The Heroic Legend of Arslan has been around since the 1980s. Originally a series of novels based on a Persian epic, the franchise has received multiple adaptations. My favorite adaptation is a fantastic five series OVA that ran from 1991 to 1995. When I learned that KT and Omega Force were making a Warriors-styled game “based on the anime” my immediate thought was that it would be based on said OVA. The truth is that the game is based on a newer anime adaptation that comes from the same creator as Full Metal Alchemist. While an upset due to my personal bias, I was still eager to see how Arslan and his friends would translate to this type of game world. Is this just another Dynasty Warriors clone or are there enough new features to set it apart?
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend follows the uphill battles of Arslan, the crown prince of Pars, and his trusted comrades. The story begins with Pars being overrun by the country of Lusitania after Arslan’s father is betrayed by one of his supposedly most trusted allies. Arslan and his guard Dariun escape the conflict and make their way to a mountain hut. Enlisting the help of the brilliant tactician Narsus and his servant Elam, Arslan needs to reclaim his home. He’ll have his work cut out for him. Not only does he need to worry about bandits and mercenaries working with Lusitania, he also needs to worry about a man known as Silver Mask that seems to be pulling all of the strings in order to take down the young prince. As a fan of the OVA, I was pleased to see this video game adaptation follow the original script. For better and for worse, the story remains true to the source material. This means that certain parts of the story (the ending in particular) are infuriating. For those that are new to the world of Arslan, I recommend doing a bit of research before getting invested in the story since the game throws a lot of terminology your way from the start.
But, for those that are just looking for a good time killing hordes of enemies a la Dynasty Warriors, then you can jump right in. Arslan: The Warriors of Legends has “warriors” in its title for a reason, after all. As you go through the game’s 50 scenarios, you’ll take control of one of 15 different heroes. You’ll fight your way through armies of the enemy to make it to your goal. The good and bad from the Warriors series are all here. Arslan and his friends are a diverse bunch of heroes each with their own fighting style. Each character will acquire different weapons throughout the journey that will get powered up the more they get used. A really cool features is being able to switch between weapons mid-combo. Using strong and weak attacks, as well as the ability to customize which weapons get switched during a combo string adds a lot of variety and diversity. Characters can also use powerful special attacks after a meter is filled. These are perfect for blowing away groups of enemies at once. Other abilities include dodging, jumping and riding on a steed. To add some flavor, you can give your teammates cards that increase their stats. The diverse cast means something for everyone if you decide to take advantage of the game’s couch or online co-op. Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the gameplay is the Mardan Rush. When activated, the character you’re controlling will lead the charge of an entire army for a set amount of time. Anything in their way will fall. In other words, you’ll watch your kill count rise exponentially. It’s awesome.
But, Arslan can be equal parts fun and frustrating depending on the scenario. Your goal isn’t always clear, which means lots of wandering around until stumbling upon the next plot trigger. The longer you take on your mission, the lower your score. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still disheartening watching your score go from S to A to B and so on because it’s not clear what you need to do. The mini-map is cluttered, sometimes the camera will shake and rattle, and something as simple as climbing a ladder or pressing a switch requires precise button input. There are other little issues, too. Fully enjoying Arslan means being able to take the good with the bad. One minute you’ll watching your hit count and kill count rise to great heights as you swiftly move from enemy to enemy. The next minute the action will come to a halt because of some frustrating roadblock.
Arslan is a gorgeous game. As mentioned in the introduction, I prefer the art style from the OVA. However, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating this game’s beauty. Story events use seamless anime stills; almost like a Power Point presentation. It’s sounds jarring but it works. In battle, characters move effortlessly as they tear through their foes with elegant weapon artistry. Varied stages and settings keep the presentation fresh. The game is fully voiced by the Japanese voice actors that lent their talents to the anime. The only downside to this is that there is a lot chatter mid-combat. It’s close to impossible to keep up with what your team is saying to one another while fighting hordes of Lusitanians.
So, back to the original question. Is Arslan: The Warriors of Legend another Dynasty Warriors clone? The short answer is yes. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of Arslan as a franchise, then it’s an added bonus. The game can take a good ten hours to complete. However, finding all of the weapons and cards can add to that time. Completing the game with 100% completion will run upwards of 50 hours. If you’re a fan of Arslan but a bit leery of seeing him and his friends take centerstage in a button mashing fest such as this, then you’re better off seeking more of the heroic legend elsewhere.
Overall, 6.5/10: It’s great to see Arslan and his friends take centerstage in a frenetic action game. Said game is indeed just another Dynasty Warriors game set in a different universe so understand what you’re getting into.