Samurai Warriors 2: Empires is the latest in Koeiâ€™s series of â€˜Warriorsâ€™ games. SW2, for those of you who havenâ€™t played it, is an action game where you are in control of a warrior in feudal Japan. Each battle involves running around the map killing the enemy soldiers/generals while attempting to capture enemy bases and storm castles. What this game adds to SW2 is a strategy level where a map is divided into regions. As the ruler of the empire, it is your task to decide which regions to invade or defend, how to upgrade your territories, weapons and armies, and how to interact with the other empires until all of Japan is united under one empire. Will you be the ruling emperor or a slave in someone elseâ€™s empire?
There are two modes to consider here, strategy level and battle Level. In the turn-based strategy level, the number of regions you control in the empire determines the number of actions you can take. As emperor you can either choose from a multitude of policies to put into action, or you can consult with one of your generals to decide what is best for your empire. This gives the player the freedom to try different diplomacies and strategies for running their empire from one game to the next. Emperors also have the opportunity to deploy units around the map in order to strengthen their empires when going into combat. Combat is comprised of invading another territory, defending your own, or assisting an ally with its invasion.
If you have played any of the previous Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors games, you will be familiar with the combat system. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke..." but for those of you who have not played them, the 'Warrior' games are nothing but button-mashing, combo-based frenzies. The combos aren't very complicated so anyone can pick up the game and play. There is always plenty of action in combat as there are hundreds of enemy soldiers and officers to mow down per battle.
During the strategy level, emperors can learn tactics and formations to be used in combat. Tactics can change the battle you are about to enter by lessening the number of enemies that you will face, awarding the player additional units that will follow the player, and allowing the capture of enemy offices during battle, just to name a few. Formations give the player's army temporary bonuses during the battle. They are short lived and do different things such as adding speed and attack to a player's units as well as boosting the regeneration of health for the units. As time progresses the tactic wears off but depending on the players actions, points can be earned that will allow the enabling of another formation during battle.
The visuals graphics in SW2 Empires are the best of the 'Warriors' series to date. In previous games, there were issues with slow down and units had a tendency to disappear and blink in and out of the screen. Both of those issues seem to have been addressed and the engine can handle rendering many soldiers on the screen at once.
The 'Warriors' series has been known for its bad voiceover acting in the past, and this game continues the trend. Both the scripts and voices are bad. It really would have been nice if there was an option, as in previous dynasty warriors games, to have the audio dubbed in its original Japanese. The messages are also repetitive and it got tiresome hearing the same message repeated 3 times in a row. On top of all that, it was often confusing as to what the game was talking about. The music and sound effects are on par with the other games in the series and they add an atmospheric touch to the game, engrossing the player in the battle.
Multiplayer is an important element of the 'Warriors' games. When a second player joins the battle, the battle can be split onto two fronts in combat or both players can stick together and back each other up. This is extremely important because if either player is defeated or if the defeat conditions for the scenario are met, the invasion/defense is a loss. There are a couple of annoying things about multiplayer. If a player unleashes a special attack, the game will pause and show some screens displaying the player in battle poses. This is rather annoying if the other player is in the middle of a combo because it disrupts the timing. While the split-screen mode is nice, it also limits the view significantly in comparison to the single-player mode. Hopefully future versions of the 'Warriors' series will be playable online or networkable via LAN so that each player can make use of the full screen.
If you're a big fan of the 'Warriors' games and you're looking for more, then I think you should pick this one up. It improves on the format already established in the previous games, and the strategy level adds another dimension to the game. At the same time, if you've burned out on the series, maybe you should avoid it as it's still the same game.