Saturday, December 27, 2008

Samurai Warriors 2 Empires: Battles

I really should finish talking about Samurai Warriors, even though I have been pretty thoroughly distracted by Christmas stuff as of late...

The battles in Samurai Warriors 2: Empires are quite a lot of fun. They combine action and strategy elements in a very effective way, so that both are extremely important to success. Because battles can only be won if you control bases, it means you can't just wander around killing every enemy you come across. Instead, you need to strike a balance between attacking enemy strongholds and protecting your own, which means that the nature of the battle is constantly changing and you need to stay on your toes in order to keep up with it. That ever-changing and unpredictable nature of the Samurai Warriors battles is what makes them so exhilarating.

Of course, it is more than just the struggle over bases that keeps battles unpredictable. The formation system, in which you and the enemy have competing formations that can add a lot to the strength of either army, but only for the team with the stronger formation, means that the entire tide of battle can be turned around amazingly quickly when formations change, so making good use of the system is essential. Also, each of the many maps of the game is distinct and memorable, with battles on open fields, mountains, the decks of ships, and sprawling castles. What is more, the attacking and defending positions are almost always totally asymmetrical, so even the same map can behave very differently depending on which side you are on. The changing conditions of each battle, with everything from cannon-fire to erupting volcanoes affecting the situation, also adds a lot of variety. Of course, the large number of characters with fun and diverse fighting styles and capabilities helps a lot, too. This really is the game series that sets the bar for adding variety and tactical depth to action games.

Still, despite how much I like the game, nothing is perfect. For one thing, I really don't like the fact that you immediately lose the battle when the player is defeated. While forcing the player to sit back and wait to re-spawn isn't exactly ideal, since there is nothing worse than being forced to sit back and do nothing in a game, it seems like there could be some penalty that didn't lead to total defeat (particularly with how penalizing defeat is in Empire Mode). This problem is exaggerated by how difficult it is to even fight normal grunts with some characters, especially anyone who is low-level and doesn't have almost any moves yet. Actually, the raw imbalances with the effectiveness of some characters, particularly with the ability to deal with large groups of soldiers or multiple enemy officers, is a pretty major problem in its own right. Far too often, it seems that I just get caught in a hopeless juggling game between multiple enemy officers and soldiers, and my health vanishes incredibly quickly, yet some characters can fight themselves out of such a situation without a lot of trouble.

I think that about sums it up. I already returned the game to the rental shop, so I will need to wait until I actually own a game in the series and have played it some more in order to say anything more detailed.

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