March 03, 2016
Arslan The Warriors of Legend - Review
Arslan is a series that has been told countless times over the years, with multiple manga and anime adaptions, but The Warriors of Legend is the first video game to get a release outside of Japan and while it is a fine game, the gameplay on offer does not match the source material.
Arslan is the prince of the Kingdom of Pars, a country known for its undefeatable army and use of slaves, when is he 14 years old, he heads out to his maiden battle after the neighbouring Kingdom of Lusitania invades. However, the proud nation of Pars falls victim to lose in the battle, with their army suffering a crushing defeat, the prince is forced from his home as Lusitania invades. However, the prince is not just giving up, he seeks to gather an army to then march upon Ecbatana, remove the invading army, set free all the slaves and lead Pars down a new and different path.
While Arslan is going about doing this with his comrades, Silver Mask, the man responsible for ensuring the defeat of Pars in the battle is moving around in the shadows, proving he does not care for Lusitania, nor their devotion to their god and that they are only means to an end. To talk anymore about the story would be to spoil it, needless to say, there are betrayals, alliances and maybe a little romance. The story is the strongest part of the entire package, with the current iteration of the classic being helmed by Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of Full Metal Alchemist.
Sadly, the gameplay does not match the story, with the exceptions of a few times, seeing as the gameplay takes its inspiration from the Warriors series of games, large scale battles that have hundreds of soldiers all around the place. During the opening battle which is set between two large armies, or some of the later skirmishes, they work great, you need to keep an eye out on soldiers outside of the regular fodder, such as assault captains, messengers or generals. Leaving a General around will keep spawning more regular soldiers, likewise the captains will provide a moral boost, which results in better attacking or defence, depending on the captain. A messenger will do all they can to avoid a fight and if they make it off the map, more soldiers will arrive, but if you take them down, you can stop that from happening. These honestly felt like a real battle, your choices could shape how easy or difficult things were, so you need to be aware of all parts of it at one time.
For the most part you will control Arslan himself, but there are times when Daryun, Narsus, Gieve or Elam will be required, which offers up a nice change of pace from the same style of combat on display. Each character uses the same buttons for attacking, but by changing up the weapons they all behave differently, with characters like Daryun and Narsus being powerhouses, they can take down waves of enemies with ease, but as they use power moves more often, they tend to need a break between combos, where as Gieve and Elam are more fluid in their attacks, they do have a smaller range of attacking, which helps keep them balanced. While boss fights are kept to a minimum, only occurring when the story requires it, they are very odd encounters, each boss character has a set limit of damage they take, before they go into rage mode and while the idea sounds good, it ends up being a misstep. Each time rage mode is activated, the boss will start off again from where they entered the map, meaning if you are near another spot when they go into rage mode, you have to track back towards them to continue the fight.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the games combat is that it throws it into story sections when it is not required. After you leave the mountain retreat of Narsus, the manga and anime tell the story of how they outrun only a handful of soldiers and only attack by using traps, sadly the game, throws a few thousand at you on a large scale battlefield, which is the opposite of what the story is telling you. Sadly, it is a pretty common problem the game has, the cutscenes tell the story where stealth is needed, or small scale conflict is pointed out as needed and then the gameplay kicks in and hundreds of enemies are on screen. It is important to note, the combat is not bad, it just does not suit the type of story being told.
Aside from the main story, there is also an online mode and free mode, which the latter of which allows you to level up characters more, relive past chapters and more little bits and pieces. You can take any character you have played as in the main story, back to any mission you desire, change the background music, character costume and even modify the cards equipped to see how things might go differently. The cards are important as each character can hold a few, which can provide boosts to certain skills, you will mostly collect them when defeating enemies in battle, but you can also create cards, but do so requires at least two cards and gold, so there is a management aspect to doing that. The trade-off might be high, but combining three or four level A cards, might result in a singular S card, which is better than the 4 combined and seeing as you can only have three equipped at a single time, per character, it is something worth looking into.
Speaking of looks, the game has a very nice consistent look, between that of the anime and what the team have created themselves. Each of the main characters is modelled with a lot of detail, which allows for swaps from anime shots to in game, with very little difference, there were a few times where until the camera had move, I was not aware that it changed. Speaking of the anime, the team do a lot of the cutscenes using the footage from it, however it’s not a straight cut from the source to the game, in fact what they have done is taken shots, animated the characters like, cut-outs and have them move around that way. The characters move ok, you will only really notice this cut-out style when the game moves them from one major position to another, their mouths move well enough, providing the sense that the characters are speaking, rather than sound is just appearing from nowhere.
While the characters are wonderfully realised, the game worlds and armies are not as well defined, with the locations being a sore point for me. The look of the world is pretty close to the source material, which is nice, the problem is the textures are below average and it shows, whenever you are stuck watching an action take place, you will notice jagged edges, low res textures and even elements that don’t click together all around you. These issues are everywhere, but because the action on screen is more important than the backgrounds, they can be easily overlooked, what can’t be is the amount of pop up the game suffers from. There were more occasions than I can count, where I would be attacking a group of enemies in front of me, never usually more than a dozen or so, only to have another two dozen appear right next to them, meaning my fights just dragged on and it’s not a matter of the army getting support, those events happen, which is usually when soldiers would file onto the map from another space, this was just random population of characters into the space. Being close to finishing of a single group, only to have more just appear in front of you, it’s very frustrating.
When you are listening to the game, it does have a single sour point, but the rest of it is on point, from the voice acting, with lines feeling taken right from the anime, but the characters speak more here than in the show, so having the same voice actors provides a consistent quality throughout. The soldiers also sound fine, with cheers and cries as needed, depending on the tides of battle, the sounds of swords and spears bashing against stone, shields and people sound disturbing, which is nice. The sour point however comes from the music, when you are in the midst of battle, it is hard to notice the music, would could be a design choice, why have it in the mix when it’s not needed, sadly though, the menus have one or two pieces of music that loops and they are very short loops. So while the music in game can be ok, it’s never at the point where you will care and when you do hear it front and centre, the music grates.
Arslan The Warriors of Legend is a pretty fun game, its taking a story that has been retold over the past few decades and adapting it to modern game mechanics. Combat is fast and fluid, with spectacular results happening all over, the problem is the overall gameplay on offer does not match the story, resulting in a juxtaposition of elements that don’t match.
Thanks to Koei Tecmo for supplying the game for review