This game takes place in the early 1600s in Japan. William is a sailor who has been travelling around the world with his mysterious Guardian Spirit, Saoirse. Somehow, he was imprisoned at the Tower of London, and fights his way out from there. However, his Guardian Spirit was trapped by a mysterious alchemist named Kelley, and Edward must travel to Japan to get back his Guardian Spirit, as well as working together with a number of Japanese historical figures to achieve his goal.
The story is simple, but not many interesting themes or plot. It is a fairly straightforward story that is rather consistent or without many plotholes. The characters are interestingly portrayed, such as the loyal Hattori Hanzo, the mysterious Okatsu, the enigmatic Kelley, as well as the ruthless Tokugawa Ieyasu. William's character is not developed much in the game, which is unfortunate since he is the main character of the game. He also does not have many lines in the game as well, which hurt his character development or exposure in the game.
1) Exploration and Progression Section
This games plays Mission-based system, where you must complete the Story Missions to progress in the game. You can only attempt one Mission at the time from the World Map hub, and each region has different Missions with different level of difficulty. Each Story Mission will also designate you into many different stages, with different layouts, enemies, and bosses. There are also traps such as trapdoors, trap arrows, and poison gas that will impede your progress in the game.
When you control William in Missions, you can run, walk, activate switches or doors, as well as attacking enemies. Progression is rather simple as most of the time you must complete Story Missions in the game, where usually you must defeat the boss at the final part of the area. You can also activate Shrines to save your current progress, offer items to gain Amrita, as well as other actions.
There are other two variety of optional Missions that you can do. Sub Missions allow you to complete them to obtain rewards such as new Guardian Spirits and weapons. Some of them may even allow you to unlock new Skills that you can learn in the game. Twilight Missions are the harder versions of several of the game's story missions, with better mission rewards, loot, as well as harder enemies to be fought.
2) Leveling and Customisation Section
The leveling system is the same as the FromSoftware's Souls games' leveling system, where you must spend a certain currency called Amrita to level up your main stats. Amrita can obtained by defeating enemies, completing missions, or by offering to the shrines. To level up a main stat, you must spend a certain amount of Amrita. Each main stat corresponds to different combat stats such as your weapon's attack power, defencive power, or even resistances to status effects. For example, spending Amrita on the Heart stat increases the attack power of your equipped Katana and Bow weapons, as well as the amount of Ki. Depending on your playstyle, you can create a specialised build using certain weapons, or a versatile build that can use Onmyo magic as well as a decent mastery of a melee weapon.
As you gain levels, you may earn different types of Skill Points that allow you to learn new weapon skills, Onmyo skills, or Ninjutsu skills. Learning new Skills in the game will not only help you to defeat enemies more efficiently, it also allows you to learn more advanced skills. Many of the advanced skills can only be unlocked after completing certain Sub Missions.
The game uses random-loot system, not dissimilar to Diablo III's Loot System. Every time you defeat an enemy or boss, they may drop random items such as materials and equipment like weapons. Each equipment piece is also level-dependent, such as a Level 40 Mission's enemies usually drops an average level 40 equipment to players. Not only each piece of equipment also changes William's appearance, it also has it's own grade as well as passive effects. The higher the grade of an equipment, the higher number of passive effects it can contain.
You may also choose to forge new weapons if you have the money, materials, and the smithing text for it. You may also purchase new weapons, armour pieces, as well as items from the vendor. Some of the services may prove useful in the game as you progress.
3) Combat Section
This game uses real-time action combat system. You can control William to attack enemies using your equipped weapon such as bow and katana, use Onmyo magic, or even use Ninjutsu tools such as Shurikens at enemies. You may also sprint, dodge enemy attacks, block, and use items. Each weapon class has it's own pros and cons, such as having different movesets and utility in combat.
The highlight of the battle system is the Stances mechanism. Each weapon class has three stances, which are high stance, mid stance, and low stance. High stance allows you to deal heavy yet slow strikes, as well as braking enemy's guard easily at the expense of reduced blocking power and evasion. Mid stance is a balanced stance with the best blocking power, with average attack power. Low stance is a specialised stance that allows you to dodge enemies quicker than usual, as well as using fast strikes at the expense of attack power. Each stance gives you a lot of options when combating against different types of enemies. For example, low stance is suited against more nimble and quick enemies, and mid stance is generally best against human enemies.
