Becoming a One-Man Liberation Machine Never Felt So Good
February 28th, 2013 was the last time that we had received a Dynasty Warriors release on a home console. As the original title in the Musou line of games, Dynasty Warriors created a brand new style of gameplay that has endured ever since its inception. However, even though Dynasty Warriors 8 was very well received by reviewers, the series has been on quite the break. Since then, there have been a number of games that have injected musou gameplay into the universe of other popular franchises including such releases as Dragon Quest Heroes, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Hyrule Warriors. However, after almost five years to the day, it looks like Tecmo Koei and the fine folks at Omega Force have finally decided to return to the original series in order to bring it up to present gen consoles. With Dynasty Warriors 9, they’ve done exactly that while also making some pretty big changes in the process.
A New Era For The Three Kingdoms
The largest change that they have made to Dynasty Warriors 9 comes in the form of the transition from stage-based gameplay to open-world exploration. When you are given control of your character, you are dropped into one small town on a rather expansive map that is enveloped in the shroud of war. Armies are constantly clashing between different small bases, cities, and forts with the tides of favor constantly shifting. Fortunately, you are in control of a warrior that bares demigod-like strength in comparison to other soldiers on the battlefield. Through its use, you are capable of shifting any such battle in your army’s favor. Thus, the main objective for each chapter is to make your way to the opposing army’s capital base and take down its general. However, if you proceed to conquer the contested bases leading up to the capital, you will be rewarded with an ever-advancing army and an easier time conquering the massive army that awaits you at your final destination. Of course, you could also just proceed to stomp directly into the enemy’s home base and one-man army the entire complex!
Of course, being that this is an open world game now, you can pretty much expect DW9 to be sprinkled with a myriad of side objectives for you to take on in order to ultimately eat up a plethora of your free time! First and foremost, there’s the crafting system. Upon completing quests or opening certain loot crates, you can acquire various scrolls which contain recipes for weapons, accessories, and items that you can craft at the Blacksmiths and Vendors located throughout the continent. In order to acquire the components for those recipes, you’ll be spending a lot of time scouring the land for item caches hidden on the map or sprinkled along the roads and environments. If you instead you want to flex your hunting skills, you can take to the fields with a bow and hunt wildlife for their pelt and for hunting points. The pelts can be used in crafting while the hunting points can be traded in to a special merchant for a variety of bonus items.
China is a Big Place to Ramble Around
Side quests are also a major component to this open world experience and they can be found either through NPCs on the map via scroll icons or randomly generated missions that spawn in various encampments. Scroll NPC quests tend to vary between rescuing characters that are in distress or running errands for the person akin to fetch quests or location seeking. On the other hand, the randomly generated quests are usually related to taking out the leader of an army – or armies, that immediately get spawned near the quest giver. These are far from exciting missions but they can be a decent source of quick EXP for your character along with other rewards.
Even with all of these side activities available, the game wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans if its most defining quality, its combat, wasn’t up to snuff. Well, fans of Musou games can rest assured that the developers decided to up the ante on this component of the game as well. In addition to the well-established screen clearing Musou attacks, Trigger Attacks, Flow Attacks and Reactive attacks have been added to the character repertoire. When holding down the right trigger button, you can press one of the four face buttons in order to activate a trigger attack that falls under four different categories: Launch, Stun, Knockdown, and Special.
Got Them Moves Like Lu Bu
The effect of the first four on enemies is rather self-explanatory and Special triggers your character’s unique special attack. Each of these moves can also be charged prior to execution in order to cause more damage on impact. Flow attacks are just normal attacks chained after these Trigger Attacks that perform effects based on the status that the opponent is in. For example, if you use a Launch Trigger attack then the flow follow-up could be a leaping slash used to further juggle the airborne foes. Lastly, Reactive Attacks are attacks that are prompted on the screen by its respective button flashing above the opponent’s head. The effect of pressing it is situational and can used either to counter an incoming attack, break a strong enemy’s guard, or to go on a heavy offensive strike. The latter is usually triggered when the enemy is down on the ground. All of these attacks link seamlessly and it feels great to string moves together like a combat expert extraordinaire bouncing from foe to foe at a rapid pace. All trigger and reactive attacks can be augmented by using equippable gems to add elemental effects or passive bonuses as well.
