Arslan: Heroes of Legend
Arslan, the crown prince of Pars, has been driven away from his own nation by a masked usurper. With the country torn between inner turmoil and invading enemies from every direction, Arslan must gather an army of loyalists to reclaim his throne and secure the future of the grand kingdom of Pars.
Single and multi-player modes
Tactical action gameplay
Story mode, free mode, and online mode
A straight play through the story mode could take up to 20 hours, if only because the cut scenes pad out the game and some of the levels have to be played multiple times to clear them. Free Mode and Online Mode can add countless hours of gameplay.
Feb 9, 2016
PS4 & Xbox One
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Rating: T for Teen
Based on an anime that is based on an older anime that is based off of an epic novel, Arslan The Warriors of Legend is a tactical action game that plays very much like the Dynasty Warriors games with its own personal flair. The most recent anime is still fairly new, and is produced by the same company that delivered Full Metal Alchemist (an anime for those of you living under a rock), so it shares a lot of design qualities and character models. Unfortunately, it is still unavailable in North America as physical DVDs, so naturally, the game is comparably obscure. That aside, I enjoy Warriors games and went into Arslan: Heroes of Legend with no expectations and found myself impressed by the majority of the game from its presentation to the actual gameplay.
Arslan opens with a brief introduction to the titular character , crown prince of the kingdom of Pars, and offers the player a standard combat tutorial in the form of his daily sword lessons. Following the short spar, Andragoras III, Aslan’s father and king of Pars, returns in victory from his latest campaign against the Empire of Lusitania. An excitable Arslan rides out to meet him only to be brushed aside. Once the returning warriors have cleared, Arslan spots a handful of the Lusitanian captives and decides he wants to speak with them, if only to learn of another culture. To his surprise, one of the captives is his age. The fiery youngster manages to break free and takes Arslan hostage in order to safely escape from the city.
During what few, brief exchanges that the escaping slave and Arslan share, the former discovers that the major conflict between nations is one of a religious nature. The Lusitanians worship a god and believe all men are created equal with exception to heathens who defy the law. Pars, on the other hand, bows to multiple gods and believes that slavery is morally acceptable. Arslan is left more thoughtful following the experience than rattled, and carries this encounter with him as the story progresses.
The story leaps forward three years to Arslan’s maiden battle (…and he’s 14 years old. Yikes!) Lusitania is once again pressing the offensive and Pars is rising to push back the threat. Unfortunately, Pars is betrayed by one of its chief officers and the army falls into a trap, dividing the forces from one another. Andragoras retreats, leaving his men and his young son in the chaos to follow. Arslan, unaware of neither his father’s retreat nor the betrayal, struggles to regroup with his men. When he finds one of his family’s trusted officers, it is none other than the man who arranged the defeat of the Pars nation. Before Arslan can be dispatched, his faithful bodyguard, Daryun, rides in to sweep the prince away.
The duo finds sanctuary Daryun’s old friend, Narsus. It is then revealed that Andragoras has been taken prisoner, and the Pars army is scattered. In his absence, Arslan’s long lost cousin has taken the throne and has placed a price on the head of the crown prince. Arslan is forced to raise an army to not only drive the Lusitanian armies back, but to oppose the usurper to his throne. Among his loyalists are Daryun, a powerful cavalryman, Narsus, a tactician and painter, Elam, a former slave and Narsus’ personal attendant, Gieve, a wandering minstrel and archer (+10000 points for having a bard!), and Farangis, a priestess.
