Review: ‘Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada’ presents no challenge and feels like a waste of time and energy
‘Sanada’ had a lot of potential, but manages to squander it to make something mediocre at best.
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: Koei Tecmo
‘Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada’ tells the continuing story of the Sanada clan and their struggle against the Daimyo in their seemingly endless battle for power in the violent political climate of feudal Japan. As you explore the landscape, you perform missions and combat hordes of opposing forces in this hack and slash adventure.
This genre of game is usually less complicated than most. Hack and slashes are either done very well or indeed very poorly. Unfortunately, the latter appears to be more evident. ‘Sanada’ definitely attempts to give players something in which to sink their teeth, but manages to trip and fall flat in more ways than one.
The combat presents no challenge, no satisfying results, and spoon-feeds players.
The only saving grace a hack and slash needs is in its combat. It needs to be fast-paced, fun, and satisfying. In ‘Sanada’, the combat does keep things fast-paced, as it were, but that’s pretty much all it has going for it. Like most games of this style, you usually resort to button mashing, but even a cursory knowledge of attack combos should benefit you in the long run. In this case, combos require no skill whatsoever. The game practically spoon-feeds you with literally dozens upon dozens of hordes, all of which seem so flimsy they get mowed down like cardboard cutouts. So much as sneezing on the controller will destroy a hefty amount of spawns to the point where even on your horse, no fighting is necessary; just keep galloping through crowds and you can do some considerable damage.
Almost immediately, you’ll find no challenge and no satisfaction from killing enemies. Usually, the opposing forces fall more along the lines of obstacles than actual combatants. Most of the hordes will spawn in around the entrance to another area of the map, usually where your next objective is. If you begin fighting too close to that entrance, even a slight nudge will frustratingly port you elsewhere, forcing you to port back in order to regain momentum in the fight. “Fight”, of course, being a relative term considering there’s rarely any damage being received from your enemies. The whole experience just feels more like trash removal than an actual brawl. With the tight, inconveniently oriented hordes and the little to no opposition from their grossly overpopulated forces, the entire set-up for the combat system is very poorly constructed and greatly diminishes from the final product.
The controls are frustrating and the environment you’re given to work with is bland and congested.
Combat aside, a great deal of the game requires you to perform the same rolodex of blasé missions, usually the typical escorts, some mini-games here and there, and of course basic horde clearing. While many have a time limit requiring you to move faster to beat the clock, none of it is anything we haven’t seen before. You’ll often find yourself on “exploration maps”, which apparently is a very loose term considering almost every section you move through looks virtually identical to the one before it, none of which is helped by the fact that the graphics are just bad enough to feel like an entire generation behind where they should be. The only real points of interest on any of these map sections are either the spawns or the items to collect. Essentially, any materials you might need for the crafting they attempt to incorporate can be effortlessly found haphazardly lying on the ground in a bright blue, clearly marked icon. The crafting itself actually does present more of a challenge, especially when it comes to medicine, but most of the materials that are off the market require you to replay the same exploration maps in the hopes that some of them will decide to drop.
The maneuverability throughout these maps isn’t the worst you might see, but it needs definite improvement. It’s somewhat jarring at first, but you do have the option to make adjustments as needed. Despite the ability to tweak the controls, it still never feels quite right. While none of this affects the already mediocre combat, you might find yourself bumping into walls and people in the particularly congested areas of the NPC village, especially when the village expands and grows as you progress. Your character choice tends to veer slightly in unintended directions, has some trouble accurately approaching vendors and characters on the first try, and even the confirmation buttons which advance the dialogue sometimes require more than one try, almost to the point of feeling the need to double check if your controller is even working properly.
‘Spirit of Sanada’ is not necessarily "unplayable", but a definite waste of time and energy. Released in Japan last November, only coming to the states earlier this summer, you'd expect more from something as relatively new as this. This had the potential to be a fun endeavor but failed in so many ways. It’s repetitive, the combat is unsatisfying, and the overall gameplay is unimpressive. Some titles manage to keep this playstyle interesting, but ‘Sanada’ manages to make every rookie mistake you can, which is not something you'd expect from a studio that's been pumping out games since the original PlayStation.