Apples and Oranges, Warriors and Tactics

Koei?what?s wrong with you? This game is?different?that?s just strange. As uncharacteristically progressive as it is, Dynasty Tactics 2 is a major step forward for Koei and the genre. This offers a different, more realistic feel than almost any other tactics game, and looks and sounds like it.

The story is just about the only similarity between Dynasty Tactics and Dynasty Warriors, still brandishing the Wu vs. Shu vs. Wei Empires, all vying for dominance of China. All the characters from DW3, from Gan Ning to Ma Chao, are present and incorporated into the plot at one point or another. Of course, all three empires are playable, with their own unique storyline, and the new Lu Bu kingdom adds more fuel to the fire.

Here?s where things get interesting. Players are allowed to form their own armies, selecting a leader, two strategists, and other subordinates. A leader and strategist must be chosen with care, since different soldiers may command lots of authority but lack the endurance to be a perpetual target, while other soldiers may be good strategists but may be put to better use as a normal soldier. Outside of battle is a map showing the various regions of China. Across it are dots and lines, showing cities and paths, with both neutral, enemy and ally units displayed. Armies can move around and engage other armies, recruit new officers, or occupy uninhabited regions. On top of that, officers can also be selected to become spies. Spies move around like a standard unit, but when they meet an enemy army they can be used to cause disarray, assassinate the leaders, or persuade enemies to desert their comrades. Battles commence when two enemies end up on the same space.

The battle system itself is incredibly fun, though it looks fairly standard, with grid-based movement and individual soldiers appearing across several squares. The player moves their legions of soldiers against the enemy armies, and completes various mission objectives, usually killing the enemy leader. The battle system breaks from tradition in its ability system. The abilities, called ?Tactics?, are selected from a uniform pool of skills. There are three groups of Tactics: Intelligence, Strength, and Charisma, each varying in effectiveness based on the user?s stats. In battle these attacks can be strung together, using either one unit or several. If an allied strategist gives the go-ahead, a character can use as many Tactics as they want, as long as position permits. In addition, when the Tactic puts an ally into a position where they can use their own attack, they will strike the enemy with devastating results. This is both innovative within the tactical genre and critical to the game itself — and god, it is great.

Dynasty Tactics 2 also has its own unique graphical look, it uses realistic, proportional sprites for the units instead of the standard cartoon style. However, instead of each on-field unit showing its officer, only a simple stock image is used, determined by army-type. The voice acting isn?t particularly great; each of the critical characters keeps their voice actor from Dynasty Warriors, but all the others have simple, poorly done, stock voices. With only five or six battle cries, it isn?t too easy on the ears. Still, the dialogue at critical junctures is well done. It’s refreshing to see a tactical RPG with a more realistic look and sound to it.

Dynasty Tactics 2 is a surprisingly satisfying tactical endeavor. With four unique storylines to play through, many hours can be pumped into this game. The excellent, one-of-a-kind battle system makes this a game that any tactical fan could get into. Graphics and sound are realistic, which is unique, but Koei was a bit stingy on voice acting and character models. It’s an entertaining title to say the least; any fan of the genre, or anybody with a deep interest in the Romance of Three Kingdoms history should pick this game up.

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