There are an awful lot of Warriors games on the market today. And while many may superficially seem quite similar to one another, delving into each of them reveals their unique qualities.
In many cases, the people who brand all Warriors games as being “the same” are likely just looking at the most well-known component: the real-time, hack-and-slash, large-scale brawler action that has been the series’ hallmark since its second installment (well, first if we’re being really picky here — but that’s a tale for another time). Even there, though, each Warriors game provides its own twist on the two-button combat thanks to its selection of characters, and numerous mechanics laid atop that.
Where Warriors games truly distinguish themselves, however, is in their progression systems. Powering up your characters is where the longevity in Warriors games come from — and Warriors Orochi 2 has plenty of ways in which you can do just that. So let’s take a closer look.
At the core of Warriors Orochi 2 is an action RPG-esque levelling system, in which you gain experience through defeating enemies. Each character can be levelled up to 99, with each level-up granting them a flat increase to their abilities. On top of the experience you gain through defeating enemies during combat, you also earn “Growth Points” with every successful battle; between missions, these can be used in lieu of experience points to immediately level up any of the characters in the game that you have unlocked.
This latter aspect is quite convenient when you find yourself needing to use a particular character for one reason or another, but they’re stuck at level 1 because you’ve never used them before. Using Growth Points, you can give them a bit of a “head start” on levelling, and bring them a bit closer to where your main team is. That said, this is probably the least useful application of Growth Points; they’re better spent elsewhere.
Growth Points can — and should — be spent on the Weapon Fusion system, which allows you to take a base weapon — usually the one you’re currently wielding — and add things to it from other weapons that you’ve managed to loot from defeating enemy officers. In the most simple terms, absorbing a new weapon increases the weapon’s base attack power by one and allows it to add an additional weapon effect slot, but right from the beginning most new weapons you find will come with a few effects attached. Those effects can be transferred from the absorbed to the base weapon with an appropriate expenditure of Growth Points.
The effects mostly activate when you make use of a Charge attack, which is the stronger of the two attack buttons available to you. Practically speaking, this means that they tend to go off when you’re finishing combos, since as in other Warriors games, the Charge attack button is used in conjunction with the standard weak attack button to determine which of the character’s unique lineup of moves should be performed. These moves tend to be — as you might expect — more powerful and/or wide-ranging than the standard combo, so once and for all, say it louder for the people in the back: if you’re just mashing one attack button when you play a Warriors game, you are most certainly Doing It Wrong!
There are a variety of different effects you can apply to these already powerful moves using the Weapon Fusion system — and they really make a difference. Applying elemental affinities including Flame, Bolt and Ice (all of which can be added to the same weapon) allow you to inflict damage over time, damage over a wider area through “chain lightning” and freeze enemies respectively. Slay, Might and Brave all increase the damage output of your Charge attacks under specific circumstances. Absorb and Drain allow you to suck the Musou and health out of your enemies respectively. And Flash, probably the most useful of all the weapon effects, lets you break an enemy’s guard.
While the Warriors series has always been about exaggerated combat — one warrior worth a thousand and all that — this is taken to a whole other level when you start combining these effects together. An already-impressive whirling attack becomes even more devastating when it electrocutes and sets fire to everyone in the vicinity — and there’s a really lovely, primal sense of satisfaction when you see a single well-timed hit knocking off a significant chunk of an enemy officer’s health bar. Particularly if it’s Masamune Date. Masamune Date is a wanker. Didn’t teach you that in Japanese history class, did they?
An aspect of the progression mechanics that requires active engagement is the Abilities system. Rather than just passively grinding for experience and weapon drops, the Abilities system challenges you to accomplish specific objectives, with passive bonuses on offer for those who are able to achieve this. These bonuses range from simple increases to attack, defence, speed and life to bonuses to experience point gain, improvements to mounted combat abilities and buffs for specific types of character.
Ability unlocks are global for the entire game — which means that when you’ve finished one of the story campaigns, you can carry them all over to your subsequent playthroughs with the other factions — and form a significant part of the overall metagame. They’re worth pursuing as soon as possible, because they have a significant impact on your base power level — level 1 characters at the start of a new campaign who are buffed up by a few levels of Vitality, Potence and Fortitude will be considerably better off than the characters you started the game from scratch with!
Each character in the game has four Abilities that they can unlock — though only one Ability per character per battle can be unlocked at a time. Since you take tag-teams of three characters into each mission, this means that you can unlock up to three Abilities in a single mission. The objectives that a character is required to complete in order to unlock an ability start simple — “defeat 60 enemies” or “defeat 3 officers” — and, with each successful unlock, become more complex or challenging.
A character’s third and fourth Ability unlocks in particular typically require you to accomplish something while keeping your life bar above a certain level, without using any attacks that use the Musou bar, or within a particular time limit. Or sometimes a combination of those restrictions. Be sure to pay attention!
Notably, while experience points are saved even if you fail a mission, ability unlocks are not; as such, in order to get those abilities into your collection you’ll not only need to meet the conditions required, but also successfully do the things you’re supposed to be doing in that stage.
Since you’re normally supposed to be beating the shit out of people and most of the unlocks require you to beat specific numbers of people up under various conditions, this isn’t usually a huge problem, but it does pay to do a bit of forward planning and prioritisation sometimes.
The final piece of the progression puzzle in Warriors Orochi 2 is Proficiency, a stat that each character has their own individual value for. This ranges between 1 and 50, and is raised by accumulating 500 “points” in battle. You get one point for defeating a normal enemy, and a hundred points for defeating an officer; as such, defeating officers is a far more efficient and easy way to build this up.
Proficiency has a couple of uses. Firstly, and probably most significantly, the higher it is, the less damage your character takes. This means that you’ll be rewarded for using the same characters — and those characters will likely be the ones you’ll want to take into the harder difficulty levels to acquire top-tier weapons. But in terms of the overall metagame, there’s another use: proficiency also unlocks various pieces of game content, including wallpapers and concept art for each of the characters, as well as the optional “Dream Mode” stages for predefined lineups of three characters.
As you can see, there’s a hell of a lot to do in Warriors Orochi 2, and like most games in the series, it’s potentially a single game you could quite easily devote a significant number of hours to. But the nice thing is that if you just want to enjoy the story and a bit of hack and slash, there’s no obligation to engage with any of this if you don’t feel like it. You might put yourself at a bit of a disadvantage if you choose to do that — it’s worth paying attention to the Weapon Fusion and Abilities side of things at least a little — but there’s no need to grind everyone up to max level, max proficiency and get the best weapons for everyone.
Unless you want to, of course. And if you’re that kind of min-maxing player, I salute you. You are most certainly playing this game as intended!
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