Dynasty Warriors 9 is an up and coming hack and slash game developed by the talented team Omega Force. This is the franchise that had made them the popular studio they are today but for this entry in this beloved series, they’ve decided to go away with the linearity and take the game, and perhaps the franchise, to an open world approach. Let’s see if the popular trend in going open world will hurt this franchise or take it to the next level and reach the broader audience they want.
Release Date: February 8, 2017 (Japan/China) February 13, 2017 (Europe/USA)
Approximate Size: 43.96 GB
Genre: Hack And Slash
Developed By: Omega Force
Published By: Koei Tecmo
Reviewed on Xbox One X; also available on PlayStation 4 and PC
The Yellow Turbine Rebellion, beginning at first to come from the desire of peace, have created conflict and threaten to overtake China. It’s a story I was not familiar with but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it was engaging and filled me with curiosity. It also serves the purpose of giving the player a reason for what they are doing. It fleshes out the world and combat, adding an extra layer to your actions and an insight to an era long gone.
The campaign is broken into five sections, or viewpoints, for the player to witness. The first follows the Wei, the second Wu, third Shu, fourth Jin, and the final left for various characters. Each character had their own beliefs, their own reasons for doing what they are doing, and at the end of the entire game you get a full, enriched story. I enjoyed the effort that went into the story and that desire to see what would happen next never left me.
All in all the story is solid. Newcomers to the series won’t feel lost and returning veterans will be thrilled to accompany these characters again. It’s even got me curious on prior entries and I may have discovered a new series that I will dive into.
The combat in this game, and the series as a whole, is so satisfying that it spoils you with how good it is. You have probably one of the largest playable roster in gaming history and each character plays uniquely enough to justify their inclusion. Some will have similar moves but with their own fair. The game is very rewarding on that aspect as your constantly unlocking more playable characters. The only real negative in this area, let’s address it now and get it out the way, is the enemy AI. The common soldiers are there for your amusement, meant to be quickly disposed of with little resistance. Thankfully, the more important antagonists are way smarter.
Fighting against the main enemies, those with an actual name and defying look, are challenging if you are under leveled. Some will be a classic fight with thousands of normal enemies around and some will have some puzzle elements to them. One of the earliest bosses requires the player to destroy large pots that emanate a greenish fog that empowers the boss. It turns what felt like an impossible fight, when not following the objective, into a reasonable challenge where the victory feels earned. It is also the first in my brief stint with the series, I have only played the Nintendo exclusive games, where I actually needed to use the block button.
At your disposal are various weapons from this historical time period. Weapons we’ve all seen from this era from prior entries and other games but the combat in this version is so satisfying that it’s ridiculously good. You have the basic attack, a heavy attack, and holding the shoulder button gives you a modifier. What thou are able to do is a basic combo, both for light and heavy, but there is also a lot of healthy options for creativity. Three are fewer satisfying things than to light combo ten plus enemies in the air, use an air launcher, and then end this with a flashy heavy finisher. Mixing it up with the game’s block, dodge, and counter mechanics offers a lot of opportunity to try new things for the player. Speaking of finishers, they take some time to earn but all are flashy and well worth the wait. I wasn’t expecting this level of depth or this level of freedom in the combat system and this game makes up a lot for other areas it falls in.
There are some light RPG elements to the game as well. Your characters all can be leveled up with experience points earned from combat and story progression. Damage output, health, etc. are available to be upgraded. Weapons can also be modified with effects, such as fire or ice, and new weapons can be crafted. Each character has a weapon type they prefer and equipping them with this weapon offers more damage output. This makes sense as we all have our own preferences and likes. The combat is fluid, engaging, and satisfying. There are tons of unlockables that can be used in game and viewed in the Gallery and Encyclopedia. The game offers a lot in terms of content and it’s more than just visuals, you have written text describing back stores and battles.
The open world. What the open world does better than the prior entries is replace the overwhelming amount of menus, that may have intimidated others, with in game NPCs that still serve the same purposes. Buying gear, weapons, and items can all be done at various shops spread throughout the open world. It makes the entire experience streamlined and even though this is a staple in modern gaming, it’s nice they got it right on their first attempt.
There are also mini games and distractions plenty throughout the game, such as fishing. The game also has camping elements and apparently the ability to customize and furnish a hideout. The game offers a lot to players and the content makes up for the subpar graphics.
For long time fans of the series who might have been worried, or concerned, about the transition and changes the series would be going in, ease those concerns. The open world aspect will revitalize this long series and I truly do think it will help broaden it’s audience. None of the changes ruin the series and this is a good foundation for the inevitable Dynasty Warriors 10. This is a good thing and those that are still cautious should give it a chance.
Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t a graphically impressive game, its really not, especially when compared to the vast amount of games that have since released before it and those that will release alongside it. The environments aren’t that detailed or filled like other games, the grass and trees look dull and lifeless, and there doesn’t seem to be any animals whatsoever besides those being used in combat. The buildings aren’t as detailed as other games, nor are the structures that encompass them. Also, the snow effects in the game seem to be several generations ago in terms of how its shown and how it doesn’t seem to affect the environment. Don’t get me started on the water. It may be time for a new engine. Despite these graphical disparities, there are some visuals the game does exceptionally well.
The way the game is able to handle so many NPCs at one time, without any texture pop in or glitches, is astonishing. You’ll never be able to truly calculate how many enemies your fighting at one time, or that are fighting besides you, because of the massive amount all taking place at once. I was impressed that the game handled all of this with no hiccups to the framerate, no slowdowns, and no screen tearing. I know this studio is renowned for throwing so many NPCs on a screen at one time and can be seen as veterans at this point but even they have to be impressed with how many they have in this release and to this level of detail.
Speaking of detail, the character models of the more important characters are strikingly realistic looking. The main cast you will play with, as well as the main antagonists you will battle against, are extremely detailed to the point that they will look out of place in this game’s world and almost feel as if they are from a different game. Their intricate armors are all unique and perfectly reflect the era they come from and their personalities. The models look to have a higher polygon count and are more detailed. There was no way every character in a game like this could all look as good as the main characters, I understand that, and I respect that the characters that needed the most care received it.
The attacks you can pull of in this game are flashy with some realism but no matter what, you feel amazing and cool in execution. Combat is discussed in another section, but I wanted to mention, visually, they look and feel fantastic. Its always been a highlight in these games, from this developer, and here is no different.
I want to give a special shout out to this game’s lightening engine. It’s amazing and a true standout highlight to this game. Set before modern lighting that is all around us, electricity, this game uses torches for light. You read this and might think that’s common sense and expected but I don’t think anyone expected them to pull it off like they have. Kudos to the developer. When the game is at night, darkness overtakes, and when you reach settlements or small bases, you can see the faint yellow hue in the distance. As you approach, your able to make out these areas but when you arrive your left in awe at the games lighting. The flames flicker, yellow warmth cascades over you and all around the area in such a realistic fashion that I couldn’t help but stop and make note of it.
The UI and menus in this game can be intimidating, there is constantly a lot going on. Even though you are bombarded with information, it is easy to interpret and I, personally, never felt overwhelmed by any of it. The map in particular does a good job of catching your attention and pulling your curiosity to search for secrets and unlockables. There were many times where I was focusing on a certain objective to only find myself taking a detour because the map displayed a chest and I wanted the contents inside, whatever they were.
The big selling point of this game was that it was going open world, unfortunately some aspects haven’t transferred well in this transition to a broader approach. Then there are those that have. For everything this game seems to do wrong or fails to meet a standard, it has several instances where it rises above my expectations and demands my respect. It has it.
Let’s start this off with voice acting. The voice acting in the game isn’t bad, nor is it particularly bad, but it is serviceable. The voice don’t seem out of place and with an understanding that this is a dub on Chinese characters, they fit the characters personality. There isn’t a time where I felt that the voices didn’t match, all things considered, and the actors did their best. I liked it. What I did not like was how the voices didn’t match the dialogue. Now, I understand that they cannot because the original voices are probably in Japanese but the way these mouths move, they don’t match any human dialect anywhere. The jaw doesn’t open wide enough and close far too quickly for there to be any real words to exit those mouths. Maybe it can be addressed in a patch.
When there isn’t any dialogue being focused on, you play traverse through the world with a light foreign melody that plays. It is wonderful as you travel the land and this fantastic music plays in the background. It helps supplement the lack of wild life or nice visuals as your moving through the land. You cannot help but respect, stop, and listen to this music. Then the game does something interesting but equally amazing with its music. When you engage in battle, gone is that classical Chinese inspired music, and in its place is adrenaline boosting heavy metal. Once combat starts, guitars fill your ears and pump you up as you fight and it adds an extra layer to the combat. These riffs are something out of Dragon Force and work wonders to draw you into the melee frenzy and forget the world around you.
The sound is hit or miss but it excels when it counts and other than voice acting, its actually really good. The hit impacts feels great and the music is the true highlight. Don’t let the minor things hinder your enjoyment of the game because, overall, it’s a good game.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is a stellar entry in an iconic franchisee loved by many. It tackles new approaches and styles of presentation head on with flourishing confidence and only stumbles with its graphics and some details that are standard in open world experiences. Combat and music is fantastic and the story ties it all together nicely. With lots to do, a streamline approach, a map with tons to do, and plenty of items to unlock, you get your money’s worth.