The story of Arslan is a reflection of the writer’s interpretation of the Crusades and the struggle between the Persian Empire and Western-European cultures. The nation of Pars, reflecting Persian culture, does not subscribe heavily to faith. Gods are mentioned, but none of them by name, and the people of Pars culture seem to give them only a passing glance. In contrast, Lusitanian culture mirrors the Western European Roman Catholicism. Their god, “Yaldabaoth,” is the one and true god. Through the belief of Yaldabaoth, all men are equals and are to be treated as such. This comes into play especially with their views on slavery, which Pars openly practices. They believe, however, that heathen nations such as Pars are not entitled to the protections granted to those who believe in Yaldabaoth. The archpriest is a tyrannical figure in both the game and also the anime who uses his authority within the church to push his own agenda and butcher those whom he desires. It’s a bit of an extreme take on the Roman Catholic view of the Middle-Ages and some may take offense to it.
There are also sorcerers who serve within the Lusitanian army. They’re practitioners of dark arts and hint, a little strongly, that the corruption of the church has some pretty deep roots.
There are also sorcerers who serve within the Lusitanian army. They’re practitioners of dark arts and hint, a little strongly, that the corruption of the church has some pretty deep roots.
The violence within the game is mild during the actual gameplay, but many of the cutscenes are taken right from the anime and there are incidents where blood and gruesome deaths are shown. The Teen rating isn’t pushed in this regard, but it is a little bloody at times.
The language isn’t too horrible. None of the “big” words are used but there is “darn”‘s older brother, heck’s ugly uncle, and the use of illegiti
mate child in it’s more user-friendly form.
Crudeness is… a little more out there. Gieve is an out and out womanizer and makes his intentions pretty clear right off. There are uncomfortable situations that involve the queen and one of the men seeking to woo her in later scenes but the implications are the worst of it. The most sexual content comes in the form of Farangis who decided its’ a great idea to not wear a lot of clothing to battle. She’s…rather exposed but just enough to retain the T rating and to cover up the majority of her nasty bits.
Drugs are a non-issue, but one of the leading generals of the Pars army is seen drinking several times from a jug and he makes no attempt to hide his love for alcohol.
Arslan himself is an endearing character that absolutely serves as the moral figure within the series. He’s curious about the other cultures around him and goes out of his way to try to reach out and understand them, even to the point of surrendering to become a hostage. He spares the lives of his enemies and weeps even for traitors when they fall in battle. It’s clear that he has no heart for war while at the same time understanding that pacifism would only lead to further bloodshed and shift power into the wrong hands. He wants the throne of his kingdom, not for himself but so he can right the wrongs and achieve some healing between nations. Through the course of the game, Arslan grows into a leader that is just as fearless as he is compassionate, knowing when to take command and when to heed the advice of those around him. Arslan surrounds himself with men and women who are talented, clever, and have the best interests of his kingdom at heart.
Loyalty is also a key element within Arslan: Warriors of Legend. Daryun is personally sworn to Arslan as his protector and strong right arm on the field of combat. He is easily the most powerful character to play in the game, but he lends his strength to a young boy who has earned his respect and trust. He goes through great pains to cross hostile territory to come to his lord’s aid. Similarly, Elam serves as the faithful servant to Narsus. He has a true servant’s heart and works to not only extend his services to his lord, but also to those around him. The dynamic of friendship between all the characters involved is a powerful one. Each character comes from a different background and holds different beliefs, but they build off of each other to form a powerful, united unit.
Anyone who has played Dynasty Warriors or Hyrule Warriors will fall into Arslan: Warriors of Legend‘s gameplay fairly quickly. The game has two main modes: Story and Free Mode. In Story Mode, the player will have no choice in what characters they play and must follow a guided story through scenarios and battles in order to progress. The Story Mode follows the plot of the anime and includes character dialogue (which is all in Japanese but subtitled in English), goals, and timed challenges as well as objectives for victory or defeat. Generally speaking, the missions begin with simple goals such as “Defend the north wall” or “Defeat all enemies rushing the border.” This pretty much means you run around on your murder horse, slashing anything that moves. As the battle progresses however, you will be forced to grow tactical in how you manage your time. For example, while playing Arslan, one objective may take you to the upper corner of the map to pursue an enemy commander. When you reach this point, an enemy trap is sprung. The game will force you to play another character such as Daryun, and your new objective will be to reach Arslan’s position before time runs out in order to save him from the enemy. In some levels, you have to avoid detection by enemy forces or slay messengers before word can reach the enemy commanders of your army’s location. In this regard, it’s important to pay attention to the dialogue between characters so you know when the tide of battle is changing. If you miss the dialogue, you can always check the battle log.
