KOEI is back once again with its hack and slash flagship title, and this time developer Omega Force has brought its A game.
In truth, not much has changed since the last instalment; you’ll still be hammering away at your gamepad as swathes of enemies tumble about the screen. However, in Dynasty Warriors 8, a slew of incremental updates and refreshed mechanics set it apart as the best game in the series.
No doubt a lot of these new features will slip under the radar for casual players, but could ultimately seal the deal for returning fans. In a nutshell, Dynasty Warriors 8 does everything a sequel should, albeit a rather conservative one.
As ever, players are thrust into a tumultuous depiction of ancient China, loosely based on Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Heroes rise and armies collide in a multifaceted tale of love, loss, and dueling ambitions.
For those who are new to the series, there is no real chronology to Dynasty Warriors; each game features the same core timeline and key battles with each passing instalment adding new characters and stages.
Needless to say, content-wise, Dynasty Warriors 8 is the biggest and most ambitious title the series has to offer. The game not only features 44 revamped stages, but 77 unique playable characters and the all-new Ambition Mode. Fans will also be delighted to hear that Omega Force has sifted through the entire roster, eradicating duplicate weapons and movesets to give each character their own playstyle. It’s an astounding level of commitment and one enhanced further by the game’s amalgam of new mechanics.
In terms of gameplay, Dynasty Warriors 8 does nothing revolutionary. Missions still carry a simplistic A-to-B design with hordes of expendable soldiers wedged in between each base or strategic checkpoint. Combat is still focused on chaining normal and power attacks, which eventually give players enough juice to power their Musou abilities. However, as previously mentioned, a number of subtle changes and new systems help to fight back against the sense of braindead monotony often associated with the franchise.
Weapon-swapping and EX Attacks return, accompanied by Rage. Represented by a fiery meter bolted onto the game’s HUD, Rage builds with each successive attack and grants a huge boost in combat prowess when triggered. What’s more, Musou attacks can be combined with Rage for insane, screen-wiping combos, each character having their own signature move.
Another change is how Dynasty Warriors 8 approaches weapons. It retains Dynasty Warriors 7’s revamped system, allowing players to choose any two interchangeable armaments to take into battle, but this time around, all weapons are additionally sorted into three categories: Heaven, Earth, and Man.
Each has its own strength and vulnerability against the others, creating a rock, paper, scissors system and adding some much-needed tactical depth. Run into a enemy general using a superior weapon type and you’ll be forced to swap, or flee. In truth, it’s a small diversion and one that won’t affect those playing on beginner or easy difficulties, yet does enough to make players rethink how they approach a horde of incoming enemies.
Ambition Mode is the game’s last major addition. In short, players are tasked with creating a palace to attract the Emperor to their humble settlement. Starting out with a blacksmith and a teashop, players will fund their expansion by tackling hundreds of bite-sized missions, accruing new allies, materials, and fame. Over time this will unlock new playable characters and facilities without feeling too much of a burden on the player.
One area that hasn’t seen much improvement is with the visuals. Omega Force has cleverly approached and redone some of the environments, though most are still fairly bland and sometimes tedious to navigate. Character models are only slightly better than before, but the only real problem is the number of enemies on-screen. Pop-in is still an issue and to make matters worse, the game will occasionally choke when too much is happening.
- It’s Dynasty Warriors.
- Numerous gameplay refinements and subtle additions.
- Progression carries through all game modes.
- Staggering amount of content on offer.
- Ambition Mode.
- It’s Dynasty Warriors.
- Won’t convert skeptics.
- Technical concessions occasionally start to niggle.
Against all odds, KOEI has proven that even the smallest of adjustments are still enough to maintain interest in its hack and slash series. Hardcore fans and completionists will have an absolute field day with plenty of enjoyment to be had by non-regulars and newcomers alike.
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