all you should expect to pound your right thumb into the Dual-Shock 2 until the cows come home – and until the eventual Samurai Warriors 3 is released.