A staggering amount of content for an accessible-yet-deep game
Dynasty Warriors has been a series that has been hotly contested as both a “Button Masher” and content-filled experience. More than most series, Dynasty Warriors’ worth as a game is greatly defined by what exactly you’re looking for in a game, and if you have the stomach for executing combos hundreds of times in a single bout.
True to Omega Force’s previous releases in the series, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is a hack-and-slash title that puts hundreds of options and moves at the player’s disposal. Its also an expansion of the original Dynasty Warriors 8, which came out in the US in 2013 on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Loosely based off of Chinese novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms“, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires has you choose one of over eighty characters and beat your way through a small army of enemies to collect enough bases to win a match. Rinse and repeat, over and over again to your heart’s content.
Of course, flashy combos and a wealth of weapon choices are key when it comes to making this style of game any fun. Fortunately, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires has both of these in full, with literally hundreds of different combinations, with most balancing each other out. With a simple press of a button, you can switch of one enemy killing tool to the other with ease, and some combinations can even combo into each other, resulting in massive death and destruction. Combos are simple, with hitting the Light Attack button a few times before unleashing a Heavy Attack which can wipe out many foes at once. Additionally, Special Weapons can have different properties on what they do depending on when you break from Light Attacks to the Heavy Attack. For example, the Shaman Rod can either take out a straight line of enemies, or if you wait a hit or two more, can take out a wide half-circle of foes in a single hit, while paralyzing the few who survive. That’s not all as well. Weapons can have one of three affinities, where one is more powerful than the other. Planning these right against an enemy commander can help sway the battle in your favor. Finally, each weapon has an EX attack, which after you fill up a meter, can decimate the foe’s army.
Enemies come in two varieties, “Mooks”, which come at you tens at a time and will take little effort to defeat, and the “Commanders”, who are like yourself. As in, they are powerful enough to actually make you pay attention to what you are doing. These Commanders are really the only difficult part of the game, though, with careful planning, nothing will stop you.
That’s not all there is to battles, either. If you are too far away from an enemy station that you want to take over, you can summon a horse to speed your progress and do some different attacks while being atop the trusty steed. There are card-like Stratagems that can help sway the battle, whether by healing yourself, giving more defense, or by shooting a series of arrows towards an unwitting opponent. There is so much more to the battle system as well, that hasn’t been mentioned yet, and all help provide many hours of gameplay. Even on the hardest difficulty, the game is never overly challenging, and with enough patience, most people will be able to take on the game’s greatest challenges.
Those looking to experience the story of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires can do so by advancing in the game’s Empire Mode. While not really so much of a set story, in Empire Mode you take control of one of the many Commanders in the game (or one you create, more on that later) and try to take over the rest of the Kingdoms in the land. You start out as being a lowly subordinate, but as you complete raids and other missions, you rise the ranks of being a true leader of a Kingdom. In lieu of much of a plot, the game has you choose a multitude of actions in how you want to advance the Kingdom that you choose. Do you want to try and recruit more soldiers? Do you want to coerce another commander to join your side? Do you want to take over and overthrow the Emperor and rule over all with an iron fist, having the townsfolk weep whenever your name is mentioned? It’s all up to you. Managing your resources is key in Empire Mode, as if you run out, bad things will happen, and the kingdom you swore to protect may just fall to another, never to return again. It is incredibly deep, with plenty of choices to how you want to play the game.And once you get the hang of it, there are quite a few different scenarios for you to control after you finish one or two.
If you don’t want to take over a Kingdom, or if you don’t want to take a few hours starting and planning out your budding realm, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires has a Free Mode, which has set scenarios for you to decimate everything in your path, or you can design your own way to kill all who oppose your might. If you have a long car ride or plane flight, this will more than take your attention away for a few hours.
To assist with one’s creative side, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires has an expansive Edit Mode. In Edit Mode, you can pretty much make whatever you want in terms of the game. One can spend hours with the multitude of options in order to create the perfect Commander, the many small army men that will fight on your side, a noble steed, and many more. It’s fun and engaging, and most importantly, Edit Mode is not difficult at all to use. A few clicks away, and you can have anything from a giant brute of a commander, or many short stubby soldiers.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires has a fantastic soundtrack if you like beat-driven rock. A great portion of the tracks suit this game, hyping you up to kill hundreds in a row, just because you can. The few songs that are not catchy war music are also pretty great, with only the Main Menu music failing to conceive any real emotion.
The main downside to Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is the load times. While not game-breaking, it can take up to forty seconds for the Main Menu to load, and battles can take their time to get ready to start. In addition, the game occasionally fails to load in enemies when it’s needed to take over an enemy base. If you get one of the worst cases, you may be waiting two to three minutes for the mooks to load in before you can advance, where it’s usually a second or two at most. Additionally, the game’s visuals aren’t the best as well, though that’s almost to be expected when you are fighting so many enemies at once.
For those looking to take the battles to the net, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires also features an Online mode, where you face off against other players, as well as take over their bases. Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires also allows you to cross-save progress and cross-play the Vita and PS4 versions. That way you and a friend can team up on both the big screen and the small screen.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is jam-packed with bells and whistles. If you like the way previous games in the series played, you are completely set. And if you have never played a Dynasty Warriors game before, this one is a great place to start. Heck, even if you are one of those who think that all Dynasty Warriors titles are all the same, you may have a decent time with this feature-packed entry in Omega Force’s long-running hack-n’-slash series.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: Vita (Reviewed) PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox One ; Publisher: KOEI Tecmo America ; Developer: Omega Force; Release Date: November 24,2015; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires provided by the game’s publisher, KOEI Tecmo America.