“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These words seem to be the central motivation for Koei’s newest game in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Being a dynasty itself, DW has a lot to prove each time a product comes out. Trying to balance a proven formula and innovative gameplay has been too much for Koei to handle, and it seems that they have decided to play it safe, but make it shine with polish.
If you don’t know DW, it is a territorial battle in the era of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. You play as one of several main commanders or generals and vie for the top spot, the throne. Not only are there many different characters to choose from in each set of stories, but there are 5 different story modes, equaling about 70+ characters in total to choose from. This makes for some fantastic replay value, and ends up around 40+ hours on the first play through.
The essential formula for a DW game is of course, massive battles, awesome fights, and button mashing to make your fingertips bleed. In this way, DW 8 does not disappoint. There’s nothing quite like playing as Lu Bu and just raining down destruction with huge weapons on the nameless riff raff of enemy soldiers before you. While cool at first, this can be repetitive as hell, so each character having a different special attack, combined with certain weapons giving certain characters extra special moves does help to alleviate that problem.
Unfortunately, that’s nothing new for the DW games, and with 8 under their belt, you really expect more from the newer incarnations. The only true new game design is the implementation of an affinity system whereby each weapon (almost endless in choice) has an affinity for Heaven, Earth, or Man. This means that you will be more or less effective against an enemy commander with a different or same affinity weapon, which the game lets you know with a symbol above their head.
The voice acting is over the top as always, but when you’re a fan of the genre, it’s almost nostalgic and expected, which is a double edged sword when your fans could be new to the game. The scenery and level design were good enough, but the real let down was the graphic for this game. It seems they spend a lot of time on the characters themselves and the special moves, which do look great, but then lost interest when it came to scenery and textures for the environment. This can be a real mood killer when riding your horse to victory only to see a flat wall that’s meant to look like bricks, or a pond with no moving water.
It’s clear that this game was truly made for one group of people: the hardcore fans. Koei has made no real strives toward the future with this game, but has given more content and characters to make up for it. That said, I feel that after 8 games, a franchise has to evolve or die, so with this Darwinian conundrum lighting a fire under their seats, I hope we see more in DW 9.
Written by: Adam