The long-time franchise changes the formula and ventures into a big open world, full of new mechanics, but empty of hardy sustenance – Dynasty Warriors 9 Review
Dynasty Warriors is always fun for me. I love hack and slash games that pit you against ridiculous odds and you combo spectacular attacks together to rise victorious over their fallen (usually disappearing) bodies. Dynasty Warriors is definitely one of the best of the genre, in any of its main lines or spin-offs. I’m particularly fond of the One-Piece and Gundamn iterations. Let’s not forget Koei-Tecmo’s Warriors All-Stars as well, which took characters from a bunch of KT properties and put them a huge beat’em up frenzy! Essentially, every KT Warriors game is fun, and I’ve never not enjoyed them. However, I usually wait for the price drop to pick-up the games. Dynasty Warriors 9, in short, is not one I would strongly urge to get right away. However, I will definitely be pre-ordering the next one.
Dynasty Warriors 9 takes place during the Han Dynasty and covers the Yellow Turban Rebellion, which is all within the Three Kingdoms-era China that Dynasty Warriors has heavily featured in the franchise. I only played Cao Cao’s story though, and there are over 80 characters, so my scope of the story is far from complete. This, like the huge shift in gameplay I will get into later, is both a good and bad thing. The good of having over 80 different perspectives of the story is that you get a fully encompassing story that has numerous layers, varying points of significance, and allows players to really grasp each character’s part in it all. It allows players to truly identify the importance of every piece of the puzzle. But it is a puzzle. You will have to put it all together, figure out which pieces connect to which pieces and deal with the repetitiveness of swearing you already used a piece. Basically, there’s a lot, it’s really gratifying at the end, but is it really worth the time and effort? Personally, I prefer games where you switch characters throughout the gameplay, forcing you to not only change your story perspective, but also the gameplay. Especially with over 80 characters, that’s a huge amount of variation.
But before I go into that, Dynasty Warriors 9‘s story is an intriguing tale of being an honorable person in a corrupt system. I really like the tackling of the ethics of serving the people as part of the oppressors, yet understanding the oppressors are bad, and that change from the inside is a much more likely course for true change than simply attempting to tear down the system. However, the game has rather basic localization and when you hear things like “Subjugation Force,” you can tell the game’s story is lacking the likely flare and depth it has in its native language. The game is riddled with direct translation/0 localization tropes of – “I won’t let you do what you want!” and “I can’t forgive you!” commonly found throughout unofficial and official dubs and translation of Manga, Anime, and Games. So while the game’s story is without a doubt grand, epic, and thought-provoking, it’s overall impact is stilted by the cookie cutter translation. This is a personal pet peeve of mine that I find most don’t realize until I mention it, but one that I can’t overlook in my review of anything. Also loses points for having a 100% Asian cast of characters and less than 5% Asian voice actors. Though it is common practice for foreign, especially Asian, companies to focus on melanin deficient hirings of voice talent for their games, it still irks me and there’s just something off with how some of the actors say the names. It kind of sounds like a little kid cursing. They’re saying the word right, but there’s something funny and wrong about it. I’m not calling racist, as it’s good on paper business practices and it’s the best and least offensive way to portray another race/culture. But from an American-Asian side, it puts us in this weird limbo where we can’t even play parts that are inherently Asian. I’m not holding this against KT or the game, but I’m always going to mention it.
Gameplay is a mixed bag. The addition of the open-world aspect and how it affects story progression is absolutely brilliant. It’s pretty much a scaled up version of the previous mission/side-mission system from previous games. It is geniusly simple, do side missions and they affect the difficulty and likelihood of success of the main mission. But it is done so well, that it does not feel like you’re simply doing a side mission to complete the main mission. In comparison to the character quests in Mass Effect 2, it feels much less systematic and the pay-offs tend to come faster.
