- Format: PC (version reviewed), PS3
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Ghostlight LTD (PC), XSEED Games (PS3)
- Developer: ACQUIRE Corp.
- Players: 1
- Site: www.wayofthesamurai4.com
- Game code provided by the publisher
Way of the Samurai 4 is perfectly imperfect and straddles the line between being so bad it’s good and incredibly good but poorly executed. It’s a game that feels awful to the touch when you begin, which is exacerbated by the unclear set of tooltips that are provided as a tutorial – which you can’t look at in-game or in the manual (basically a list of controls). Despite that initial lack of intuitiveness, if you can get to grips with the controls and look past how dated almost everything outside of the gameplay is; then you could find it highly enjoyable just as we did.
Customisation is a sizable chunk of the game and this goes hand in hand with the highly replayable nature of the game. Like Ogres, the game has layers – and can make you cry until you get to know it a little better. From the off you are bombarded with the customisation categories, which have what seems to be a distinct lack of things to actually choose from i.e. three body types, hairstyles and faces. But, through playing the game to some sort of completion – death and sailing away also included – you get samurai points, which can buy new customisation options; including new faces, bodies, hairstyles, accessories, difficulty modes and the option of playing as a fair few female Samurai.
The other thing that completion does to add another layer to the game is “changing destinies”. Certain moments from previous playthroughs will carry over to all that follow it. It ranges from fairly small things like your characters from previous playthroughs appearing to attack you (only if they didn’t die); to bigger things like the ability to talk to the foreigners (British), who you couldn’t really interact with properly before. This technique of layering the game with new experiences really lends itself well to the replayable nature of the storyline and only makes things more interesting each time you make a change.
The story is probably the largest element of the game if only for the fact that you have a large set of main branching storylines that alter events, and also dictate the rest of the town it all takes place in. It is a town in turmoil; the British have arrived in peace and the local racists have come out to play and want to see every last Brit and any who would allow them in the country, dead. This is where you step in… or don’t. It’s entirely up to you.
If you want to see a branch of the story through from start to finish, then do so. If you want to run errands for the local law enforcement, go right ahead. Want to spend every day and every night catching fish? Knock yourself out. The lack of anything forcing your hand is freeing, though there are instances of events that you will have to see due to the schedule of events by the date/time of day, you do still mostly have free reign to do as you choose.
Combat is just another aspect of Way of the Samurai 4. The weapons are numerous, the fighting styles are also very high in number, and the way combat works is quite interesting too. You will always be fighting one-on-one. Other enemies and allies may be around you and might accidentally hit you with a wide or inaccurate swing, but only one person will engage you at any one time.
It makes it interesting because not only can you use wide swings to take out enemies who won’t block you – which may seem a little against the spirit of honourable fighting – but it means a focus of one-on-one allows you to fight the opponent in ways other games don’t. It’s a dance at times, moving to the off-beat to slide in a few attacks, or perhaps setting up to charge a powerful block-breaking skill as the tail end of their attack draws them just within reach. Parrying and blocking add on top of this for a deceptively robust combat system.
The variety of the fighting styles lends itself well to interesting combats in the higher difficulties where you have to wear down opponents’ vitality (Vitality replenishes Life if you haven’t been hit for a few seconds) before going in for the kill.
The game isn’t all great though. It comes with audio and animation that isn’t anywhere near where most people would deem acceptable. The audio quality is still hindered by glitches that “tear” the music, sound effects and dialogue in a way that is still far too often and barely tolerable despite having a patch at launch to fix some glitches. The animation is a little basic at times but that is made more noticeable during cutscenes, and has attention further drawn to it due to the lack of accompanying music and sound effects. Though the fact that the original Japanese voiceovers have been kept has meant that the voice acting is not awful like many dubbed VOs are.
Way of the Samurai 4 is brilliant in a lot of ways; combat is interesting, and the iterative way it builds up the story and world you play in makes the game feel very special and keeps you coming back for more. But it has downsides too in mainly superficial things like the animation, audio and general quality of the graphical models. It also has a character named Melinda “Megamelons” and a sex minigame, which sets the tone for what to expect and whether it’s something you’d rather avoid. Those are two very small aspects of the game though; so if you can look past that, and get your head around the combat, then there is a lot of fun to be had and a wealth of stuff to keep you busy while doing so.