With more than 40 playable characters and a significantly improved engine, developer Omega Force ends the five-year hiatus of the “Pirate Warriors” series. Where the last game ended with Doflamingo, the fourth installment picks it right back up. Let’s see how it fairs as we delve in to Big Mom’s territory.
Games can serve very different preferences. Some like it rock-hard, others may prefer a focus on story. ” One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 ” doesn’t really fall into either of these two categories. The fourth part of the spin-off on the most successful anime series launched in 2012 also puts fun first. In the Switch version of “Pirate Warriors 4” we took on Monkey D. Luffy, Eustass Kid, Charlotte Katakuri and many other characters from the series for you with the almost gigantic enemy forces. In terms of play, hardly anything changes compared to its predecessor. But we still don’t have enough of the brutally spectacular fights even after countless hours!
Although we mentioned at the beginning that story and staging are not the main focus of “Pirate Warriors 4”, you don’t have to do without it, of course. In fact, the developers pay a healthy dose of respect to the serie with a large number of intermediate and dialogue sequences in game graphics of the anime template. Especially those who know the latter don’t expect anything new, but instead nostalgic moments and an increased anticipation to experience parts of the story in the following chapter take you on a thrilling ride. The fact that there is once again only Japanese speech may hurt a little. The atmosphere and humor of the anime really come into their own, despite the playful one-sided tendency towards action.
In the first few sections of the story campaign, which you can approach online in coop early on, your character selection is still very limited. In the course of the game, which will occupy you roughly 15 hours in one go, you are not only on the road as Monkey D. Luffy, for example to dent the face of Kaido and Big Mom. In total, there are more than 40 playable characters to choose from within the individual chapters, in which, in addition to the early members of the straw hat crew, you repeatedly take on the roles of (sometimes only initially) hostile protagonists. There are also a number of optional missions that are good for countless hours of play.
The basic game principle of the series changes little with “Pirate Warriors 4”. In the individual levels you land on a map on which thousands of opponents stand in your way. Most of them easily blown away in larger groups with just a few attacks. But there are also stronger commanders who can take a little more beating until they don’t get up. You can always try to create a superiority in individual areas by defeating those said commanders. Giving you new allies and an easier way through. But this is never really necessary as long as you meet the core requirements of the current main mission. Here you have to cut off a number of commanders, there appears an intermediate boss – or sometimes two at a time.
Only sometimes, and much less often than in “Pirate Warriors 3”, you are sometimes put under time pressure. If you do not defeat certain enemies within a certain time frame or do not reach the target point before the timer reaches zero, a mission can fail. Since you can usually run past other sources of danger as far as the corresponding adversaries, this only happens if you deliberately ignore the current mission specification. For almost everything else you have as much time as you want, for example if you have to lure Franky to a certain point on the map so that he fights on your side from now on. It is more or less irrelevant to fulfill the secondary objectives that are always offered. As so often, you usually save one of the AI companions like Nami from the enemy masses. However, these secondary goals are only relevant in view of your mission evaluation and the rewards attached to it. With a particularly rich yield of berries or resource bonuses, you can level up the characters faster, learn more special attacks or also increase status values for hit points and damage.
In “Pirate Warriors 4” one way or another you will collect more and more rewards through mission completions, which you then invest in cross-character, but later also in character-specific upgrade trees. In addition to general character improvements such as increasing the damage dealt, you also unlock new combo attacks for a character. In addition, perks wave with which, for example, you can increase the damage to stunned opponents. With other upgrades, you increase the capacity for the allies, so that you can take as many of them into battle at once.
Despite the abundance of in-game money, which is sometimes used in conjunction with other earned raw materials for upgrading, progress is possible after each mission. And precisely because you can achieve alternative special attacks (you can equip a maximum of four in parallel), the motivation remains consistently high despite the core-gritty upgrade system. Incidentally, “Pirate Warriors 4” is not difficult even on the middle or highest of the three difficulty levels. It sometimes seems that the game deliberately ensures that defeated opponents drop something to eat in order to quickly restore lost hit points.
As indicated at the beginning, the bottom line of “Pirate Warriors 4” is the fighting and the spectacular special attacks. They are unique to all playable characters in the game. Monkey D. Luffy inflates and hurls itself into a group of opponents as a bullet. Or he grabs an adversary with his rubber arms, hurls him wildly in a circle and also damages all enemies in the vicinity. We particularly liked Kid, who magically attracts scrap metal in one of his specials and then uses huge robotic arms to hit the enemy. If you fire the right combo after activation, which is a piece of cake, Kid lets his metal arms hiss off like a rocket.
It is very nice that we can not only crush masses of opponents every second with the special attacks – commanders or bosses are, as I said, much tougher. We also use the environment much more than before. You can use your fists to destroy a number of barrels, machines or even smaller buildings. Enemies standing nearby during a collapse are additionally damaged by the debris. That doesn’t bring such great playful added value, but it looks pretty cool. Although “Pirate Warriors 4” not only increases in this point, but also in general in the quality of textures and effects, you can say that it is one of the nicer looking musou games in general. The ultimately rather mediocre quality of the technology (the sometimes quite long loading times before the next section of the game remain incomprehensible) does not detract from the gaming experience, especially since the weaknesses in textures or the sometimes questionable collision query are lost in combat anyway. However, more would have been technically possible. The sound leaves nothing to be desired, especially when it comes to speech and music.
With “One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4” developer Omega Force clearly relies on the series evolution and not on a revolution. Because the action spectacle basically still plays exactly as fans know it from the last game. However, apart from the improved, if not entirely up-to-date technical implementation, there are a number of detailed improvements. Overall, the maps are more complex and the layout is no longer as similar as one square to the other. Thanks to the far-reaching destructible surroundings, the action looks even more brutal. And due to the (slightly) widened penchant for intermediate and dialogue sequences, the campaign no longer looks as strong as a blunt sequence of individual levels. Not to be sneezed at is the wide range of playable characters.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 is a good evolution of the series with a few key upgrades. But it’s sadly not yet a revolution.