A crazy crossover title that features characters from a bunch of different Koei Tecmo properties, Warriors All-Stars certainly feels like an attempt at celebrating the publisher's many years of success. Unfortunately, as a traditional hack and slash Warriors title, the game just isn't that great.
The PlayStation 4 has been blessed with several superb Warriors instalments since it launched. Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, Samurai Warriors 4, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 are all easy to recommend to those looking for over-the-top action, but Warriors All-Stars struggles to even come close to Koei Tecmo's best.
Let's start with the good, though. Despite its relatively small playable character roster, Warriors All-Stars does a fine job of offering varied playstyles and interesting movesets. From simplistic melee fighters such as Zhao Yun of Dynasty Warriors and Yukimura Sanada of Samurai Warriors to more complex additions like the rifle wielding Tokitsugu of Toukiden fame, unlocking new characters and levelling them up is enjoyable.
It's also refreshing to see developer Omega Force try something a little different with the game's structure. Rather than opt for a linear story mode, what we have here is a series of scenarios that have some role-playing elements to them. After selecting your starting character, you're plopped into one of several storylines, and after a brief opening mission, you're free to select your next battle from a map.
Most of these battles are entirely optional, but they provide experience so that you can level up, materials that you can use to enhance your abilities, and opportunities to unlock new playable characters. When you think that you're tough enough, you simply head over to the next story mission and push forward with the plot.
You could probably blast through an entire storyline in a couple of hours if you ignored all of the optional stuff, but it's nice to see some player choice being thrown into the mix. What's more, a hub area allows for some downtime between fights -- a space where you can chat to your allies and learn more about the game's weird fantasy world.
And it really is weird. In predictable fashion, all of these playable characters are brought to this strange realm through a magical spell gone wrong. The land's being torn apart by civil war as members of a royal family vie for power, and so warriors from across time and space and transported to the colourful kingdom to assist -- except they're all scattered to different parts of the globe. Oh, and we should probably mention that this world is solely inhabited by anthropomorphic dog people.
As you'd expect, the actual story doesn't carry much weight, and the members of the royal family -- the title's only original characters -- adhere to tired anime archetypes. You've got Tamaki, the shy and distressed princess, Setsuna, the energetic and enthusiastic hero, and Shiki, the stern and brooding older brother. There are some interesting character interactions here and there, but by and large, this isn't a release that you'll be playing purely to see what happens next.
Indeed, as with just about any Warriors game, the main focus is the action itself, but even that feels a bit below par. Alongside your standard light, heavy, and special attacks, you've got a handful of team-based mechanics. With your main character at the forefront, you're able to build a team of up to four other warriors who'll fight at their side. For the most part, these allies will be controlled by the computer, but you can temporarily switch to them in the heat of battle or summon them in for a special technique.
The emphasis on working as a unit gels with the crossover theme of the game, and fans will get a kick out of seeing the likes of Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden team up with William of Nioh for a devastating finisher. There's definitely fun to be had with Warriors All-Stars when you're in the thick of it and blowing away hundreds of foes at once, but a number of issues sadly drag the experience down.
For starters, the objectives that you're given during combat are all too often an annoyance. Those optional battles that we mentioned earlier can play host to some particularly frustrating missions, one of which sees you dashing from one corner of the map to the next in order to protect certain brain-dead allies against waves of enemies. Another tasks you with guarding specific bases that are on opposite sides of the battlefield. There's way too much tedious running from one area to another when you should just be happily mashing the opposing army.
Speaking of opponents, Warriors All-Stars introduces a questionable system known as bravery. Every named character and enemy captain on the battlefield is assigned a bravery level, which basically tells you how strong they are. For example, the opposing commander will likely have a bravery level of 9, which means that if you were to try and fight them right off the bat with your own bravery sitting at level 1, you'd get kicked to bits. As such, you're almost forced to navigate each map in a specific way in order to level up your bravery by beating weaker opposition first. It's a system that can make some battles feel like a real slog, especially if you're unlucky enough to have foes with a high bravery level take notice and relentlessly chase you across the map.
And then we come to the biggest problem of all: the framerate. Even running on the PS4 Pro, Warriors All-Stars can't keep things stable. The framerate fluctuates constantly, hitting its target 60 frames-per-second and then dropping to what feels like half that every few seconds or so. It never quite seems to hit anything too low, so it's an issue that doesn't directly damage your ability to play the game, but things can get so choppy that at one point, we almost felt sick turning the camera. It's bizarre, and honestly, pretty unforgivable given how unremarkable the game's visuals are to begin with.
Warriors All-Stars is a colourful hack and slash title that can be fun in short bursts thanks to its varied cast of playable characters, but it just has too many problems to be considered a good Warriors game. Frustrating, tedious mission design, a throwaway story, and a wildly unstable framerate make it very difficult to recommend when there are so many better Koei Tecmo titles on the market.