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Warriors All Stars Review

by Lewis White

Ever since Dynasty Warriors ditched its 1-on-1 fighter origins all the way back in its second entry, Japanese developer Omega Force have been constantly ameliorating their one-against-hundreds fighting system with numerous entries in the series releasing during any given year. With at least three games per annum releasing since the start of the current generation, Omega’s Force reiterations of the Warriors series have been forced to divert from the series’ narrative origins of Chinese history, and move into more into adapting popular franchises.

From Berserk to Gundam, One Piece to The Legend of Zelda—Omega Force’s gameplay mechanics have weaved their way into a substantial amount of beloved Japanese intellectual properties, and have always come out the other side as at least halfway decent, if always mindlessly enjoyable. Warriors All Stars is the next logical step; instead of relying on just one franchise to bolt down into the Warriors potion of infinite gameplay content, All Stars’ approach is more extensive.  This time around, Omega Force has designed a game featuring an amalgamation of Koei Tecmo’s most famous characters—from Nioh to Dead or Alive, and a whole lot more—that fight against and alongside each other to save a dying world.

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Featuring 30 playable characters (three of which are brand-new from All Stars’ original world) Warriors All Stars is definitely a substantial package for anyone who not only appreciates the Warriors games’ mechanics, but also has a deep love for even the most obscure of Koei Tecmo’s games. Of course, being a game in the Warriors universe, All Stars does see multiple fan favourite reappearances from the Dynasty Warriors series complete with their models, animations, move sets and voice lines from their prior game in the series.

All Stars’ gameplay doesn’t feel as tired as some of its predecessors

All thirty of these characters accumulate into a dry and underwhelming narrative consisting of what is essentially a hyperbolic family drama between three cousins. The titular All Stars are called into the unnamed kingdom from their respective worlds by one of these family members: Tamaki. Using the last remaining power of the Spring—the source of this world’s lifeforce—these heroes are spread around the continent and are picked up by one of three factions: Tamaki’s Army, Shiki’s Army or Setsuna’s Army.

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In order to save this dying Earth, you’ll have to fight hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers—as per the standard Warriors fashion—to gain access to the sacred shrines as well as their associated weapons, picking up more heroes along the way. While this is as good a reason as any to pick up a character from a random series and start wailing on thousands of unnamed enemy soldiers, All Stars’ writing feels even more rushed than usual.

Warriors All Stars uses a variety of mechanics to spruce up the combat, often involving your four teammates

Other than the contrived reasons for characters to be fighting in the first place, All Stars does suffer from the same grammar and translation problems that other games by Omega Force, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk specifically, seem to consistently be plagued by. While nowhere near as bad as the aforementioned Berserk adaptation, All Stars does manage to sneak in some remarkably weird translation errors, sometime with completely normal sentences ending with words that make no sense, almost as if someone used an auto-correct example instead of the correct wording.

Nevertheless, Warriors All Stars is still a fun game, and while its narrative and translation errors do sour the experience somewhat, All Stars isn’t made for good storytelling. With such a wide array of characters and mission types available, gameplay doesn’t feel as tired as some of its predecessors. Sure, basic combat is still a combo-masher—alternating between Square and Triangle to form larger, more insane moves—but this time around Omega Force have extended systems just enough to make longer play sessions more enjoyable.

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One of these new mechanics is in the form of Rush mode: Every mission gives you one rush token upon start, which you can use by pressing the right stick to initiate the titular Rush—a mode where enemies fill the screen and you have to knock out as many as possible within a short time limit. During Rush, you’ll be cheered on by whichever four companions you choose during team organisation. By meeting certain thresholds of enemies killed, you can extend the amount of time you stay in Rush mode for.

Likewise, Omega Force have spruced up the combat in other ways, also involving your companions. All four available external members of your team have individual cooldown timers associated with them on the left corner of the screen. By pressing their associated directional buttons you can summon them to help you fight as they tether themselves to your playable character and pull off whichever combos you input; by pressing R1 and the associated directional button, the character will instead perform a powerful super move.

Warriors All Stars is designed for one purpose: mindless, over-the-top fun with no consequence

It’s the small additions such as this which makes Warriors All Stars stand out, much like the combos moves with One Piece Pirate Warriors. It doesn’t eliminate the standard Warriors problem of being overly repetitive—Hell, even Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom couldn’t help that, and that was a vastly different experience. It’s just an inherent problem with the gameplay design of Omega Force’s games that, after a while, you just get burnt out.

As far as how the game ranks on the scale of its predecessors, Warriors All Stars is one of the more enjoyable games in the entire franchise. While nowhere near as refreshing and freeing as the innovative Attack on Titan, All Stars’ new characters are very welcome additions and add a wider sense of variety than the majority of same-y feeling characters in the main series Dynasty games.

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Rio, an obscure character from Koei’s Japanese pachinko games, is thrown into the mix and utilizes hand-to-hand combat combined with magical dice, cards and casino chips. Her Musou special attack? How about spawning a massive roulette wheel and spinning around hundreds of enemies to death! What more could you possibly want?! Characters from the Deception series are even included with their movesets revolving around spawning traps taken straight from the games and using them against hundreds of foes; even the pumpkin heads make a return!

While all of this variety may be nice, character balance has never been a characteristic that any of these games have managed to handle well, and—of course—All Stars is no different. With such a varied cast of playable heroes, it would be idiotic to think that every hero would play the same, and with differing playstyles comes differing skill ceilings. That doesn’t mean All Stars is free of unbalance; certain characters, such as Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hayabusa, have such high damage output and attack speeds at even their lowest levels that the higher difficulty settings become a breeze playing as him—Ryu’s stats can be used to satisfy the power fantasy of even the biggest megalomaniacs.

That being said, All Stars is a strictly single player experience and in-built mechanics—such as Hero Card buffs and leveling up systems—can be used to craft an immensely overpowered team by choice. You’ll be aware whenever characters such as Ryu or Nights of Azure’s Arnice are effortlessly demolishing your foes, and it’s up to you whether you want to change this.

That’s because in the end, Warriors All Stars is designed for one purpose: mindless, over-the-top fun with no consequence. It may add small mechanics to spruce up the formula, but it’s still just a refined Dynasty Warrior’s game with some bells and whistles to differentiate itself from the seemingly infinite crowd being pumped out of the Musou factory.

The Verdict

Warriors All Stars brings some of Koei Tecmo’s most famous characters into the Dynasty Warriors format, including characters taken straight from the aforementioned series. While a few extra bells and whistles are added here and there, along with much improved character variety, it’s still a Dynasty Warriors game at its heart—and that’s not a bad thing. Fans of the series will still love this, despite an underwhelming narrative set in a cliché new world.

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Warriors All Stars

  • Available On: PS4, PS Vita, PC
  • Published By: Koei Tecmo
  • Developed By: Omega Force
  • Genre: Hack and Slash
  • US Release Date: August 29th, 2017
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Fans of the series will still love this, despite an underwhelming narrative set in a cliché new world."
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