Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Review

Hack n' slash tactics.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Review
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Review

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires was fighting an uphill battle long before the game was even announced. It’s been four years since the last mainline instalment in Koei Tecmo’s long-running series, a game that left fans deeply dissatisfied. Although developer Omega Force deserved praise for attempting to switch up its well-worn formula, the team’s pivot to an open world design spelled disaster. Looking back now, our review almost seems a bit too generous.

In many ways, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is a salvage operation. From Koei’s perspective there’s too much content from that base game and too many fresh assets to simply chuck away. The resulting game can’t escape its inherent flaws, but it does manage to be an enjoyable strategic spin on an otherwise mindless button-bashing bonanza.

Ancient China is engulfed in war for the umpteenth time as players relive historic campaigns through the eyes of officers, tacticians, and generals. Choosing a character (or creating your own) you have the power to conquer, unify, or sow chaos both on and off the battlefield.

This has always been the major difference between Dynasty Warriors games and their much-loved Empires sequels. They give you total freedom to tell the stories you want, watching your favourite musou icons clash or join forces against a far more tactical backdrop. In DW9E, it’s hard to say whether we spent more time fighting or poring over menus, enacting policies to ensure a campaign victory.

It’s nowhere near as in-depth as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, though there are key numbers you’ll need to track as you field armies, gather resources, and nurture the relationships between characters. Omega Force definitely hits a sweet spot here, giving you a full view of everything that’s happening without needlessly weighing you down. Once you have an idea of the objectives you want to pursue, selecting policies and advancing month to month is seamless. At the same time, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires will disrupt this cycle with invasions, events, and character moments.

There’s definitely a greater emphasis on the interaction between characters. The stronger your bond, the better your policy outcomes, with a chance to form brotherhoods, marry, and even have children. One of the most appealing factors of these games has always been the opportunity to bring characters from the Dynasty Warriors series together in companionship or rivalry, regardless of their allegiance or place within the timeline.

These interactions occur via the new Stroll feature which is basically a subset of social commands that can be issued. For some reason, there’s also the option here to explore Dynasty Warriors 9’s open world, wandering the vast expanse between cities and settlements. The game hints that there are cool things to see out here (such as giant tigers) though it’s a mystery why Omega Force felt the need to recycle this particular part of the game. Beyond photo shoots, it serves no purpose.

This open world is no longer the body-strewn canvas of each and every battle. Omega Force has taken the complete opposite direction in building new battlefields for Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. Each one is small, compact, and can be blitzed in just a number of minutes as armies collide.

Whether attacking or defending, you’ll aim to capture bases and rout enemy officers as you whittle down the troop count and morale of your opponent, culminating in a final showdown with their general. Sure, it may sound very familiar though there are a few new tricks at play. Most notably, there’s a focus on siege weapons like catapults, battering rams, and towers. Controlling and defending these helps steer the direction of battles away from solely targeting key bases of characters.

Stratagems make a return in Dynasty Warriors 9 Empire, though have more of an impact. You can slot four cards imbued with powers such as triggering elemental blasts or gaining stats boosts, each with a cooldown. Once per battle you can also activate secret plans by completing certain side objectives. They hardly turn the tables on your enemy, though add cool twists to otherwise repetitive invasions, covering the battlefield in a poison fog, unleashing bandit raids, or summoning beast masters, just to name a few.

dynasty warriors 9 review

Combat uses the same core system from Dynasty Warriors 9, which introduced trigger and flow attacks among other mechanical changes. It’s no more fun or rewarding in Empires, lacking the depth and nuance fans of the series have been craving for so long now. Thankfully battles play out much faster with little to zero downtime as you watch your KO count rack up.

Playing on PS5, it’s clear that Koei Tecmo has yet to fully embrace the power of current gen systems. Load times linger, cutscenes chug, and there’s a general low quality look to the visuals apart from a handful of spectacular character models. It comes as no surprise, given how slow the publisher phases out its support of legacy system – we can only hope the inevitable Dynasty Warriors 10 is a technical tour de force.

Summary
Dynasty Warriors Empires has always been for the die-hard fans. Those who enjoy the hack n’ slash combat and love adding their own tactical twist. Those wanting to direct custom campaigns and create their own musou legend. Even if DW9 left a sour taste, there’s some solace to be found here within its repurposed carcass, though redemption may still be lost.
Good
  • Greater customisation both on and off the battlefield.
  • The series’ most powerful character creator.
  • Emphasis on roleplaying and character moments.
Bad
  • Unrewarding battle system.
  • Lacklustre presentation.
  • Salvages a poor game instead of inventing in a good one.
6
Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualSense at this point.