Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is here, and it brings with it a host of additions to the vanilla version of the game, adding some much-needed replayability via a brand new Infinity mode, seven new characters, tweaked gameplay mechanics, a slightly refined UI and beefed-up story. It's all pretty much as you'd expect if you're a fan of the long-running series, but, more so than at any other time we can remember in the recent history of these games, this is an ultimate package that really does feel like Koei Tecmo are somewhat dialling it in. What's been added here may very well result in a bigger game, but it's certainly not a significantly improved one.
When we reviewed the vanilla version of Warriors Orochi 4 back in October of 2018, we gave it six out of ten; it's a good enough time for fans of Musou games, but it's also a pretty run-of-the-mill addition to the franchise that doesn't hit the highs of Warriors Orochi 3 or offer the same level of polish or intrigue as the recent Hyrule or Fire Emblem Warriors. The long and short of things here is that nothing about this 'ultimate' version has massively changed, in our opinion. This is more of the same with a few welcome (but relatively minor) adjustments; a bit more meat that comes at a not-insignificant price, especially if you already own the base game and are considering forking out for the upgraded experience. It all just feels a little bit lazy.
So, what's actually new in Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate? Koei Tecmo has added a total of seven characters to the already enormous roster of 170 fighters from across the length and breadth of the series. Fan favourite Ryu Hayabusa makes a welcome return alongside Achilles and Joan of Arc, and brand new characters take the form of Gaia, Hades, Yang Jian and Perseus. It's certainly nice to see Ryu back and the new characters are fun to get acquainted with, but it's a real shame that more effort hasn't been put into how these additions have been integrated into the overall package. There are no new character-specific stages to be found here, new cast members make brief appearances during the beefed-up main campaign and then disappear into the mass of other available pugilists. Where are all our new character-specific arenas? Where's the excitement? Why not put a little more effort into making the latest additions to the roster feel like a bigger deal worth splashing out on?
We also couldn't help feeling that a lot of the new stuff we're seeing in this version of the game really should have been included in the original release. Koei has made a pretty big deal out of the revised UI here, but it really just boils down to making the insane choice of characters easier to parse in the selection screen; they've tidied up a confusing process and fixed a crappy menu system but it's not really something that deserves additional credit as much as something that should have been the case from the outset.
In terms of the new Infinity Mode, there's no doubt it adds quite a bit of replayability to proceedings – especially since the whole thing can be played in split-screen co-op – but again, it just comes off as pretty underwhelming in terms of actual new content. Infinity sees you take on twelve different Zodiac-themed challenge towers in the Trials of Hades, each one a multi-levelled affair comprising running reshuffled stages with various shifting objectives to be completed against a timer in order to move on. The problem here is that the gameplay feels disappointingly similar to the main story mode. Obviously, this is a Musou game, so we're not expecting some amazingly different experience, but there's just nothing about it that makes it feel like its own separate thing or particularly exciting; it's certainly disappointing if you're going in expecting something as fun as Gauntlet mode from Warriors Orochi 3.
In fact, Infinity feels far more like a mode added purely for the hardcore players to endlessly grind levels and get their hands on the new "ultimate" version weapons that have been added to the game here – without so much as new-look skins – and just kinda feels like a missed opportunity. There aren't even any exciting unlockables or secrets to grab your attention beyond some new materials to imbue weapons with.
Another thing that's perhaps worth mentioning about Infinity Mode is it doesn't unlock until you've beaten the campaign, that's a whole big chunk of time you'll need to invest in order to reach it. Obviously this is something which also affects the new story content; if you've already played some of the campaign in the base version and maybe got bored before you managed to complete it, are you going to play through it all to get your hands on the bulk of the new content here? The hardcore Warriors fans will lap it all up for sure, but it's disappointing that once you do unlock the new stuff here it rehashes far more than it refreshes.
Where this Ultimate version does impress is in some of the new gameplay mechanics that have been brought in. The promotions feature enables you to dig deeper and further expand your favourite character's skill trees as you rank up, giving you an opportunity to hone and personalise your most used fighters. Characters reset to rank 1 when they reach 100 now, and they can do this a total of ten times, meaning you've got a long journey ahead of you to totally max out your top choices.
You can also now swap sacred treasures between fighters, giving you much more flexibility in how you tailor the magic aspects of your chosen party. Don't like the magic attack style of your preferred pugilist? You can now mix them up and replace them with moves you find more entertaining. There's also a new Musou combo attack system that allows characters to chain together their Musou attacks, sucking enemies towards your party and making it even easier to keep your insane combos up. The story as well, as we already mentioned, has also been significantly beefed-up with a good few hours worth of extra narrative missions, a whole new ending and a bunch of new side objectives which take place after the original ending of the base game.
Overall, Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is far from being a bad game; it's certainly as divisive as any Musou title before it, but, if you're willing to give it a chance and explore the enormous roster there's a whole lot of fun to be had in cutting swathes through the relentless onslaught of enemies you'll face. Sure, you can easily stick with the same three characters for the entire game and blow through the whole thing in no time – this is by no means a difficult game – but, spend some time with its various systems, properly invest in how you choose to upgrade your favourite fighters, give new faces a chance to shine in your party and you'll soon find yourself slipping into that hypnotic Musou flow – building up insane combos, unleashing devastating magic and rage attacks at just the right time to ensure you're always dishing out death in style.
In terms of performance, in docked mode Warriors Orochi Ultimate 4 is rock solid; we didn't notice any significant framerate drops here, but in portable mode, there are still occasions where the absolute madness happening onscreen slows things down a little. It's certainly not a huge issue but you can definitely notice it when you're firing your ultra moves into large groups of enemies in handheld mode. Graphically, everything looks fine on this Switch version too; there have obviously been some texture downgrades here and there but that's something we're more than willing to trade for the bonus of being able to play this sort of thing on the go.
Warriors Orochi 4 was a solid, if uninspired, Musou game and this 'Ultimate' edition fleshes things out with some new characters and modes, significantly beefs up the story and tweaks the central gameplay here and there. However, the additions that have been made sometimes feel like the least amount of effort that was possible. The new playable characters, although fun, are pretty much slapped in without any fanfare, new weapons don't even have unique skins and Infinity Mode feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is definitely an improvement over the vanilla version of the game – and absolutely the way to go if you're keen but have yet to pick it up – but it's also a rather disappointingly small one that comes at a pretty steep price for loyal fans who are forking out to upgrade from the base version.