Story mode is quite lengthy and the cut scenes can drag on a little, but it’s essential to play through Story Mode at least once if you want to unlock anything in free mode.
Once free mode is unlocked, the player can choose to play unlocked characters on unlocked battles. They still have to meet certain objectives and goals, but they aren’t forced to stick to the storyline. Free mode allows the player level characters and weapons up, find more stat cards, and t earn trophies/achievements for themselves.
As Through progression in Arslan, each character expands their weapon specialization from the starting few in addition to increasing in proficiency in each. Leveling up weapon and weapon arts allows new combos to be used in battle. Mashing the square and triangle buttons is a good way to go in order to learn these combos at first, but as your weapon grows more powerful, it doesn’t hurt to review your stock to see what combos you have available, because some difficult enemies will require hard hits and well timed combos to bring down. Other foes are bested faced with a weapon combination rather than a single solution. For powerful enemies who are slower but harder hitters, it’s nice to have a high-leveled bow and arrow to weaken them from a distance.
Some of the characters have rather unique weapons at their disposal, each with their own effects and combos. Characters can also unlock a super attack which can be activated when the yellow bar below their health gauge is full. These attacks are very powerful and will often strike multiple opponents at once. As the character levels up, these attacks gain strength and effects. For example, when you first play Arslan, his special attack involves him leaping back then making a bold charge with his sword. Towards the end of story mode, Arslan’s special involves him sending his falcon, Azrael, out to attack the foe while he makes his rush with a blade. Gieve will sit down and play his lute, sending out deadly waves of music to devastate enemies surrounding him and Narsus will apparently make a painting so terrible it takes lives. The diversity in characters, weapons, and abilities makes replaying this game a lot of fun in every available mode.
Another way to buff up your character is to utilize character cards. These cards are found through the course of battles and can be accessed and assigned even during the heat of combat. There are three total slots, so each character can have three cards set on them at any one time. The cards carry with them ranks (from S to C) and a cost. Higher level cards cost more points to assign so you may be limited to a two or one card set to gain the buffs the situation requires.. Leveling up allows your character more points to spend on having cards assigned to them. These cards each have effects ranging from greater defense to more powerful mounted attacks. If you have to knock out a lot of people quickly, it’s a good idea to find cards that will buff your mount’s power, your mounted power, and your mount’s speed. Cards absolutely add another layer of strategy to combat that games like Dynasty Warriors and Hyrule Warriors lack
Horses (especially Daryun’s murder horse, Shabrang ) are have been given considerable buffs and usefulness in Arslan: Heroes of Legend. In other warriors-style games, horses are more or less a mode of transportation. They tend to buck or shy away from powerful enemies. As Pars is known for their powerful calvary, every character has a horse automatically assigned to them that will come at will in terrains where they are able to access. Running your horse through an enemy horde is a quick and easy way to get your kill count up. It is also possible to swing your weapon and attack both when your horse is charging and when they are guarding.
Another unique addition to Arslan: Heroes of Legend is the charge points. In certain levels, there are obstacles on the field that can impede your army’s movements or create an immediate danger to your company. These points are highlighted by a blue pillar of light. When activated, your character rallies his or her men and performs a massive military movement. If mounted, your character will call a cavalry charge, plowing through walls of enemies or barricades. Archers will call forth a volley of arrows to rain down on specific targets and foot soldiers will unlock an infantry charge to knock down watch towers. These military maneuvers are both visually appealing and thrilling to unlock in the heat of combat. Your character takes the lead in these charges and while control is a little more difficult, you can steer the movement of these massive rushes in the direction you desire. They don’t last long, but if you time them just right, you can practically clear the battlefield within seconds.
