'Way of the Samurai 4': when east meets west

This weird open-world feudal Japan simulator stands out from the E3 crowd.

E3 is full of bombastic, triple-A sequels, but sometimes the games that stick with me the most are off-beat titles from smaller publishers. Such is the case with Way of the Samurai 4, the upcoming open-world feudal Japan simulator from Xseed and developer Acquire.

Way of the Samurai 4 is set during a fascinating part of Japan's history when the island nation first opened its ports to the West. At the game's outset, a group of British immigrants has moved in and set up a Little Britain in the center of town. A group called the Disciples of Prajna wants to get rid of the new neighbors. And the shogunate government is simply trying to maintain the peace.

The story threads formed by the conflict of these three groups progress based entirely around your choices. Who you support, who you ally yourself with, and who you kill will change the course of the story, leading to one of ten different possible endings. The final goal is to reach a conclusion where everyone is satisfied, but this will only be possible by playing through the game multiple times and uncovering the schedules and desires of the various townspeople.

Though the story has a serious edge to it, Way of the Samurai 4 has a number of goofy additions that lighten the mood. Player characters can be wildly customized through the use of accessories, bonus items that can be placed anywhere on your samurai's body and resized. Want to buy a water bottle accessory and then make it take up your character's whole body? You can!

You won't have to keep your horrific creations to yourself either. Your created character can be uploaded to Way of the Samurai 4's servers, where he'll then be automatically and seamlessly downloaded into other players' games. Downloaded characters wander your world as duelists, waiting for you to fight them and win their unique weapons.

I haven't played any previous Way of the Samurai releases, but for those who have, Way of the Samurai 4 has a few major differences from its predecessors. If you attack too many innocents or guards, your character can be arrested, at which point you'll be tortured in one of several possible mini-games. You can also now seduce women and convince them to sleep with you in an absurd sidequest that involves taking out other potential suitors.

Between the intriguing historical setting, the promise of replayability, and the bizarre oddities, Way of the Samurai 4 is easily the game that I'm most excited to spend more time exploring out of everything that I saw at E3. Luckily, I won't have to wait much longer. Way of the Samurai 4 will be launching on PlayStation Network this summer, and I'll be first in line to download it and start my weird Japanese adventure.

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