One of these musou anime crossovers/collaborations that i feel it’s kinda underrated or overlooked, as it does tackle a historical setting that actually does fit perfectly with the Warriors style and formula: ancient Persia. Sure it’s all doubly filtered by being based on an the anime series, based on a manga by Hiromu Harakawa (of Full Metal Alchemist and Silver Spoon fame), itself being a modern adaptation of a light novel series, The Heroic Legend Of Arslan…and that in turn being loosely based on the Persian epic Amir Arsalan.
Still, it’s nice to see a Persian/middle-east setting in a musou game, even if it’s an anime licensed game and an incredible example of transformative iteration of historical epics.
And you will be remembered of this being based on the anime series more than the Hiromu Harukawa manga because, akin to the Berserk Musou, this uses clips from the anime’s first season to cheap out in making more cutscenes with the in-game engine, though this time it’s less the recyclefest (comparatively the Berserk musou had almost an hour – or a ridiculous amount either way – of footage from the Golden Age film trilogy they made some years prior).
And fittingly the game covers the story of the first anime season, starting when the king of Pars, Andragoras III, is betrayed in battle by one of his generals in cohoots with the Lusitatians, obsessed with their religious cult and the extermination of the infidels. Having followed the father in battle, the young, naive and unprepared prince Arslan is forced to flee with his vassal Daryun, grow up fast so to form a new band of warriors to drive back the invaders (led by a mysterious man with a mask) bent on conquering the capital, Ectabana, and reclaim his crown as the 19th king of Pars.
The narrative ends with the battle for the fort of Saint Emanuelle, and it is an important point that also feels conclusive enough to end the game on, as i highly doubt KT was expecting to make a direct sequel… and they didn’t, since it’s a Warriors crossover, and it’s not an overly popular series, i mean, they can’t all be popular like Attack On Titan.
Even if you didn’t saw the anime series or read the manga, the narrative it’s fairly decent and it does live up to the source material, as it’s an epic, with mighty kings, good natured princes, military betrayals, religious fanatics on crusades, a band of rag-tag adventurers that help the titular prince and unlikely hero to fulfill his destiny, etc, all set on the background of a fantasy anime Persia.
The characters also fit the regular mold, with the titular prince being naively kind and good-natured to a fault, the genius tactician with an overinflated opinion on his art prowess, the bard acting as the gentleman thief, the self-proclaimed wife-to-be, and so on, making for a varied group of likeable larger than life characters that have good chemistry and play off well against each other.
Pretty typical fantasy stuff, though the purely fantastical elements are limited, there’s no “token fantasy races” that live alongside or antagonize the humans, just some monsters/monstrous creatures and the presence of magic as a recognized real thing that exists in this world.
Gameplay wise it’s what you’d expect but with some extra mechanics and even some throwbacks, with the dodge making it more like a Samurai Warriors game but also bringing back the weapon chain strike system DW 7, putting more emphasis on horseback riding, with the biggest new feature being the Mardan Rush, which evokes another Omega Force game, Bladestorm.
Glowing zones with ascensional currents on the map (indicated as “Rush Zones”) will indicate where you can trigger the Mardan Rush, a mass assault involving lots of troops that’s essential to break through some obstacles or locked parts of the map in order to proceed, while also needed to make astronomically high combos. You can select three types of units to involve in the Mardan Rush, the basic one being cavalry, the second one being infantry, less powerful but also easier to control than the cavalry, and the final being archers, able to attack while standing still and also initiate the evergreen tactic of the fire attack that affects all enemies in an area.
Pity that this is mostly limited by what the game allows you to do, down to the type of unit for the Mardan Rush itself, so it means that the game will spawn a “rush zone” to initiate the procedure when you need it to break on obstacle (if you fail, the rush zone reappears so you can try again), you can’t do any other way, which is a shame, since i imagined using it against huge bosses like war elephant or whatnot, like a better Bladestorm of some kind, but this is not the case.
You’re still incentivized to use when it’s not strictly necessary to proceed, as it often the way to gain some exclusive high tier cards. Yes, cards, Skill Cards to be precise, which are awarded by achieving high ranks in the missions/objectives (Samurai Warriors style, again), satisfying specific conditions in various stages, of various tiers, rarity and power, which can be equipped to activate passive abilities or boosts, with the rarer and powerful ones often working when equipped as sets.
You can also sell and fuse them, pouring in-game money to assure a better chance in forging a better card, and not much else. All with in-game gold, i hate to but i gotta specify this.
In terms of things you can rack up during gameplay, there are recipes that give you passive boosts before battle, but those are for exclusive usage in Free Mode as story mode stages brings you from battle to battle without the usual pre-battle menu with its options.
