Hello all! Last week, we played as a ninja in one of the most authentic ninja games of all time. In my opinion, anyway. Also, Mark of the Ninja is really good. Check that out as well.

Today, we trade ninja for samurai, in a sometimes-wonky but excellent take on open world games.

Way of the Samurai is an open-ended action game for PS2. It came out way back in 2002. It was developed by Acquire, who developed the first Tenchu game, which we talked about last week. Like last week’s title, the game takes place in historical Japan. Unlike Tenchu, WOTS casts you as a nameless samurai (technically a ronin) who wanders into the small village of Rokkotsu Pass.

As far as the game actually plays, it’s kind of simple. WOTS features a somewhat more grounded, realistic take on sword combat; think something like the PS1 classic Bushido Blade, a little. You’ve got basic attacks and combos, and the ability to block. The myriad swords you gather over the course of a playthrough have various stats and abilities; some of them require a different stance (High, Mid, Low, or Side), and feature differing levels of durability and health/attack bonuses.

Advertisement

It’s a basic setup, but it works.

You spend a lot of time talking to people and choosing responses to questions that influence how the story plays out. That’s the best part of the game. Let me explain.

Immediately after entering Rokkotsu Pass, the player encounters a group of thugs chasing a young girl. And this is where you’re introduced to the concept that makes this game so great. See, you can choose what to do here: you can rescue the girl, you can assist the kidnappers, or you can just ignore it altogether. And these kinds of decisions are all over the game. That’s really the beauty of the game; you can interact with the plot (about two warring factions and an impending government takeover of the Pass) as much or as little as you want.

Advertisement

You can even elect to leave the town early, ending the game and leaving Rokkotsu Pass to its fate. Or you can ally yourself with one faction and play it all the way to the end with that group. Or play the two against each other. Or protect the townspeople from the clash between the Kurou Family and the Akadama Clan. Or. Or. Or. It’s entirely up to you.

I HAD to put this screenshot in. HAD TO.

What makes WOTS so impressive to me is, unlike other, grander open-world games like Skyrim or GTA, WOTS’s plot marches on with or without you. There’s a sense of urgency throughout, depending on how involved in the plot you’ve decided to be. But time passes regardless, and the story doesn’t wait for you like it would in other games like this.

Advertisement

And I like this little story about a little town, and the people who live in and defend it. It’s refreshing, even today, to play a game where you’re not the One who must Save the World. You just play as a guy (or girl) passing through a town, and what happens next is up to you.

The game’s a little weird in spots; there’s clunkiness and all the dialogue is in voice balloons, like up in that screenshot. But there’s a couple of fun characters, a solid plot, and seven different endings to find (each playthrough is like 45 minutes-an hour or so). I enjoyed playing this quirky game again, and I’d like to see more open world games like this. There’s 4 WOTS games, by the way, but this is still my favorite because of its simplicity; later games got more cluttered and busy, but they’re still cool.

Thanks always for reading my stuff! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, read more of my stuff at Current Digital! For example, here’s what I thought of Persona 4: Dancing All Night!

Advertisement

Next week-Let’s keep the historical kick I’m on going with a trip to Rome, where we’ll fight in the arena and *sigh* be stealthy, too.