I love me a Musou. So naturally, with the new hotness being Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity at the time of writing, I thought it was high time I continued my journey through the completely unrelated Warriors Orochi series.
Longtime followers of my work will recall that a while back I did a full playthrough of the first Warriors Orochi over on YouTube, and that ended up being a rather enjoyable experience that I learned a lot from. Having called time on long series playthroughs in video format — the short-form, single-episode “variety” format seems to work much better for everyone, including me — I thought I’d explore the sequel in written form over the course of a few articles, much like I did with the excellent Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition a while back.
So today we kick off with a high-level overview of what Warriors Orochi 2 is, my impressions of it to date, and the things I’d like to learn a bit more about it. Hit the jump and let’s begin our journey!
For the unfamiliar, Warriors Orochi is a series that eschews the “inspired by history” aspect of both the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series in favour of a fantastical mashup of the two, featuring elements of both Chinese and Japanese mythology. The titular bad guy Orochi, for example, is inspired by the eight-headed, eight-tailed dragon-serpent thing Yamata-no-Orochi from Japanese legends, while Warriors Orochi 2 introduces characters such as Sun Wukong, better known as the Monkey King, and protagonist of the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West.
In practice, what this means is that each installment features an enormous playable cast of characters primarily drawn from the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises, but the narrative works on the assumption that none of them have actually killed, poisoned, betrayed or been otherwise shitty to one another just yet; at the beginning of Warriors Orochi, a rather bored Orochi summoned figures from both the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history and the Sengoku era of Japanese history in order to prove his might in a parallel world of his own creation.
Some of said assembled forces join Orochi’s cause because they believe in his vision of cleansing the world of human chaos, while the majority of the cast decide to resist his plans; just to make things interesting, this typically requires them to set old rivalries aside and collaborate with people they’ve never worked with before. This includes fighters from both Three Kingdoms-era China and Sengoku-era Japan working together, despite the fact these two historical periods were nearly a millenium and a half apart from one another. A sword is still a sword after 1,300 years, after all.
Warriors Orochi 2 begins, as you might expect, following the events of Warriors Orochi. After Orochi was defeated (repeatedly) in the first game, the various factions scattered around the strange new world in which they found themselves, and their old tendencies for conquest started to show themselves. But when Orochi’s right-hand woman Da Ji suddenly appears and claims that her master’s resurrection is at hand, it becomes clear that any such campaigns will need to be put on hold, because there’s a crazy snake dude that needs a good punch up the bracket once again — and everyone involved loves nothing more than assembling a huge army and kicking the shit out of anyone who opposes them.
Like the original Warriors Orochi, Warriors Orochi 2’s main Story mode is split into discrete campaigns that are loosely themed around the Three Kingdoms of Wu, Wei and Shu, as well as one for the Samurai brigade and an Orochi campaign that acts as a prequel for the first game. Each campaign features a linear progression of stages that gradually increase in difficulty, culminating in a climactic confrontation against the newly resurrected “Orochi X”, as he is now calling himself. Unlike the original, there are no optional “X” stages to unlock throughout the campaign by meeting specific conditions during the main missions; instead, non-story missions can now be found in their own separate mode.
As in Warriors Orochi, the fact that the campaigns are themed around the various groups of fighters doesn’t mean that you’ll be exclusively confined to using characters from that grouping. On the contrary, the Warriors Orochi series makes a point of teaming up characters who don’t typically get the chance to work together — whether that’s because they belong to rival factions in their original games, or because they’re from completely different periods of history. This can sometimes make tracking down a particular character in the menus a little challenging — there are 92 playable characters in total, and they are organised by their “home” kingdom rather than the story path in which they appear. But with a playable cast that large, this problem was always going to rear its head in one way or another.
At first glance, Warriors Orochi 2 looks very similar to its predecessor. The main menu looks the same, the music is the same, the graphics engine is the same, the overall game structure is pretty similar and even a lot of voice lines from the first game are reused. In practice, Warriors Orochi 2 feels more like an equivalent to the Xtreme Legends expansion packs typically released for both the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games, but packaged as a complete game — and with you unable to “merge” it with the original game to carry across your progress.
All this might not sound great, and at first glance you might think it’s easy to see why the game got such negative reviews on its original release. But as with so many things that seem to attract an immediate negative reaction, there’s a lot to like if you engage with it on its own terms — particularly with how cheaply it can be acquired today. Take the time to delve into Warriors Orochi 2 in detail, and this is a game that has a lot to offer, even if you’ve spent as long with its predecessor as I have.
Despite having a substantial Story mode for each of the factions (and a Free Mode that allowed you to use any combination of characters in any unlocked mission), the original Warriors Orochi felt relatively light on content compared to its peers in the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series. Warriors Orochi 2 very much corrects this side of things with a swathe of new modes. The main attraction is still very much the Story mode, but added to the mix we now have a two-player versus mode that takes the series back to its one-on-one fighting game roots, an arcade-style Survival mode with a few ways to play, and even a horse racing mode.
Probably the most substantial addition, though, is Dream mode, which replaces the “X” missions from the first game. In Dream mode, you’re presented with a range of hypothetical scenarios that feature predefined teams of three characters for you to use. These are typically rather large-scale battles that unfold in a somewhat more open, freeform manner than the heavily scripted skirmishes of Story mode, so there’s often quite a good degree of flexibility in how you approach these missions. Character progression is also persistent between Dream mode, Story mode and Free mode, so you can make use of any or all of them to develop your characters and work on unlocking the enormously helpful, character-agnostic passive abilities that make a huge difference to your overall power level.
If Warriors Orochi didn’t do it for you, Warriors Orochi 2 isn’t going to change your mind. But if you did enjoy the first Warriors Orochi and fancy a bit more satisfying hack-and-slash action with a new narrative, a variety of new characters — and new combinations of the returning characters from the previous game — then there’s a lot to like here. And over the course of the next few articles on the subject, we’ll take some time to explore and analyse specific details of the gameplay, mechanics and structure in much more depth. Because heaven knows those negative reviews from back when it first came out didn’t bother to do that!
But what else is new, eh…?
If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via any of the services below or the Donate page here on the site! Your contributions help keep the lights on, the ads to a minimum and my shelves stocked up with things to write about!