Way of the Samurai 2 Updated Hands-On Impressions

We sit down with an almost final build of the upcoming samurai action game.

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Though we just took a look at Way of the Samurai 2 at E3 last week, we recently sat down to check out the game properly (in a quieter environment, in other words). After a brief play through the initial part of the game, we found a pretty enticing mixture of surprisingly deep combat and some interesting adventure-like mechanics as well.

You'll begin Way of the Samurai 2 by customizing and naming a ronin--a masterless samurai--and then stumbling into the beleaguered village of Amahara. Our samurai defaulted to the name "Mifune," and we were able to select from a handful of heads and dress styles to modify our character's appearance a bit. Though only three of each head and dress style were on offer to begin with, there were empty slots in the select screen, so presumably you'll be able to unlock more in case you play through the game more than once. We also had the option to choose various swords and items, but since this was our first time we had to go with the default sword. Again, it seems like you'll be able to open up new items for use with a new character as you play through the game on your initial run.

The basic setup of the game is pretty straightforward. You're presented with a static map of Amahara. With this map you can move a cursor around to different locations, such as various neighborhoods and the local magistrate's office, and then jump straight to them. Each location is populated by a smattering of hapless townspeople as well as agents of Amahara's two opposing factions, the magistrate's office and the Aoto gang. You'll be able to talk to these people to gain clues about what's going on with the political climate, and they will also let you know of tasks that will earn you money. We even wandered into a local restaurant and ate a meal to replenish our strength. Then, dishonorably, we fled from the building without paying (We had no money!) and disappeared into the night.

Way of the Samurai 2's storyline is spread out over a period of 10 days, and time will actually pass fluidly as you play. One day is broken up into five time periods, starting with early morning and ending with late evening. A small flower indicator is located on your HUD, and you can tell how deep into the current time period you are by how many petals are left on the flower. When you're about to roll over to a new time period, a petal will light up to indicate the change. This time passage will probably figure into the events of the storyline, though we'll have to play more before we can say exactly how this will happen.

The combat mechanics in the game are a little more complex than we had been able to observe at E3. In addition to the standard horizontal and vertical slashes, blocking, and throwing, you'll be able to parry incoming enemy attacks by hitting the block button and the right direction on the stick (based on the enemy's swing). If you parry successfully and you're quick enough, you'll be able to deliver a powerful attack to your defenseless enemy. You can also do a guard-break attack that will neutralize the enemy's block, although this move takes a long time to execute and leaves you open to attack in the meantime, so you'll have to use it strategically and sparingly.

Way of the Samurai 2 surprised us with its interesting storyline and accessible combat. The game has an appealing, open-ended feel that made us want to explore Amahara and see exactly what we could find (and who we could fight). The game is due out in June, and we'll bring you more on it in the coming weeks.

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