Capsule Review: One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4

A One Piece Musou game with deeper moment-to-moment combat but which doesn't otherwise raise the bar.

A Musou game set in the One Piece universe. The adventure-filled and semi-fantastical setting is a great fit for the gameplay, as are the over-the-top super-powered characters. The game’s story mode presents a hyper-condensed take on the more than twenty years' worth of One Piece plot arcs and thus serves as a solid primer on the world, its characters, and their relationships, although for any real depth or detail you’ll have to refer to the source material. There’s also a “Treasure Log” mode that remixes the maps/characters/factions/objectives for a variety of non-canon scenarios.

In broad strokes, it’s a lot like the previous installment. Gameplay is hectic and satisfying, built on the standard Musou foundation - mow down weak enemies by the hundreds in large-scale dynamic battles, be in the right place at the right time and achieve various strategic objectives, and duel particularly powerful enemies one-on-one. Again, the One Piece world provides a wide but manageable array of colorful characters who all play at least a little bit differently, but this time they are also much more customizable. Instead of having standard and unchangeable special attacks and rage modes, each character can equip up to four active skills that can include weak-but-fast-recharging attacks, stronger-but-slower-charging attacks, and transformations - alongside a handful of passive skills from a shared pool. This is on top of some increased character variety from characters being of a few different types that each receive passive bonuses, plus playable giant characters, and means that you can actually experiment with legitimately different builds. Combine this with a more dynamic battlefield that includes destructible buildings and the moment-to-moment combat gameplay is noticeably deeper and more engaging. I personally miss the tactical depth seen in titles like Fire Emblem Warriors or even the ability to switch between characters and issue orders as in Hyrule Warriors, and the lack of this means there’s very little mechanical incentive to spread out and play a bunch of different characters. You can basically just stick with Luffy and get the best rewards. But this more brawler-like take on Musou absolutely has its place.

As is standard for Musou, the missions are fairly varied but you’ll generally succeed by finding bad guys and beating them up. The story structure is changed up from Pirate Warriors 3 - rather than each mission essentially being an arc from the manga, several arcs are skipped outright and others are spread out into a chapter with a series of missions. This does mean you get a closer look at some arcs, but it’s still not a very effective way to tell the story and also interferes with the pacing of the gameplay. Rather than representing a complicated series of events as a series of objectives in a single level, allowing each mission to have a variety of objectives and end with climactic resolution of the arc, many of Pirate Warriors 4’s missions focus on a single event and end suddenly to show you the next not-really-playable event as a cutscene and then introducing the next mission, which means individual missions are often not very satisfying and you can only rely on closure from completing each chapter. And while the “Treasure Log” postgame is fine, it feels a bit thin for a Musou crossover game, where finishing the story is usually just the beginning.

Pirate Warriors 4 does a good job evolving the moment-to-moment combat gameplay and stands out from other Musou titles because of this. In most other ways, it’s fairly standard One Piece-flavored Musou. If you enjoy the world or mood of One Piece and like the idea of running around huge dynamic battlefields using cartoonish powers to plow through enemies, you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the story mode and about 70% of the Treasure Log side mode - enough to get the platinum trophy. After doing this I did not feel like finishing the rest of the missions.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.