The Spirit of Musou.
Whenever I approach reviewing a game I genuinely do not wish to play, I go in hoping that it will surprise me. Whether that surprise would be one of delight or even one of greater disappointment and misery, I go in wanting more than what I expect.
Such is my feeling whenever I’m tasked with taking on a Musou game, a genre I’m more familiar with than I’d like, having played few too many games with “Warriors” in the title.
Even though I can’t help but feel this way due to my history and overexposure to the genre, I strive to give every game I review a fair shot, and in the case of Spirit of Sanada, I came away feeling a bit impressed but not entirely convinced.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Played on: PS4 Pro
Played: 10~ hours
Omega Force has been in the business of creating hack and slash games since back in 2000 with Dynasty Warriors 2. Even though they have experimented with different play styles, their brand of hack and slash has become synonymous with the genre so much to the point that they’ve since been coined as “Musou” games.
In their latest installment, the focus shifts to the Sanada clan during the Sengoku period of Japan, a tumultuous time of warring lords, where blood was spilled on the battlegrounds as frequently as the falling of rain.
I was previously familiar with the Sanada clan due to the popularity of Yukimura Sanada, a man who would later go on to be known as a hero that appears once in a hundred years.
He has made appearances in numerous other Musou games, adorned in his trademark red armor as a spear wielding demon on the battlefield. However, I did not know anything about his family and in Spirit of Sanada, I was introduced to them for the first time.
In previous Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors games, I felt as though they were simply trying to use a wide brush to paint a picture with too many subjects, but the focus of the story being solely on the Sanada clan made for a more interesting plot.
After all, establishing characters and their various motivations is crucial in trying to get a player feeling invested in the world, and it is all but impossible to do so if the focus lies in cramming in as many characters as possible. It’s a clear case of “less is more”, and for the first time in a Musou game, I was somewhat interested to find out what would happen next.
As for the core gameplay, much of it remains the same, as I found myself hacking away at thousands of enemies while meeting various objectives on the map. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were more RPG elements than I was expecting.
There were weapons to upgrade, increasing its power, range and attack speed. I could farm, fish and scavenge the lands for material which was used to craft potions and other useful items. There was an affinity system of sorts as well, where I could give notable characters gifts for unique items or the ability to take them out as a helper.
Also, there were plenty of side missions to tackle for various rewards, and even though all of them involved finding or slaying something, it was nice to see more than the bare minimum.
During the larger scaled, multi-battles, I could implement orders called “Stratagems”, that would give me an advantage in battle like nullifying enemy reinforcements or boosting the morale of my troops for a time to give them a significant advantage.
I would need to meet certain secondary objectives to be able to trigger these Stratagems, but I found myself being able to utilize them often without going out of the way.
While all these additions breathed some life into this tired formula, I still felt completely bored while I was actually on the battlefield, hacking away at a seemingly endless swarm of enemies using the same exact attacks, over and over again.
It also didn’t help that I never felt challenged even for a brief moment during my playtime, as I was able to tackle enemy generals many levels higher than I was simply by juggling them to death. The idea of something taking longer to kill and doing more damage being “more challenging” is a lazy and ineffective way to balance difficulty.
I could feel my head lean back further into my chair the longer I played, and after about an hour or so I felt like taking a nap, and this repeated every time I booted up the game.
As someone thoroughly tired and uninterested in anything Musou, I can say without hesitation that Spirit of Sanada did very little in changing my opinion on the genre. Having said that, the focus on telling a tighter, more involved story along with the addition of a variety of RPG elements is a step in the right direction and deserves praise- hopefully pointing towards a renaissance for the genre.
Fun Tidbit – It’s always felt interesting to me that while the Japanese developers romanticize the Sengoku era, in the States, we do so with World War II. I suppose it’s natural to want to relive what many consider to be our finest hour.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.