Developer Omega Force and publisher Koei Tecmo are most known for their Dynasty Warriors entries, along with the number of franchises that have been crossed over with the Warriors series in the past. We've seen a number of franchises ranging from The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, and One Piece, but one series most western games probably would have never guessed to have seen crossed over is The Heroic Legend of Arslan property.
Until recently, the story itself was relatively unknown to most westerners. Originally starting out as fantasy novel series back in 1986, it has had a number of manga and anime adapations in Japan, with the most recent one that was brought over by Funimation as a 25-episode anime series acting as a basis for the game in question, Arslan: The Warriors of Legend.
Since most players likely don't know much, let alone haven't heard of this series before, players will be glad to know that it's not necessary to read up on the manga or watch the anime prior to playing through the game, as the game follows the entire 25-episode anime arc from the onset to its completion. The game starts out as Arslan, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Pars, is taken hostage by one of the slaves in the capital city and is forced to help them escape. He ends up learning that things aren't as black and white as he's been led to believe, but then the neighboring kingdom invades and takes the King hostage. Thus, Arslan is forced into a leadership role and has to band together a team to reclaim Pars.
It's a rare thing for a Warriors title, let alone a spin-off title, to have this detailed of a story behind it, so there's something to be commended about that for sure. Although one minor issue I came across while playing is that while you can get the general gist of the narrative, as laid out above, there's minor details regarding each of the characters, their individual character quirks, their backstories, etc., that are lost to a degree because the game assumes you have some prior knowledge of them as the property has been running for quite a while over in the east. Omega Force and Tecmo Koei do have a in-game encyclopedia that you can reference, but it doesn't feel as good as something that's more tightly woven into the game's framework itself.
Of course, since this is a Warriors-derived title, the hack-and-slash action fans have come to know and love is all well and present in Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. The standard two-button combo mechanics classic to the series return here, with various ability branches so you aren't re-using the same combos over and over again. Blocking and evading is also present as usual, alongside each character's unique signature "musou" super attack.
Similar to Omega Force's recent Hyrule Warriors spin-off entry, the characters in Arslan are quite varied in their application in-game. You have your typical pole-arm and archery-influenced characters, but there's also a character that utilizes a magic paintbrush that has the power to set traps and create earthquakes and explosions, or a character that can use a lute to defeat enemies in battle.
One new addition to the Warriors formula in Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is the "Mardan Rush" mechanic. Depending on the situation, you can activate an attack that summons either a group of infantry, cavalry, or archers. It's somewhat balanced in the fact that you don't have control over what group is summoned when the mechanic is utilized, but you can direct their might towards a particular objective by focusing on it. Generally, I tried using the former to destroy/capture a barricade due to their general strength, while the latter I'd try aiming towards areas higher up that were harder to reach normally.
Since this is a Warriors-derived title, there is some issues inherent to that franchise that reappear here in Arslan. Bosses generally have regenerative shields that require you to deal damage within a brief window, which occasionally became annoying. Tying into this was the fact that often times when they weren't stunned and started off a combo attack on the unit I was controlling, there often was no way to break out of that combo, so it's a one-way ticket to pain-town.
In addition, while you'll get a good 11-12 hours through the story mode with the cutscenes included, generally about 3-4 hours of that will be watching the in-game and anime cutscenes. There are the normal Warriors extras like Free mode and online play/two-player split screen present, but if you were looking for a lengthy title you might be disappointed if you don't want to spend the time replaying missions to upgrade your weapons and abilities.
Visually, I thought Arslan: The Warriors of Legend was easily one of the better looking Warriors titles released thus far. The in-game engine uses a 3D cel-shaded approach, which matches up nicely with the two-dimensional anime cutscenes. The music also plays compliments the actions going on in-game quite well and sets the stage for the battles nicely. Tecmo Koei decided to leave the Western release with its original Japanese language voice overs, which I felt fit each of the characters well.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is easily one of the better crossover entries in the long-running Warriors franchise, even if most players probably never heard of the source material before. It's great to see a Warriors entry that has more of a focus on narrative without causing a detriment on the gameplay. While it still has some issues inherent to the Warriors franchise along for the ride, there's enough new approaches and advancements here that Warriors fans and those who might have passed on prior titles because they wanted something with a little more narrative punch should give it a look.
|Great to see more of a focus on narrative in a Warriors franchise entry, even if it's a spin-off.|
|The characters are widely varied enough that no one character feels similar to the other.|
|The Mardan Rush mechanic is a nice twist on the usual beat everyone to death formula typically present in Warriors entries.|
|Bosses still follow the pattern of having to get rid of their shields before you can pummel them into the ground.|
|If a boss starts to combo you, it's basically impossible to break out of it.|
|While the in-game encyclopedia is nice, it's still not as good as if you know the source material before playing the game.|