We've had our eye on Arslan: The Warriors of Legend for quite some time, and that's mostly because Omega Force – the developer behind almost every Warriors-esque game under the sun – has a solid track record when it comes to merging already existing properties with its trademark hack and slash action. The likes of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, and Dragon Quest Heroes all prove that the studio has a knack for capturing the look and feel of a franchise, and with Arslan due out next month, we've been eager to see if the Japanese developer's got it right once again.
There's one key difference this time around, though, and that's to do with Arslan's relative obscurity – at least here in the West. The Warriors of Legend is based upon the modern manga and anime adaptation, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, which is a retelling of a classic series of Japanese novels that were originally published in 1986. This new take on the books is penned by none other than Hiromu Arakawa, the artist behind Fullmetal Alchemist, and if one thing's for sure, it's that Omega Force has done a brilliant job of implementing Arakawa's art into its game.
The opening movie of the title's recently release demo sets the scene startlingly well – it's boisterous, rousing, and just very nicely done overall. It's arguably one of the best cinematics that we've seen from Omega Force, and again, that's partly because it captures the look and feel of the source material so effortlessly.
Thrown onto the battlefield as Prince Arslan himself, the visual transition can be a little jarring. We can't possibly expect pre-rendered cut-scene quality graphics from a game that strives to fit hundreds of character models on screen at once, but a combination of jaggy textures and some noticeable pop-in doesn't give way to overly positive first impressions. Still, we should stress that this is an unfinished build of the release, so we're hoping that things look a little better come launch day.
Visual niggles aside, anyone who's spent some time with a Warriors game before will feel right at home here. Basic attacks and combos can be performed by hammering square, while more powerful charge attacks come out with a tap of triangle. As always, the moves are nicely animated, and there's a satisfying weight behind Arslan's attacks as we run about whacking enemy soldiers for a good few minutes.
In comparison with the gameplay found in other Warriors titles, there's one thing that sticks out to us in particular: the horses. In Arslan, hitting triangle while mounted will make your horse bolt forward into a full gallop, and tapping triangle again results in some powerful, sweeping attacks. During our time with the demo, it's clear that being on horseback holds a much greater advantage than it does in similar games, where horses are usually just a means of getting from A to B on the map. It also helps that your steed looks great, and boasts some delightfully smooth animations.
Generally speaking, it seems as though the usual Warriors gameplay flow is present and correct here, although things do seem to lean towards a heavier emphasis on story. Cutscenes bookmark each section of gameplay, and with The Heroic Legend of Arslan's twisting and turning plot, we're looking forward to seeing how the full game handles proceedings. What's more, going by what we've heard of the Japanese release, The Warriors of Legend may just be one of the most plot heavy musou titles on the market – a statement that's sure to catch the the interest of fans.
With control shifting to the dynamic Daryun, Arslan's most trusted general, we're introduced to the many types of attacks that you can perform while on the ground. Daryun's signature weapon is his deadly spear, but you can switch to different weapon types with a tap of the left or right directional buttons. Admittedly, the button placement isn't ideal when you're busy fighting, but you can also bring out your secondary armament by hitting R1 after unleashing a charge attack. Potentially, this allows you to extend your combos, not unlike the weapon switching mechanic found in the most recent Dynasty Warriors titles. To top it all off, stylish super moves are typically mapped to circle, and they look just about as flashy as you'd expect.
The final fresh mechanic that we're going to mention is the mardan rush, which, as far as we can tell, gives you the ability to pull off pre-determined offensives with a huge number of allies by your side. In the demo, you use the mardan rush at a specific point of the map in order to break down a barricade and progress to the next area, as you lead a cavalry charge through the enemy ranks. It seems like a pretty basic inclusion, but here's hoping that it proves to be a little more engaging in the finished game.
As with any other Warriors title, the action is kicked up a notch when it comes to squaring off against named foes, and that's what you get at the end of this gameplay glimpse. In an interesting twist, boss enemies have shields that must be broken before you can do damage to their health bar, and these shields can be smashed more easily if you correctly dodge incoming charge attacks. At first it's a bit annoying to watch your techniques bounce off your opponent's shield as they edge closer, but we can see the potential in having to keep a careful eye on your foe's movements, which could lead to some tense duels.
All in all, we're liking the look of Arslan: The Warriors of Legend, even if it does have some rough edges. The hack and slasher quite clearly captures the style of Hiromu Arakawa's stellar work, and even if the plethora of fresh combat mechanics don't quite hit the mark in the finished product, there's reason to believe that fans will be able to overlook most missteps. While we doubt that Arslan will end up standing side by side with the best musou titles on the market, we reckon that this could still be a release that does the source material justice.
Are you looking forward to Arslan: The Warriors of Legend? Have you tried the demo for yourself? Rescue your allies and then lead a charge into the comments section below.