PC ¦ PlayStation 3 ¦ Xbox 360 ¦ Wii ¦ DS ¦ PSP ¦ Others ¦ DGC Grade Table

Samurai Warriors: State of War PSP

Published by Koei
Developed by Koei
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Samurai Warriors: State of War, an introduction.

Certain games are a mix of genres and whilst some of these games actually manage to create an enjoyable experience through their genre synthesis, some do not. Thankfully Samurai Warriors: State of War is one of those games where a mix of genres does actually work. The idea of a turn-based strategy game mixed with the action style of Dynasty Warriors may seem strange but it's actually quite an addictive mix.

What's the game about?

Samurai Warriors is a tactical action game that's based in the chaotic times of civil war Japan. The game contains two phases, a turn-based phase where you move your units around on a grid-based map and a battle phase which offers Dynasty Warriors style battles. It's an interesting combination to be sure and it's also an addictive one. The game features a Story Mode that allows you to control a legendary hero and fight your way through the warring states, a Free Mode that allows you to choose your own battlefield and a VS Mode that allows you to play against up to four friends.

What's good about the game?

Whilst the game does have a fair amount of Dynasty Warriors characteristics about it (in its menu style and battle sequences), it's very much a unique experience. That suits the PSP very nicely. The game's Story Mode allows you to initially play as Yukimura Sanada, Nobunaga Oda, Kenshin Uesugi, Oichi, Okuni and Magoichi Saika, although more characters and their stories can be unlocked. Each of these characters has their own characteristics and battles to fight through. They each have Life, Musou, Attack, Defence and Speed Ratings and their abilities can improve as they level up. The subofficers (of which there are over 230 in the game, although only four are initially available) that you select to accompany your character can also have a bearing on their attributes.

If you've played a Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors game before you'll know pretty much how the battles play out. You can perform normal, charged and musou attacks and defensive options come in the form of evade, guard and strafe manoeuvres. On the tactical map you'll not just be moving your forces from one square to another. As the game progresses you'll earn charms that basically allow you to place status effects on rival squares. You can poison officers and breach enemy gates amongst other things. It's a simple addition but it works really well and adds substance to the tactical side of the game. In fact correct use of the charms can make difficult battles significantly easier when you manipulate the conditions to suit your forces. The enemy can use charms too however, although there are charms that will help defend you against such sneaky attacks.  The hunt for gold and skill scrolls will mean that you'll want to explore maps fully, rather than taking the shortest route to your objectives, which is a good thing. It's also great that you can save at any time whilst you're on the tactical map as it means you can fit in a quick game, which is ideal when you're on the move.

What's not so good about the game?

The battles can become repetitive and the camera angles are not always that great. The game only has one save slot meaning that it's not possible to have different Story Mode games on the go at the same time or indeed to have a save for both a Story Mode game and a Free Mode game, which is a little disappointing. It also means that a friend or relative won't be able to play on your PSP in a Story Mode game of their own unless you can swap the memory card. The normal difficulty level and below are a little easy and you'll find the AI on these levels something of a walkover. Higher difficulty levels offer a good challenge though. The game's multiplayer VS mode is only playable using the ad-hoc mode so you won't be able to square up against rivals over the Internet, which is a little disappointing.

How does it look?

We said earlier that the game is split into two phases and in regards to how the game looks you could also say that there are two differing levels of quality in the game. The tactical side of the game features a clean and polished presentation that looks good. The detail on the grid-based tactical map may be a little sparse but the icons that are used are clear and informative. During a battle things are not quite so pleasing. The draw distances aren't that great and you'll see enemies appear from nowhere and disappear when slain. The frame rate dips quite frequently (never too low mind you) and camera angles can be a bit problematic, although thankfully you can snap the camera back in line with a slight tap of the L button so it's not too much of a problem. The character portraits that accompany the dialogue and adorn the character selection screens etc., are once again impeccable (as they always seem to be in Koei's games). Load times are quite good and the game appears to be less of a drain on the PSP's battery life than most games out there.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Samurai Warriors is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The story is told exclusively through text and the dialogue has the name of the character and their portraits next to the text so you'll always be aware of who is saying what, which is excellent. Battles have their victory and defeat conditions explained in text so you'll always be aware of what you need to do.  On the main menu you'll find a Vault option that allows you to read up on the weapons and subofficers in the game. It also has various tutorials which are all in text. During a battle you'll receive text messages to inform you of how the battle is going on other parts of the battlefield. There are no subtitles for any comments your character might make when performing a musou attack and there are no captions for the screams and cries from the slain enemies but otherwise the game is great for deaf gamers.

Final thoughts.

Samurai Warriors: State of War is an enjoyable combination of turn-based tactical planning and Dynasty Warriors style action.  Because of the way the game has been structured it's an ideal game to play on either short or long journeys. The battles themselves are particularly long and the game can be saved at any time when you're on the tactical map. Rather than simply using the tactical map to shunt your forces about though, the developers have made it enjoyable by including the charms that can be used for all kinds of things to turn a battle in your favour, which keeps things interesting. There are a few rough edges such as the camera control during battles and only having the one save slot. It would have also been great if the VS Mode had supported an infrastructure mode to allow you to play games over the Internet but sadly only ad-hoc mode is supported. Still the game is enjoyable and I'd definitely like to see more games in the same vein in the future.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

If you're looking for an action game on your PSP that offers more than just button bashing, then Samurai Warriors: State of War definitely fits the bill. The tactical, turn-based elements combine really well with the Dynasty Warriors style action and it makes for an enjoyable and addictive experience.