Title: Way of the Samurai 4
Platform: Steam, Windows, PS3
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Hack n’ Slash, Action-
Players: Single player
Written by Whistler 24th July 2015
Ah 19th century Japan, while I’d prefer the Edo period as the perfect setting for my open world samurai adventure the Imperial Japan era is still a suitable stage. Given it’s a period where Japan once again underwent a political and culture transformation, rapid economic growth and expanded to colonizing Korea and Taiwan. Often a central theme in movies and media set in this period is when trade and interaction with Western nations was becoming commonplace but was also the catalyst for a lot of conflict within Japan’s people who wished to remain isolated from the outside world. Now if I’ve just butchered a pivotal piece of Japanese history I do apologize. So is this the open world samurai adventure you’ve been waiting for or are we to look elsewhere?
Way of the Samurai 4 is an open world hack ‘n’ slash where you, a nameless samurai upon entering the fictional port town of Amihama are pulled into a conflict between three factions: the government, the rebels and the British ambassadors. Right from the onset you are free to do as you wish after the ham fisted tutorial where you can align yourself with either of the factions or none of them and walk the path of the vagrant choosing your own destiny. It’s actually surprising just how much freedom you have available to you for such a low budget title, one minute I was opening my own dojo, the next I was aiding the government officials bust an opium deal then suddenly I had enough of helping them and turned on them once they found the rebels. The problem is with the freedom given it’s handled poorly, while you’re free to do as you wish you will eventually see how few and shallow the content outside of advancing the story is.
This is only confounded by just how uninspired and underwhelming the main cast and story is, characters are largely stereotypes with little character development or interest and dialogue in this game is atrociously awful.
There are the fundamental building blocks that could make up a truly free roaming epic but they’re just not utilized. Sharing a likeness to the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, WotS4 features a day event system where certain events can be triggered on certain days. More laid back than Majora’s Mask however days are split into midday, evening and night where you are seemingly free to take your time until interacting with an event or sleeping. These events however are incredibly dull for the most part and seriously lack in variety, most boiling down to meeting an NPC, having some sort of conflict to deal with and resolving in combat. They vary in difficulty and in scale but this repetition becomes painfully mind numbing and unengaging before you’ve even reached the 2nd or 3rd day.
Seemingly a staple in the Way of the Samurai series, Aquire the developers behind notable franchises Tenchu and Shinobido, seem somewhat reluctant to take the setting seriously. Instead of delivering a strong narrative nor even particularly worthwhile gameplay their focus is aimed towards being as weird and silly as possible. While the B-
Even when bearing in mind that Wots4 was originally developed on the PS3 back in 2011 the visuals are rather underwhelming, we were fairly past the awkward transition into what was then ‘next gen’ so it’s disappointing to see how behind the times it looks. Environments are passable at the best of times, character models are extremely limited and animations seem stilted. Even with the number of customizations you can unlock for your samurai none of them are particularly impressive nor do they gel very well considering my characters upper lip and nose would clip through the mask he wore.
While most of this I’m sure reads like a review several years too late, Way of the Samurai 4 has in fact been ported to PC. Well after about ten minutes I gave up on pride as a PC gamer and conceded to plugging in my controller, the keyboard controls are my new personal best for worst PC controls ever to put it bluntly. Besides how awkward and clunky the controls feel the keys have been assigned to some awful layouts, WASD for movement’s fine but who on this planet thought O, H and U were suitable choices for combat. Whoever ported WotS 4 seems to have tried the lazy and fast method with little thought put into the control scheme, completely neglecting the mouse and assigning camera movement to I, J, K and L when the mouse would have perfectly sufficed for the simple battle controls and camera.
By far the greatest offender though is the combat, relying on a simple heavy/light attack system with a block and special mode it quickly becomes tiresome, bland and above all else, not enjoyable.
Fights range from 1v1 to group conflicts but are handled somewhat like individual side on fights seen in fighters’ such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter where your opponents will be civil enough to let you duke it out with your target till it’s their turn. When it comes to the clash of swords it in most cases results in launching a constant barrage of swings to prevent your opponent from retaliating or recovering health.
Both of you so long as you get some distance can regenerate your health gauges fairly quickly which can be incredibly frustrating as it drags an already elongated fight.
While some games are so bad their good, Way of the Samurai 4’s inconsistent tone lacking in enjoyable and rewarding content just left me underwhelmed. The story has plenty of branching paths and somewhat rewards the player for repeated playthroughs, like the progress of your dojo or weapon collection carrying on and your actions affecting the village in your next save are nice touches but it still results in you returning to the same bland uninteresting formula. After experiencing two of the ten mediocre endings I just couldn’t force myself through another run. I’m sure Way of the Samurai has its fan base and I won’t say the game is entirely a bad game, but it lacks overall polish and this lazy port fails to even keep me entertained while I put up with its absurdity.
Majora’s Mask structure keeps things somewhat interesting,
Promotes replayability with progress carried over.
Dull and clunky combat,
Incredibly outdated graphics,
Shallow and uninteresting content.
Way of the Samurai 4 scores a tarnished 4/10.