Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is an enjoyable take on the Dynasty Warriors genre but not worth the full price for newcomers of the original anime series. Despite its distinct character design, interesting combat mechanics and in-game rewards, lack of variety in its level design holds it back. There are three modes in the game – story, free and online. In story mode, players experience the story of the popular Japanese animation the game is based on, playing as the young Prince Arslan and his band of warriors as they battle the Lusitanian empire. There’s not much to say about the story without spoiling it, but the game follows the storyline of the original series, including all of its rich lore, which can be found in the in-game encyclopaedia – detailing the various battles, characters and terminology. There’s no doubt that the game is designed for the fans.Missions are introduced by short five minute cutscenes, each fully voiced in Japanese with English subtitles. Despite the unique cutscenes acting as episodes of the animation, most exposition is explained in battle by the battle log – a small bar on the bottom of the screen; these are also fully voiced and play through the controller’s speakers which is a nice touch – and there isn’t much variety in missions. In free mode, players can experience missions from the story mode as characters they have unlocked in the main story while online mode is essentially the same but with other players – either as allies or enemies.The game’s sound design feels very atmospheric despite the lack of variety in the in-game environments. The soundtrack varies in its tone, jumping from peaceful tunes such as the ensemble of light wind and string instruments in the gallery menu to brass militant songs of armies marching into battle. The voice acting is also sound as each playable character sounds vastly different from one another, despite the lack of variety in the non playable characters. Players can access each character’s lines along with their moves, character expression icons found in battle log, as well as scenes from the main story and wallpapers as they are unlocked, in the Gallery menu, which acts as a nice reward for investing in the game.
Much like other games in the Dynasty Warriors genre, the game’s combat feels particularly flashy as enemy grunts are flung around the map and streams of light surround the screen. Characters’ unique skills are visually impressive as closeups of a character screaming out their move are followed by streams of colour and explosions; yet the game is often too fast-paced or cluttered with enemies to see these attacks in full view.The game’s character design however is distinct, mirroring the Japanese animation. Each character feels unique with their own choice of weapon and skill set. Arslan fights with poise and chivalry cladded in armour carrying a short sword and spear, and can switch between the two at will with a chain strike combo; Gieve is a travelling musician equipped with a guitar that when played can create illusions and project sound waves towards his enemies; while Narsus is a former lord and painter found secluded in the mountain armed with a magical paintbrush creating colourful traps and explosions. Despite the characters’ original move sets, the gameplay still feels stale as enemies aren’t particularly original – much like other Dynasty Warriors-like games, three to four models of thousands of soldiers make up armies that the player can defeat in a three buttoned combo. The game’s mission design is quite disappointing despite the unique group of characters. Each mission follows a simple objective – such as, “Assist Arslan” or “Flee from the Lusitanian army” – but essentially results in playing chase with a group of enemy generals, gatekeepers and commanders scattered around the map. Repetitively tracking them down can be frustrating and time-consuming, especially when the game’s best moments are when you’re fighting an enemy one on one or when micromanaging your unit in the rush mechanic. This formula isn’t new to the Dynasty Warriors genre; in fact, it’s why so many people complain about it, but that doesn’t excuse the game for feeling bland and not motivating me to continue playing. Fortunately the game offers an interim save option, allowing the player to save in the middle of a mission, and the game does attempt to shake things up with missions where the player jumps between characters and their perspectives in a battle; although this doesn’t make up for the dull level design.The game’s combat is arguably one of the few positives about its gameplay. In battle, players chain normal and power attacks, extending said combos with a chain strike that’s unique to the selected character. Players can also call and mount their character’s personal horse, and while riding, charge towards enemies with the button associated with the power attack. There is a block and evade system as well but they are only needed when encountering a boss battle – in which they must damage their shield whereby the enemy boss is invulnerable to their attacks, before depleting their health. Boss battles keep the game’s level design fresh as each enemy has a unique move set like the playable characters; however, I have only experienced five boss battles in my six hours playing and four of them were repetitive sequences with the same character.
One of the more interestingly unique mechanics of the game however is the rush mechanic. At certain points in a mission – some scripted, others random – the player can join up with their army and rush a specific area or a group of enemies by firing an array of fire arrows towards their foes or by charging into them while mounted on their horse. These sequences are entertaining to watch and can often reward the player with gold, experience points or a skill card.Players can also customise their character in battle by the weapon and skill card submenus. Players gain experience points for defeating enemies and surpassing records – such as, highest combo of enemies killed – providing a sense of progression; levelling up the hero they are using and potentially unlocking new moves and weapons to switch between. Levelling up characters also unlocks the ability to enchant a weapon with an elemental effect. Miasma inflicts poison damage, slows enemies and lowering their defenses for a short period of time; water greatly slows enemy movement; fire enchanted weapons deal damage to knocked back foes; while a weapon enchanted with wind damages blocking enemies. Each element has their own effect, offering a sense of micromanagement in character customization.
Players can also enhance a character’s passive skills with skill cards. Skill cards are found as in-game rewards for completing challenges, such as defeating 1000 enemies as a given character, or after performing a rush sequence; and can be bought, sold, combined to make new cards, or stacked to greaten the bonuses provided. Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is an enjoyable game but its repetitive missions undermine it’s engaging characters and some of its interesting mechanics. Its levelling system rewards players with new weapons, combos and elemental enchantments for their characters but most enemies aren’t challenging, making the overall experience disappointing. The sound design is atmospheric and while there is an extensive amount of lore and backstory in the encyclopaedia, not many will feel invested enough to explore. Fans of the original series may find the game interesting as a homage to the anime, overlooking the lack of variety in the game’s level design, but most will get bored of the game after a few hours, especially if playing for long sessions.