Along with the open-world aspect, numerous RPG-elements were added and enhanced. Foraging is a love-hate aspect of the game that I understand bit could do without. It gives depth and purpose to the large world, but it’s not all that gratifying, and pay-offs are minimal. I am comparing it to games like Breath of the Wild, where the foraging is much more polished and DW9 just seems shallow in comparison. I do enjoy the hunting part of the foraging, but the aiming controls never quite feel right. The process and pay-off are great, but the execution needs a lot of polish.
The addition of purchasing dwellings is one I always think is pointless, but end up wildly addicted too. This is one of those things in open-world games I hate that I love. Add that with the armor customization and appear customization, I end up playing these parts of the game much longer than the actual story. I think what really bugs me about this, is because deep, deep, deep, deep, down, I know it’s no different than playing with dolls and a doll house. Not that there’s anything wrong with playing with dolls, I have a whole Instagram account for that (shameless self-plug) http://instagram.com/theyrenotjusttoys. It’s just, I’m an adult and should not be having so much fun playing with dolls.
Where the game really shines is through its dynamic weather and time of day mechanics. Depending on weather and time of day, you have different strategies of reclaiming China. Personally, I was a fan of sneaking around at night to infiltrate a fortress. It really added a tremendous amount of gameplay variability that shows the thought and work Omega Force put into the game. The only downside, the combat systems of the game feel incredibly limited and dumbed down.
My favorite part of Dynasty Warriors is the beat-em aspect of the franchise. Pulling off different combos based on the amount and types of enemies was my favorite part. Now, it feels like you have one combo, one special attack, and 3 different linkers that slightly vary your attacks. But basically, it goes combo to either wide/launch/knockdown linkers. It feels really dumbed down and gets boring really fast. Hack and Slash/Beat’em up games, in general, are combo repeaters, but previous versions at least had enough variance to feel fresh for a lot longer. It also never felt like I had to do anything other than price the main attack button to do anything.
I think the unbalanced mechanics are why the game never fully comes together. The transition from walking and exploring mode to combat mode felt awkward. It felt like it was trying to go from a third person action platformer like Assassin’s Creed to traditional beat’em Dynasty Warriors. It was essentially two dumbed down versions of gameplay trying to create one. And unpolished controls are horrible for stealth missions. If the combat wasn’t so dumbed down my horrible stealth would have me going for full-on assaults for every conquest. It also felt weird, that I would constantly be using the cover of night to wipe out the enemy, and they never did. I mean it would be annoying if I had to run village to village every night to stop a sneak attack, but I feel like they should have at least sent one assassin over with an elite group to try and kill me one night.
Lastly on mechanics, there were no enhancements made for the PC Version, and much of the graphics did not seem to be much of a step above Xbox 360/PS3. I also couldn’t use my Xbox One Controller to play the game, which was annoying, and it responded really weird while wirelessly trying to use my GameSir controller. DW9 is probably better experienced on consoles.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is a new world for the franchise. One that greatly alters the formula the franchise has perfected in its numerous sequels and spin-offs. While the game ambitiously adds numerous new gameplay mechanics that truly do enhance the scope of the game, it seems to have sacrificed quality in its core appeal to longtime fans of the franchise. It is still a beat’em up/hack and slash game that lets players demolish hordes of enemies. Now horde demolition feels like a random encounter RPG battle instead of an epic battle. I feel Dynasty Warriors 9 is a good RPG; it is greater than the sum of its parts and as a whole a truly astounding accomplishment. However, as a Dynasty Warriors game, individual components, it frequently comes short and feels even more disappointing because of its immense potential. As a passively casual, but longtime, fan of the franchise, I still think it’ll be worth it as a discount purchase. But I would not recommend this game be the introduction for new players. It just doesn’t have that quality that makes other games in the franchise incredibly fun and satisfying. But despite its shortcomings, the direction of the franchise is looking much more intriguing and has me extremely excited for the franchise’s future. My Dynasty Warriors 9 review gets a 6/10.