There's no video game franchise in existence as prolific as the Warriors series. Since its debut in 2000 with Dynasty Warriors 2, there have been no fewer than 25 unique versions of the games, ranging from sequels to bizarre spin-offs like Dynasty Warriors: Gundam. In some ways, there isn't really much one can say about another new addition to the franchise. Warriors Orochi 2 is almost identical to the previous Warriors Orochi, with only a handful of changes to please hardcore fans. Is it a game that is going to appeal to everyone? Probably not, although as far as die-hard Warriors fans go, Warriors Orochi 2 at least provides enough new material that it should be a refreshing change over repeating the same battles over and over in Dynasty Warriors 6.
For those unfamiliar with the Warriors games, the basic concept is fairly simple. You're given control over a legendary warrior from various Asian mythologies, such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and you're thrown onto a massive battlefield to fight fellow mythological figures to the death, while smashing your way through their armies. The controls are quick and easy to pick up. The X button performs a weak-but-fast slash, Y performs a powerful Charge attack, A jumps, and the left bumper blocks. You can perform different combo attacks by pressing Y during specific parts of the X combo string; some are better at clearing out wide amounts of weak enemies, while others are more useful for taking down single powerful opponents. In addition to your combos, you also have Musou attacks, which are basically super moves. When your character's Musou Gauge is full, pressing B causes him to bust out a screen-clearing Musou move to eliminate anything in his path. Think of it like Double Dragon on steroids.
Warriors Orochi' selling point, beyond the basic gameplay, is that it is one of the few Warriors titles to deviate from established stories. The original Warriors Orochi told the story of the Orochi, a powerful super-demon who used his powers to break space and time to bring together the greatest fighters from Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors in an ill-conceived plot to rule the world. Naturally, when faced with the combined forces of the strongest soldiers Japan and China can offer, he promptly got his mystical rear end kicked to hell and back. Unfortunately for the warriors, they're now stuck in Orochi's world, and without the common foe of the Orochi to deal with, the various factions have been reduced to fighting each other for domination.
Warriors Orochi 2, like its predecessor, is built around the fact that KOEI can allow characters who've never interacted before to do so, providing slightly more interesting story lines than putting down the Yellow Turban Rebellion for the ninth time. In addition to all of the characters from the first title, Warriors Orochi 2 brings in another batch of new characters from various sources to help flesh out the character cast, such as the Sun Wukong Monkey King from The Journey to the West and legendary Zhou Dynasty tactician Taigong Wang.
The biggest change to the Warriors Orochi gameplay from the other titles in the franchise is the addition of the three-character team system. In both the original game and Warriors Orochi 2, you have use three characters at once, instead of a single unstoppable warrior. You control one of the warriors at once and can switch between the characters at will, allowing you to change strategies on the fly. The characters who are not fighting on the battlefield can actually regenerate health and Musou energy while in the wings, so careful switching also keeps your team alive longer because if one character falls, it's a game over. Characters are divided into three types: Power, Speed and Technique.
Power characters hit like Mack trucks and have the least amount of special skills, with the right bumper performing an extra-powerful attack. Their lack of finesse is made up for by pure power. Speed fighters tend to be fast and are capable of performing double-jumps in midair, and they often have the ability to perform special attacks with the right bumper. Technique characters can alter their combos by holding the right bumper, which uses up their Musou gauge but grants them more powerful attacks and abilities. There's no limit to what sort of teams you can make. You can try to balance out power, speed and technique, or simply pick three powerhouses and traverse levels with brute force, if that is what you prefer.
By and far most important to your three-man team is the variety of Musou abilities you can perform with them. The first of these is called Chain Musou and involves switching members while you're in mid-Musou. Doing so activates a Chain Musou, which adds extra elemental power to the Musou and can be further chained into the third character for even greater damage. New to Warriors Orochi 2 is the addition of Support and Team Musou. Support attacks can be activated any time one of your waiting characters has a full Musou bar. If an enemy hits your character, you can activate a support attack by pressing the left bumper, which causes the waiting character to unleash a powerful Support Attack and use up his Musou bar. Team Attacks function as your character's desperation moves. If the character you're using has a full Musou bar and his health is in the red, you can press both shoulder triggers to activate a Team Attack, which summons all three of your team members to unleash a devastating beatdown on whatever is in your path. Certain combinations of characters have unique team attacks with special attributes, usually characters that have some sort of connection, such as the Sun family.
One neat feature of Warriors Orochi 2 is the "Strategy" ability that each character now has. Each warrior in the game has a particular strategy built into his character that changes the tide of battle. Strategies do things such as lower enemy morale, increase the attack or defense of your friendly characters, cause archers to attack more often and do more damage, and so on. They're buffs that increase the power of those fighting on the same side as your heroes. To activate a strategy, however, you have to complete a certain objective on the battlefield. Usually, this involves having one of your three heroes kill swarms of enemies, although each strategy has its own trigger. Once you complete the strategy trigger, your strategy is activated, which can turn the tide of the fight in your favor or simply provide a much-needed boost that keeps your allied soldiers fighting. However, strategies only trigger once, so don't expect multiple boosts for using the same character over and over.
While your characters can level up by defeating enemies in Warriors Orochi 2, that is actually not the best way to increase their attack power. Each team has a set number of available Skill slots that can grant a number of new abilities. Skills can amplify their attack speed and strength, increase the effectiveness of their Musou attacks, or increase the rate at which they heal from attacks. However, these skills are not gained from levels. Instead, each character has a pseudo-Achievement that he is given before the mission, and that particular character must complete it to unlock a skill. These can range from the simple, such as defeating 70 foes during the entire fight, to the more complex, such as beating three officers in 10 minutes without dropping below 20 percent health. If you successfully complete this challenge, your character earns that ability. Earning an ability means you can equip it after the fight is over, and earning multiples of the same ability increases that particular power's effectiveness.
Weapons are still an important focus of the Warriors Orochi 2 gameplay, and as per usual, you've got quite a few options for what you can do to improve the overall attack strength of your warriors. When you defeat powerful enemies, there is a chance that they will drop weapons for your team. Each warrior has a few different weapons that can be dropped, each with his own base attack strength, with the more powerful foes having a chance to drop more powerful weapons. Once you have a weapon, you can customize it with Weapon Fusion. By combining two weapons, you can create a new weapon with the combined effects of both. One weapon, for example, may have a ton of empty slots into which you could equip skills. By combining that with a very powerful weapon, you can create a weapon with high attack strength and a ton of empty inventory slots. Then you could fuse weaker weapons that have useful skills onto that weapon to further power it up. You can even fuse multiple kinds of the same skill to improve their overall effect. You can also spend Rare Treasures that you earn during battle to customize your weapons with certain rare effects, which are extremely powerful but require both the aforementioned Rare Treasures, and your weapon needs to already have specific skills equipped on it.
The Warriors franchise is perhaps the most reliable in video games. When you buy one, you know exactly what you're getting, and Warriors Orochi 2 is no different. The setting may be different, but you're still using Cao-Cao or Hattori Hanzo to beat the snot out of an army of soldiers, and if you're in the mood for more army-slaughtering action, Warriors Orochi 2 is certainly going to scratch your itch. Gamers who are already familiar with these characters from previous titles may be interested in seeing how the stories pan out, and returning fans will be glad to see their favorite characters in slightly fresher pastures.
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