From Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s duplication of The Rock‘s shower room shootout to Shank‘s homage to Desperado‘s south-of-the-border bloodshed, games intermittently draw inspiration from the cinema. With throngs of lunging hoplites and Phalanx blade-swinging Trojans, Warriors: Legends of Troy undoubtedly culls from the sword-and-sandal epics such as Troy and 300. Yet where Infinity Ward and Klei’s titles have offered scorching recreations of action sequences, Koei Canada’s action perpetually simmers. Much like Oliver Stone’s Alexander, the title’s ambitions never quite congeal, leaving gamers with the feeling that each subsequent stage will deliver the goods.
As the game’s moniker suggests, Legends of Troy is a recontextualization of Omega Force’s long-running Dynasty Warriors series. Following Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, Gundam and Samurai Wars‘ shift away from ancient China’s three kingdoms, the game transports players to the rock-strewn knolls of 1400 B.C. Troy. Despite a number of promising tweaks to reoccurring musou mechanics, the game’s combat rarely rises above middling due to several design deficiencies.
Repetition is a common criticism of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Here, the developers have attempted to offset tedium by alternating both protagonists and perspectives of the Trojan War. One moment, players will take control of the Greek hero Achilles- then on the next stage they’ll be directing Hector, the Trojan prince. While each combatant has a distinct appearance and advanced move set, rudimentary strikes can feel remarkably similar due to the period’s restrained arsenal. Gamers won’t get any weapons as curious as Xu Zhu’s massive mace or Ling Tong’s lightning-fast nunchaku.
The concept of finishing moves on the battlefield is certainly intriguing, with stunned enemies sporadically displaying a triangle as a symbol of lethal opportunity. However, slight movement can instantly cancel the opening, causing players to inadvertently issue a vertical slash. Worse- I found myself being able to constantly exploit the strike. While circling around a skirmishing pack of preoccupied foes, I could slit a succession of throats with little reaction from nearby enemies. Who knew that Ajax the Great was so damn dishonorable?
Each stage delivers a winding map for players to traverse, with the occasional requirement to save civilians or assist allies in jeopardy. Periodically, the usual skirmish will halt, a circle of soldier will form, and players will be pitted against a mini-boss. Successful attacks reward players with Kleos- in-game currency which can be used to augment the abilities of your character.
If the pen is mightier than the sword, in Troy– the spear might be even more formidable than a poison ink marker. Shielded opponents who defect blade attacks easily fall to a spinning spear, while retreating rivals can be impaled with devilish precision. Resourcefully, the title allows players to salvage discarded weapons with a press of the L2 button- all of which can be thrown for devastating results. Fortunately, most characters are equipped with shields as well, allowing players to absorb an inbound quiver of arrows with a press of the block button. Intermittently, Warrior’s combat is elevated by visceral elements. From tracking shots which follow the trajectory of a hurled spear into the back of a fleeting foe to cringe-inducing cranial impalements, the game’s offers short satisfying bursts of bloodletting.
Visually, Warriors recreation of ancient Troy is impressive. From the arid Anatolian pathways flanked by pockets of hearty foliage to imposing stone castles, the game’s environments are consistently well modeled. Even more impressive are the title’s characters, who aren’t just equipped with authentic armor and glistening blades- they move with the authenticity of Deadliest Warrior episode. Seeing a hoplite leap passionately toward a fearful foe is consistently pleasing. With cinematics recalling the aesthetics of a Greek hydria and a dedication to the Homeric epics, it’s clear that someone at Koei Canada did their research.
Unlike Achilles who had a single, conceding weakness, Warriors: Legends of Troy succumbs to an assortment of small, nagging wounds. While quandaries with the combat engine and simplistic AI are detrimental by themselves, collectively, they prohibit the gamers from reaching hack and slash nirvana. Hopefully, the developers can regroup, remedy the game’s blemishes, and offer a depiction of the Bronze Age that players truly deserve.