Seven things to know before you play Arslan: The Warriors of Legend
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend, out this week, is the meeting of two worlds: the fantasy crusade-era manga/anime series The Heroic Legend of Arslan and the hack-and-slash battlefield franchise Dynasty Warriors. Interested in checking it out? Here’s what you should know about the release.
The cel shading is gorgeous.
Though most Warriors games look very similar, this very-anime shading approach gives Arslan a feel of its own. It meshes well with the half-anime, half-motion comic cutscenes and doesn’t require a bunch of crunchy textures that can be distracting with so many enemies on the screen. They stick to the theme with things like hand-drawn fire and illustrated skyboxes, making it really feel like you’re controlling a character in anime environments.
It’s telling a very specific story.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend attempts to be a seamless sort of experience, taking you directly from battle to story to battle again without menus or hub areas. It also guides you in battle itself, with segments devoted to specific characters and scripted cuts to the actions of their compatriots. It’s very authorial, making sure that things go how they need to go to tell the story they’re telling of Arslan and his world. Also, when I say it tells a story, I mean it. Though there are ample semi-animated interludes, the characters talk (in Japanese) throughout the battles, often incessantly. Subtitles work fine when you can read them, but taking your eye off the battle for them isn’t always the best option.
The adventure’s much more contained.
Though the character roster is generous, it’s much more contained than a usual Warriors game, and as a result some effort has been made to make each character have more varied tactics. To follow the specific path these characters need to take, what you do is largely not up to you, and the focus is on how you do it. You’ll run at specific objectives, but the battles you fight along the way can require dodging, horseback combat or fancy weapon-switching. That’s the opposite direction from most Musou titles, which don’t swap up the tactics that much but give you a bunch of fires to put out at once and let you sort out your priorities. It’s almost like Omega Force wanted to make a non-Warriors character-driven action-RPG in the Warriors engine.
Bosses are harder to take down.
The labeled officers have always been the toughest foes, but Arslan takes that a step further, adding regenerating shields to break before deaLing them any damage. It’s not exactly a new concept in games, clearly, but it puts a greater focus on these fights and taking the tactical moves needed to dodge and attack when vulnerable to best deplete these barriers. Of course, this could have been done in a way that’s a bit more subtle, but hey: it does the job. Of course, whether you like these longer battles is up to personal preference.
Horses can be a lot more useful.
Horses are a Musou staple, but there’s some added usefulness here, and for two main reasons. The first: jumping. Like… not normal horse jumping. There’s way more verticality to it, and practical or not, it’s a lot of fun. (But it’s also practical!) The second: the game’s key selling point, Mardan Rush. It’s basically just a crazy attack you trigger by getting to a certain spot, and often it’s a large-group cavalry rush that can wipe out waves of enemies in one shot and break down impassable barriers. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but yeah, it feels pretty great.
You don’t need to watch the show, but it helps.
Whether you know the recent anime series from the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist on which the game is based, the decades-old series or the manga and novel before that, having a familiarity with the characters and lore obviously makes the game more compelling. If you’re totally uninitiated, you can watch the first episode included with some physical copies of the game, or just track it down on streaming services. That said, yeah: it tells a lot of story in the game itself, so you won’t be totally lost if you’re just a Warriors fan who’s looking for more of a narrative-first approach. Its anime-style take on ancient civilizations has a feel that’s distinct in both genres.
The PC version has some robust options.
We’ve been playing it on PS4 and it runs very well, but we know many would prefer the PC version if it looks and performs better. That hasn’t really been the case with earlier Warriors ports, but this is the first to have lots of high-res options and higher frame rates. So if you want that version, it’s not a bad call anymore! Just know that, since it’s the first game from the company with these features, there are bound to be a few hitches in the system.
Koei Tecmo’s Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is now available for PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and PC.
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