This game also uses Ki system, which acts as the Stamina system that works like FromSoftware's Souls games. Each attack consumes Ki, as well as other actions such as dodging, sprinting, and blocking enemy attacks. If you ran out of Ki, you will be staggered for a period of time and you will be extremely vulnerable to enemy attacks. This also works against enemies, as enemies too have their own Ki gauge that can be depleted. To deplete enemy's Ki, you can attack them or parry their attacks so that they will enter a weakened state.
There are two types of enemies, with their own specific variety. The first is human enemies, where they use their weapons to attack you. They are not dangerous when fought one-on-one, but they are more dangerous when fought in groups. Human bosses are also more dangerous than regular soldier enemies in the game, possessing their own special attacks. Yokai are supernatural monsters that usually fights you in certain situations, such as when you enter their realm or patrolling in fixed routes while playing the Missions. Yokai also has their own unique creatures that you must fight in the game, such as skeleton soldiers or big red demons. All of the Yokai have the ability to create Yokai Realms, which affects your Ki regeneration if you are in the vicinity of the realm. Yokai bosses are also dangerous compared to regular Yokai, and most of the time you will fight larger creatures than human enemies.
4) Gameplay Conclusion
This game has excellent gameplay, although there are some issues. First of all, this game has repetitive progression. It is not a major problem unless you are not a fan of this game, as the mission progression is the same for all Story Missions, and very few variety of ways to complete them and the Sub Missions. Secondly, the lack of enemy variety. Enemy variety is lacking in this game, for both regular Yokai enemies and human enemies. Thirdly, many Sub Missions reuse the Story Mission's areas, with different explorable areas and routes.
However, this game's gameplay pros far outweigh the cons. The excellent combat system allows you to use different stances for each weapon class, as well as the interesting Ki system that allows you to regain portion of your Ki using Ki Pulse. The boss fights are also intense and well-designed, with each boss has different specaility, for both Human and Yokai variety. There are also many useful Skills to learn, and they also allow you to create a specialised build such as Ninja build or other builds such as an axe and katana build. These features are the things that make this game an excellent game that can stand out on it's own among other Action RPGs.
This game has excellent graphics. Amazing looking character models, nice backgrounds, great looking Yokai, as well as good animations. You can also choose two different graphical modes, which are Action Mode and Movie Mode. Action Mode offers you 60FPS and 900p resolution, whereas Movie Mode offers 30FPS and 1080p resolution. Choosing the right graphical mode highly depends on your preferences of either higher framerate or higher solution, and this is a neat feature that future games should include.
This game uses a mix of English and Japanese voice acting, where all of the Japanese characters use Japanese voices and English characters like William and Kelley use English voices for great authenticity. I really appreciate the fact that some of the Japanese voice actors tried to speak in English to William for several scenes, despite the voice actors not being fluent in it.
The soundtrack is fitting with the game, fitting for an Asian-themed game. There are some good themes such as the boss themes, but not many other memorable themes that can rival Onimusha games' soundtracks, personally. Excellent sound effects as well, such as when using the Katana to attack an enemy.
This game has high replay value. You can choose to complete the Sub Missions in the game to obtain optional rewards such as new Guardian Spirits, or getting access to higher level Skills. You may also play the game again in a New Game Plus mode called Way of the Strong, where enemies have higher levels, different enemy locations in each mission, as well as better rewards such as Divine-grade equipment. You may also choose to collect collectibles in the game such as Kodama, or help fellow players online to clear a mission.
This game is an excellent game. I thoroughly enjoy playing this game as it has the Souls-styled features such as the death feature and leveling system, as well as many other good gameplay mechanisms such as the Ki Pulse, random loot drops, as well as the Mission-based progression system. Despite the weak enemy variety, progression and story issues, this game is worth trying to players who scratching an itch for an Onimusha-styled game or players who like FromSoftware's Souls games. I really enjoy this game that I easily look past the game's issues. A highly recommended game for hardcore action RPG fans.
Pros and Cons
- Interesting timeline.
- Great portrayals of many Japanese historical figures.
- Stylish and great combat that resembles Onimusha games' combat.
- Great customisation and leveling systems.
- Good loot system.
- Excellent boss fights.
- Excellent graphics.
- Great character designs and enemy designs.
- Two different graphical options are available for different types of players.
- Good voice acting.
- High replay value.
- Generic story.
- Poor character exposure and development for William.
- Static villain and supporting characters despite having interesting portrayals.
- Lack of regular enemy variety, especially human enemies.
- Repetitive progression.
- Many reused areas in Sub Missions.