11th Nov2019

‘Utawarerumono: Zan’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat

Utawarerumono-Zan-art

The Utawarerumono franchise is something of an oddity. The original Utawarerumono was first released in 2004, but only came out in Japan. THe first game to make it to the West was Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, which was swiftly followed by Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth in the latter half of 2017. Skip forward to 2019 and the latest game in the series, Utawarerumono: Zan again comes to the PS4… Only this time the Utawarerumono franchise is stepping out of its RPG comfort zone with an arena brawler/Musou style game that screams Dynasty/Samurai Warriors much more than Utawarerumono!

Essentially, Utawarerumono: Zan is action-packed brawler re-imagination of the story of Haku, a man with no memories, and the great conflict that consumes the land he calls home – as seen in previous Utawarerumono game but here told in a much more abridged version; so much so that you’re probably better off playing Mask of Deception first (and undoubtedly Mask of Truth too given they’re technically 2 halves of one larger game), especially as this game skips a lot of the story in favour of action. Though to be fair, for those that prefer battling in action RPG’s to sitting through cutscenes, Utawarerumono: Zan is probably something of a blessing in disguise!

The game sees you take control of over 12 legendary heroes from the world of Utawarerumono, and utilize their unique strengths and abilities to engage hordes of enemies in ferocious melee combat. Venturing through dynamic battlefields, unleashing devastating special moves, and experiencing an epic tale of war and destiny… And as such this SHOULD be a superb entry-point for newcomers to the Utawarerumono franchise. But it’s not. Instead this is aimed squarely at the more hardcore fans of this video game series, the kinds of players who would’ve played the original Utawarerumono game when it was fan-patched for PC’s a few years ago. That is, unfortunately, not me; and as such I think this game passed me by somewhat – despite my best efforts to get engrossed in the story and the action.

Unlike other Musou games, which typically require you to take out wave after wave of enemies, Utawarerumono: Zan instead sets tasks that need to be completed WHILST battling wave after wave of enemies! It could mean killing a set number of enemies in the wave, or targeting specific characters only, or destroying objects, and even merely collecting particular items. Also unlike SOME other Musou games, Utawarerumono: Zan allows you to take up to four characters into battle at one time – which means you can use a variety of character types to complete each “mission”. Though given that you can complete a LOT of this game by merely button-bashing, the fact that there are various unique characters, with unique skillsets and fighting techniques is pretty much moot.

On the plus side, Utawarerumono: Zan looks and sounds amazing, but can that make up for the failings of the game? If you’re a fan of the series maybe. But for casual gamers I very much doubt it – I’d stick with the likes of Hyrule Warriors, Samurai Warriors and even the Senran Kagura games (which also come from this games developer Tamsoft).

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