The original Dynasty Warriors was released back in 1997, but it was three years later in the year 2000 with Dynasty Warriors 2 when the series really shot to fame, providing the first real battle experience against dozens, even hundreds of enemies on screen it was a game unlike any other.
Since then the Dynasty Warriors franchise has brought us a further 7 titles as well as expansion and self-contained hits such as the Extreme legends and Empires releases providing extra characters, modes and options and for Empires a whole new way to play with a much more strategic approach.
Dynasty Warriors 9 arrives with some of the most substantial changes to the series so far, it’s been a few years since I really took the time to enjoy a Dynasty Warriors title, but 9 seems to be a pretty impressive package.
Firstly there’s a completely new open world approach. While already giving the player the chance to approach the forthcoming battle from any direction and choosing which opponents to take down before working towards the final battle, DW9 goes one step further in the realms of open worlds by adding Non Playable Characters (NPC’s) to interact with for upgrading weapons, combining gems and finding new mini quests as well as useful hints on how to approach the battle ahead.
The core gameplay still boils down to territories as you battle lower ranked opponents to strengthen your army’s grip on the area before working your way towards and taking down the opposition leader. Making the transition across the map might feel very similar but the core combat mechanics hav changed somewhat over the years and certainly for the better.
One of my only criticisms of Dynasty Warriors games gone by has been the core hack-n-slash nature, simple button bashing would be more than enough to battle most enemies and even with the addition of the Musou system it still felt like you where smashing buttons to fill the Musou meter and then taking a breather for a second as you unleash your special move.
On to 2018 and there’s a much deeper combo system, using the same button layout as previous games the RB gives a special overlay allowing you to make a pop-up, smash, stun or special attack, combining these special attacks with the standard hits will string together impressive and most important varied combo’s which will tackle large groups of enemies taking your hit counter into the hundreds, large combo’s aren’t new to the franchise, but the way they’re achieved feels fresh, exciting and very well made.
It’s not to say it’s a perfect system, but it’s a mile beyond anything we’ve seen in the franchise before and much closer to the intentional move presentation seen in titles like Devil May Cry.
One game that many comparisons will arise from is Shadow of Mordor / Shadow of War, purely down to the large scale battles and having the option of picking small fights as part of the greater war, Dynasty Warriors isn’t quite up to that standard, but it’s still on a much larger scale, games like Shadow of War would see you individualised in small battles against a handful of opponents in a much more strategical fight, but Dynasty Warriors still throws dozens of enemies at your feet constantly, so the added depth to battles is certainly a welcome addition.
Graphically Dynasty Warriors is easily the best looking game in the franchise, thanks to the improved battle system there’s a far wider range of animations and it remains smooth throughout, I did notice a few drops in larger battles that were packed with enemies, but keeping surrounding details to a minimum has allowed far more action on screen, sadly there are some camera angle issues as action seems to drop a little low behind your characters, a simple height adjustment could be added in a future patch but currently
It’s a shame that we don’t see any Xbox One X enhancements, maybe they’re in the works as there’s a 4K/30fps option on the PS4 pro, but we’re currently locked at 1080/60fps on the Xbox, it’s not a bad thing as the 60fps sits pretty solid throughout and lends itself well to the fast action, but i would have been nice to have the option.
Audio is another area that seems to have been rebuilt for the new generation and while there’s still that plastic feel to voice acting, it’s far more realistic than some of the cheesy one-liner’s we’ve heard over the years, and the increased narrative elements improve the overall presentation considerably.
With over 80 characters, missions that take hours rather than minutes and enough borrowed from the Empires upgrades to give a solid tactical option when heading into a mission, Dynasty Warriors 9 will last you a long, long time, it’s packed with options and while there’s plenty of changes, everything still feels like a Dynasty Warriors game.
It’s safe to say there’s a few things which come across as a little tedious, running between NPC characters often fleshes out the down time a little too much and the camera angle issues really do become annoying when you’re in the mix of the action, but there’s no denying the direction the dev’s have been aiming and they’ve done a fantastic job.