Since i mentioned the chain-strike system, fans of DW/SW would guess this means you can equip weapon to switch on the fly, and indeed, there’s more freedom than usual for a crossover/licensed Warriors games in terms of letting you use weapons more freely, meaning characters can have up to 3 weapons and you can change the order you start a battle with.
Also like in DW 7 by using weapons you earn mastery points, increasing the combo strings you can use and also unlocks Weapon Arts, which can be equipped to add elemental effects to certain combo: miasma poisons, wind deals damage even to parrying foes, water slows down enemies, fire does extra damage, etc. Nothing really new, but good stuff regardless.
In terms of enemies there’s not much to say, but the game does include the more common systems found in Warriors spin-offs/crossovers, so here officers and boss type enemies have a defensive bar you gotta chip away before you can deal actual damage to them, when at mid-life bar they become more aggressive and deadly, there’s often some enviromental interaction to do in order to deal extra damage to them, some effort to make boss fights less mundane, and it mostly pays off, as you’ll have to be more careful than usual for a Warriors games.
Speaking instead of the playable characters, we have the usual satisfying roster of 15 total, each with a different moveset and distinct playstile, even when two character both use bows they have different moves and feel differenciated enough to some extent, though there are more than some similarities to Samurai Warriors, especially SW 4, as we have a very Sakon Shima playing and looking fella, a bard using his instrument as a weapon like Motochika Chosokabe, or Narsus using a paintbrush weapon like Ma Dai from Dynasty Warriors.
What is oddly missing from the usual Warriors affair is a base capture system of sorts, not that every musou game needs them, nor it is a dealbreaker here, but the levels are also designed in a way where you couldn’t open up the map and slap a base system for the Free Mode, i guess to avoid having to create new stages that played like traditional Warriors maps for the secondary mode.
I’m not ruling that last one out because it’s Omega Force and/or Koei, after all.
In terms of looks, Arslan: The Warriors Of Legend uses a solid cel-shading look, fittingly so given it being based on anime/manga series, with the characters models being the best looking things and locales on the other hand being less detailed, still better looking than in some of the previous Warriors titles, though thr anti-aliasing it’s annoying, make no mistake about it.
As said before, the game also reuses footage from the anime series here and then, as thankfully this isn’t – as i said before – taken as an excuse to recycle an excessive amount of stock footage from something else related like for Berserk Musou, there’s plenty of cutscenes using the in-game engine.
Though it’s a bit strange that the anime series footage is played slower, like maybe to give it a “book” feel, or more likely to make it easier for the player to speed up text and footage, which uses the original japanese audio/voices with english text, as the entire game does, shame because this cutting corners can distract one by the fact Omega Force did take care to present and represent as close as loyally as possible the source material, down to having an in-game encyclopedia about the various Arslan’s world and its history instead of the Three Kingdoms.
Speaking about content, aside from the 8 hours long Story Mode, there is Free Mode that also includes extra battles and is where you can play the DLC stages, unlock more cards and recipes, grind, because there’s no dedicated Adventure mode or anything of the like.
It’s something but undeniably the whole package feels a wee bit rushed in terms of content and replayability, a bit bony, though we have seen far measlier (or meatier) offerings in this regard.
There is online play, which in retrospect seems a lot, like, it has both online and offline co-op for 2 players, while a lot of later Warriors releases cut corners a lot more by being single player only, and like, while there also bullshit DLC like them selling overpriced packs of BACKDROPS (hi, Touken Ranbu Warriors) alongside music, costume and map ones… here they at least made some DLC stages free to download. Which isn’t the norm for them, at all.
Still, it’s a mess to browse the dozens of DLC bits as this was also before TK started implementing Season Passes, so keep that in mind.
Make no mistake, Arslan The Warriors Of Legend isn’t the best Warriors crossover/licensed game ever, never was, but there’s a certain bittersweet value to it in hindsight, as it did feel like another low-effort entry compared to other Warriors crossover that dared a lot more, heck, it came out after the excellent first Dragon Quest Heroes, or after the original Hyrule Warriors, or Pirate Warriors 3.
The game is a decent Warriors game, albeit very traditional (down to bringing back some old systems), one that really could have used a sequel to flesh out better some very nice ideas and mechanics, but compared to some of the utter slop Omega Force released in the last 5 years, it has more effort and care put into it, instead of the developer and publisher tripling (or quadrupling) down on cutting corners big time and half-assedly committing to bad or half-baked ideas while aiming to do the bare minimum in almost any aspect. Especially if it’s NOT a crossover game.
Nowadays it can be found for fairly cheap used, so i’d say it worth playing through if you want more musou action, this will get you “your fix” in a decent fashion, even if there’s better it’s worth a punt.