One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on PlayStation 4
When it comes to Musou games, most have come to expect cookie-cutter installments that don’t stray too far from the norm, if only because there isn’t much you can do to break from the core experience. Enter One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, an installment that, while not stepping out into completely uncharted territory, does attempt to breathe some life into the weathered and worn genre through small but worthwhile tweaks.
As with past games in the Pirate Warriors series, Pirate Warriors 4 follows a pretty standard framework. As one of several key characters from the series, players must battle their way through hoards of enemies as key events in the One Piece story play out.
Or at least, they do up to a certain point in the story’s canon. The game only adapts the story up to the current point the anime has reached, that being the Wano arc.
Likewise, only certain key arcs – like Alabasta, Saobody Archipelago, and the Paramount War arc – are adapted from the story’s earlier segments, usually in an abridged format to get through them more quickly.
This might be a downside for those who prefer the earlier segments of the series, but for those who want to get right to the newer content the game has to offer, it’s a godsend. Getting through retreaded content from past games in the series only takes a few hours, and after that, it’s largely new content on display for fans to enjoy.
Speaking of which; One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 does a nice job of balancing out the Musou genre’s usual “beat up enemy hoard, complete mission objective, repeat” gameplay cycle with some interesting mechanics and abilities.
In addition to the inherent differences between each of the game’s more than 40 playable characters’ play-styles, the game also offers transformations and enhancements in the form of Full Force Bursts and Form Changes.
These allow players to boost or modify their characters for a short period, introducing new combos and abilities to experiment with while also allowing for new strategies to be implemented in taking down mobs of opponents.
There’s also a fairly expansive grid-based level-up system for every character. Through the use of coins earned by beating special enemies and completing missions, players can gain new abilities, increase their stats and otherwise make tearing through hoards flashier and easier.
Rarer coins unlock better abilities, and with said rare coins locked behind completing specific tasks during each mission, there’s an added layer of challenge for those looking to do more than grind for hours on end.
Then, there are giant boss characters that differ from the usual commanders found in other Musou games. Unlike other enemies, they can’t be taken down by mashing the attack button ad-nausea.
Instead, players will need to time their attacks as counters against said enemy’s attacks. They’ll also need to dodge certain attacks by jumping or dodging out of the way with a dash at just the right moment, or else they could lose a large chunk of health that could cost them dearly later on in the fight.
It’s a small touch in the grand scheme of things, but one which adds some strategy and timing into what might have been more of the same repetitive encounters.
Which, unfortunately, is an issue. Amid all of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4’s strengths, it still suffers from many of the usual weaknesses of a Musou game.
Battles can and will get repetitive after a while, especially in the early hours before the game’s mechanics open up more. Likewise, the mission variety is pretty shallow, and gets reused throughout the entirety of the game to the point of wearing away into dust.
The game’s stellar graphics and decent soundtrack help to make these flaws more bearable, but for players who aren’t die-hard fans of the One Piece series or the Musou genre, there’s not much here that’ll convince them to hang with the experience where other Musou games lost them.
It’s a shame too, because the game looks, acts and feels like a title that wants to be more than another entry in its genre. The signs are faint, but it still shows potential to be more than another throw-away entry in a genre full of titles that are only striving to measure up to what came before them.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 isn’t a groundbreaking game by any means. It is a noticeable step forward for its series as a whole though, and boasts some worthwhile high points and potential that fans of the One Piece series and Musou games alike will be able to appreciate.
- Stellar Graphics
- Deeper than expected gameplay
- Streamlined story mode
- Repetitive gameplay loop
- Retreads content from past games
Mar. 26, 2020
Omega Force, Koei Tecmo
Bandai Namco Entertainment
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
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