Soon after the launch of Dynasty Warriors 8 last year, Tecmo KOEI predictably announced that an Xtreme Legends expansion would follow.
For those who don’t follow the Three Kingdoms hack ‘n’ slash franchise, each numbered instalment tends to spawn one or two standalone expansions, the first usually being Xtreme Legends. These usually entail a suite of add-ons including new stages, weapons, modes, and more recently, characters.
On-disc expansions may seem like a bizarre concept for console games these days, especially with the current generation’s honed focus on downloadable content, but in the case of Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, we can let this slide.
The expansion may be a hard sell if you already own a PlayStation 3 copy of the original title, but on PlayStation 4 and its Vita counterpart, XL offers a fuller package. Alongside the DW8’s core features, the expanded Story Mode and all-new Ambition Mode, the Complete Edition also throws in some additional extras.
These include five new playable characters, a healthy cluster of “What-If” story missions, and a Lu Bu-focused campaign alongside a sizeable update to Ambition Mode. Of course, PlayStation 4 owners can also expect to see an improvement in the game’s visuals as well smart Twitch integration, allowing viewers to choose to shower players with items or boulders, if they really don’t like you.
Given its nature as an expansion, Xtreme Legends fails to bring any new gameplay elements to the table. At its core, Dynasty Warriors is still all about insane combos and screen-clearing “Musou” and Rage attacks. The only variation it does introduce is the return of the bodyguard system. When playing the new Ambition Mode you can now have up to three personal escorts, each of whom can be commanded around the battlefield. It’s a cool feature but it’s recycled from previous games and does little to break the monotony of Xtreme Legends’ core game mode.
For those who missed the original release of Dynasty Warriors 8, Ambition Mode had players fight in battles to accrue allies, materials, and fame in order to build and develop their settlement. Despite not being ground-breaking in the slightest, it was still different and served as a great time sink outside the campaign.
Sadly, Xtreme Legends doesn’t add anything substantive to Ambition Mode. In fact, the expansion somehow takes two steps back, encapsulating the repetition and monotony the Dynasty Warriors series is sometimes ridiculed for. The new chapter opens after building your settlement to 100% at which point the Emperor pops around for a chinwag and a cuppa.
However, he disappears after a brief stay and you have to hunt down a new enemy, who is an imposter disguised as the Emperor. It all sounds relatively exciting and upbeat for a game series tied to the history books, but by “hunt down” what Xtreme Legends actually has you doing is battling in condensed arenas over and over until you subjugate regions across ancient China. That’s it. Slightly redeeming this shortfall is the inclusion of new alternative missions in Story Mode as well as a full-fat campaign centred around Lu Bu and his cronies.
In terms of new characters, there’s a good spread on offer. Lu Lingqi isn’t as much of a war machine as her father but makes good use of her four-headed halberd, while Chen Gong, Lu Bu’s tactician, uses his bamboo scrolls to summon troops to his side. We also have one new character for each of the series’ three core factions, including Zhu Ran, Yu Jin, and Fa Zheng.
As the series’ PlayStation 4 debut, there was always going to be a revamp in the visual department. Given XL Complete Edition is a ported version of a PlayStation 3 game we weren’t expecting a complete overhaul, but the improvements are fairly succinct. Lighting is noticeably more organic and reflects the soft style used in Dynasty Warriors 6, whole swathes of enemies can now populate the screen, each with their own knock-back animations calculated in real time, horses look and respond much more realistically and facial animations and lip syncing have been improved.
If you’re eyeing up the PlayStation 3 version of Xtreme Legends then I can’t strongly recommend it. New characters are always great, as are new stages, but the lack of thought put into the addition to Ambition Mode is disappointing to say the least.
The same negative applies to the PlayStation 4’s Complete Edition though doesn’t impact on the game’s other contents, taken from the original Dynasty Warriors 8.