The art style comes from the same talented artist behind Full Metal Alchemist and it shows very well. Of course, those familiar with FMA will have several chuckles at re-used character designs and voices, but it doesn’t draw away from the unique universe of Arslan. The characters are diverse in appearance, their models are extremely detailed, and some are even given a variety of outfits that they wear through the course of the game. The cell shading gives the in-game graphics the feel of the anime. Emotions are conveyed brilliantly on the character models and their movements are seamless. No one looks choppy or clunky. Careful attention was given to the armor, the backgrounds, the weapons, and even the anatomy of the animals in-game. It’s honestly a beautiful game to look at. I had several friends watch me play and they enjoyed watching as much as I enjoyed playing. In their own words, it was like watching a battle-extensive anime (spiced with my legendary lack of directional sense).
The voice acting was a double-edge sword for me. For one, the voices are very good and you could tell who was speaking when they spoke. The game’s voice actor cast is massive, so even minor characters have in their voices and battle cries. Unfortunately, I do not speak Japanese. I was forced at many points of the game to stop combat to read my battle log because I would miss out on important dialogue and battle commands. I cannot focus on mowing down an incoming enemy battalion AND reading subtitles. Either I’m going to read the subtitles, get my orders, and get a spear through my face, or I’m going to be the one spearing faces but completely miss my next objective. This produced an infuriating experience for me because I wanted to know the story, and read the exchanges, but oftentimes this took place when I was trying to focus on executing a good combo on an enemy commander or warding off fifty men. This is my biggest nitpick and I honestly would have liked the option to turn on English dubs for the game. Sadly, there is no such thing, so the subtitles are a must.
The cutscenes are screengrabs straight from the anime itself, but rather than just showing animated clips, they seem to favor clipped stop-motion frames with voice-overs instead. Honestly, it’s a very strange choice in direction seeing as there is a perfectly good anime with perfectly legitimate scenes to add. I don’t understand why they went in this direction. That said, the cutscenes aren’t bad—just distracting, and they do tend to drag along a little at times.
As for the soundtrack, it’s pretty standard for Warriors style games. It’s present, but it’s forgettable. It essentially consists of guitars rocking out so you feel pumped for combat. It’s not horrible, but I couldn’t hum a single tune from the game if you paid me.
Overall, I enjoyed this game. I love Warriors style games a lot, if only for the stress relief that they provide. The story mode was a lot of fun, and it told a very good story. The anime is not yet available on DVD so it’s a nice way to see the anime before it’s readily available. The story is a very solid one, though it’s not without its controversy. There is hostility in how the the “Catholic” faith is portrayed and I won’t try to defend them or pass them off. It’s how the writer of this story saw the Crusades which is honestly still a point of debate among all cultures. The characters are fantastic, I honestly loved every single one of the main group, and they grow as the story progresses as both warriors and people. The combat is a lot of fun and while the warriors formula is held to pretty strongly, Arslan provides its own unique flavor and flare. Finally, I cannot praise the visuals enough. Everything from the style to the emotions conveyed by the characters is eye candy.
I can’t see this game as worth the new game price tag, but if you happen upon a used copy for a few bucks off, it’s definitely worth it. It’s obscure enough to become one of those rare gems in the gaming worlds, but it’s fun enough to gather its own following.
+ Playable. Bard.
+ Great graphics
+ High replay value
+ Good voice acting
+ The fights are fairly challenging
+ Diverse cast of playable characters, each with their own battle style
+ The story mode follows the anime, which has a wonderful story overall.
- There is no dubbed version.
- The ending is a bit of a cliff-hanger and may irritate those hoping for sound resolution.
- While the cutscenes tend to drag on. Those not overly-interested in the plot may see these are unnecessary fluff.