After the first few hours I spent with Arslan I came to two conclusions. One was that I wasn't having very much fun with the progression of the game’s mechanics. Secondly, and in stark contrast I was becoming increasingly interested in the story that was unfolding and the characters that were developing the deeper I got into the campaign. Curiously, it took a bit of research outside the game to come to a sense of conclusion on what my feelings actually are on "The Warriors of Legend." So how's the actual game?
In short, this is a Dynasty Warriors style game that takes the formula that series is known for and injects it into the world created in the Arslan anime. The one thing you can expect to be doing here is mashing the light and heavy attack buttons. A lot. The simple combo system of attacks consisting primarily of two buttons will leave you dreary eyed as you slash through thousands of identical enemies. Being a Warriors game, you'll be doing this with a variety of characters each with his or her own unique chain move skill and special attack that you can activate once your special gauge is full. This rhythm of chaining together enough kills to charge your special gauge, unleash your special, repeat, repeat, repeat wears thin in a hurry. I found myself looking forward to each new battle or stage of a battle more because taking control of a new character would mean that the relatively inconsequential differences in the strengths and weaknesses of each character as well as the attack animation changes was the closest I could get to any measure of variety out of the gameplay loop. There are usually multiple mid stage and end stage boss fights that only expand on the core loop by forcing you to use your dodge ability before the attack animations of the boss. This is extended by simply by giving the bosses far more health than the minor level troops and a more aggressive if predictable attack pattern. This stands only to extend the monotony out a bit farther rather than break it up with anything more interesting. Add to that the fact that bosses getting juggled by your attack combo frequently seem to find their way behind the invisible walls of the areas they're defending and these battles typically wind of up be more annoying than fun.
In hopes of changing things up I started digging into the light RPG elements built into the Skill Card system. Throughout regular play and with items found out in the environments you'll unlock cards that you can plug into slots for each character. These combinations of up to three cards will augment simple things like attack and defense ratings to more unique abilities like being able to spot nearby treasure chests on the map. You're even able to synthesize multiple cards (a minimum of 5 and max of 10) together in order to create all new and more powerful cards. Each card has a letter ranking to let you know how strong it is. While it's an interesting system in concept I found the payoff to be fairly minimal for the time I'd spend putting together the cards I wanted for the desired combination. Each card synthesis will also cost you a certain amount of gold based on number of cards, the strength of each card etc. The whole thing started to become more of a grind if you want to put together the best card combinations. There's a free mode if you want to replay battle scenarios and earn more gold but given the ease of progression through the main story without using the cards at all the whole system felt pretty unnecessary and so i went through large portions of the game without ever returning to it.
If the gameplay of Arslan: Warriors of Legends plants the game in mediocre to poor territory then the visuals and technical issues firmly cement it there. To start, the game simply doesn't look all that great. Textures and lighting are flat and don't do the anime justice. Environments are simple and largely lacking of any interesting geometry. This is likely to support the giant armies of enemies you'll battle throughout each stage but the result is a set of scenario maps that lack any personality. While the sheer number of enemies on screen is impressive the frequency with which this causes problems is anything but. Entire companies of enemies would spawn immediately in my line of sight on a regular basis while others would inexplicably flicker in and out of existence. This problem compounded to include background assets during two player split-screen play. The framerate seemed to be on par with single player but the trade off was evident with the increased frequency of pop ins. Characters look like they do in the anime but their digital models are fraught with an unfortunate amount of aliasing that distracts from their clean drawn look in the cinematics which seem to be largely lifted straight from the anime itself. This comes with one major caveat however as these cinematics cut out most of the actual animation of the scenes that play out within them. Mouths move with the dialogue but the scenes and characters fade from one static image to the next instead of moving with the fluidity of an actual show. This is probably the most disappointing thing about it since the story being told within the cutscenes is the one thing throughout this otherwise miserable experience that actually had my attention. Which is ultimately indicative of my overarching feeling on the game as a whole.
I'm not actually sure who Arslan: Warriors of Legends is supposed to be for. The story here that's directly lifted from the anime is easily the best thing it's got going for it but the abbreviated scenes and presentation of which do it a disservice. There's a great arc about what it means to become a great leader and how the shades of gray and overlapping injustices for political and ideological conflict make separating the players more complex than just labeling them as "good guys" or "bad." I can't really recommend this as a thing fans of the anime should check out for it's flaws and failure to capture what makes the story of the anime series compelling. Likewise I wouldn't recommend it to those looking to find a jumping on point for the series as the presentation of Arslan's best parts is lacking compared to the show proper and padded in between story beats with a gameplay loop that is just simply a chore to play. My recommendation here is simple. You should definitely check out The Heroic Legend of Arslan but unless you're already a fan of the series and desperate to spend some time interacting directly with that world you shouldn't waste your time with "Warriors of Legend."