Game progression is broken down into multiple chapters with each allowing you to select any characters unlocked for use in said chapter. Depending on what characters were encountered and thus unlocked during said chapter, you can go back to the main menu and replay that chapter from the perspective of any such character. This can result in a number of very interesting scenarios such as a what-if story for if that chapter’s villain had actually succeeded in their plan. This results in a number of interesting story perspectives that allow the player to learn that not every villain is as evil as the main storyline would lead them to believe. Fortunately, all items, equipment, and experience carries over across all campaigns so you can feel free to freely jump between storylines and characters without fear of losing progress or needing to start over. This also translates over to Free Mode which allows the player to complete chapters using any unlocked character. As there seems to be over 50 characters with which to play as in the game across multiple factions, there will be no shortage of content to play with and characters to play as.
Low Mosou Meter
Unfortunately, for all of these positives, there are some negatives in that there is much to be desired from the game’s presentation. Locations and landmarks in the world map have a very bland look to them. I very rarely found myself feeling a sense of awe at any of the locations that I visited. Some might say that this is due to the period that the game takes place in, but I feel like there was certainly more room to make environments more vibrant and attractive to the eye. Even the use of more bright colors would have gone a long way. Also, the voice acting is bad far more often than it could be considered good. One wouldn’t be lambasted for making a guess that random staff members or relatives had voiced a number of characters in the game. For all of the effort that Omega Force put into adhering cultural references and creating the character-describing historical encyclopedia, it is unfortunate that the voice acting pulls you out of the zone. “Crazy Uncle Geech of the Yellow Turbins” is how I described the boss of the first level in any moment that he spoke. Eventually, that tidbit made me really enjoy playing the game that much more but I wager that wasn’t the effect that the developers had intended. The voice acting problems transfer over to the narrator who details the plot progression between chapters as well. There are multiple moments where the spoken sentence will cut off and immediately lead into the following sentence. If you find yourself being interested in this game’s plot then make sure to read the text instead of relying on the narrator or else prepare for great disappointment.
Lastly, Dynasty Warriors 9 does not do a very good job at presenting any sort of challenge to the player. This last one is certainly subjective to the player reading this review but I certainly felt like a demigod running around on the battlefield, facing little opposition I couldn’t scythe through like a human threshing machine. Unfortunately, this feeling of being a divine dynastical warrior came at the cost of making the game feel tediously easy. I refrained from allocating any of my character stat points and thereafter faced no survival difficulties throughout the rest of my playtime. Of course, if having a stress-free smackdown session is what the doctor ordered then this won’t bother you in the slightest. NOTE: it was mentioned in the pre-release documentation that Tecmo Koei were planning to patch the game on day one and one such patch was going to adjust the strength of enemies on the field. This may result in enemies being stronger than the ones that I encountered.
Legend of the 3.5 Kingdoms
I didn’t come into Dynasty Warriors 9 expecting a great deal from the title in comparison to its predecessors. But I felt that the open world environment made a huge change for the better. I can’t necessarily guarantee that it could convert someone who wasn’t a fan of musou games in the past to suddenly come on board, but it definitely does a great job at making the Three Kingdoms more inviting. In addition, they retained the aspects of the series that veteran fans love while also growing out the combat to feel more fluid and active than any installment before it. If the aforementioned voice acting blandness and graphical mildness isn’t an issue to you then DW9 is well worth a shot. Pick up the controller and set a 10k K.O. count record! The Three Kingdoms need you!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Koei Tecmo ; Developer: Omega Force. ; Players: 1 ; Released: February 13th, 2018 ;
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher