The Dynasty Warriors franchise is clearly alive and well. If you are a fan of the series, this ninth release will be a nobrainer for you. If you have never played any of the previous games, this one may not be the best one to start yourself out with.
As a PC gamer, allow me to open this review with one of the game’s biggest caveats: It’s a console port that caters lousily to the keyboard/mouse demographic, and expects you to play with a controller.
I’m not against consoles or controllers, but opting to play a game on PC is a preference of mine that should come with a set of expectations, least of which being graphical fidelity and personalized controls. Dynasty Warriors 9, sadly, fails on both fronts.
For the uninitiated, the Dynasty Warriors franchise is a series of hack and slash action video games created by Omega Force and Koei. The award-winning series is a spin-off of Koei’s turn-based strategy Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, based loosely around the Chinese historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms.
In Dynasty Warriors 9, players choose one of 90 playable heroes and, unlike past iterations that have you play a number of levels representing particular battles in the Three Kingdoms period, set out in an open world, fighting with and defeating all other rival kingdoms to unite China under a common ruler.
Open-world hack and slash sounds fun, right? Well, not this time. The world is sparse, drab looking, and there is little variety between each of the 90 heroes. Making matters worse, the inclusion of a grappling hook for every character translates into redundant strategies across the board: go to waypoint, scale any obstacle in your way, kill the general. You will scarcely switch-up your game style, and it almost feels like the game wants you to just shred enemies with reckless abandon.
Sure, you could choose to approach your target stealthily, but for what purpose? Not all games need to include stealth mechanics, and frankly, it’s becoming bothersome. Can you imagine DMC or previous God of War games including stealth segments? Why would they? When stealth was an option in Wolfenstein, I laughed heartily. Games should stop trying to cater to all audiences and stick to their guns, which is an excellent segue to my next pet peeve: the insistence on open-world.
Not every game needs to graduate to a limitless, non-linear approach. All previous Dynasty Warriors games were broken down into tight, challenging levels that ended with epic boss fights. Dynasty Warriors 9 abandons that structure and opts for an open-world that plays and feels like an afterthought at best, and a questionable shoehorning at worst. Someone at Koei completely missed the mark with this one.
Adding insult to injury, the camera will prove to be a competent adversary of yours. Your vision is easily blocked by trees or detritus in the foreground, and dying in the midst of a skirmish as a result is infuriating and incredulous. This is 2018, can we please stop struggling with camera angles?
All that said, the game does have its moments, and though scaling walls has turned it too arcade-y for its own good, it is still fun taking agency of your skills and ripping through hordes of enemies at a time. I know I sound like a an open-world denier, but as fun as it may be, it took a lot from the tried and tested structure of the eight previous games, the first game, spin-offs and portable off-shoots not withstanding.
Your roster of 90 heroes can have their stats upgraded by advancing their hideouts and/or teahouses. However, these upgrades don’t feel polished and more times than not you will not feel your character getting stronger, per se. Sure, your gear and armor will get stat bumps, but somehow you don’t really feel stronger. It is worth noting that you may purchase stat boons or actively go hunt and fish for them, you know, in case you’re a Monster Hunter player. Again, games should stick to their individual strengths.
Each of the 90 characters has a unique ending. I found that to be a bit over-kill, and wondered if anyone is interested in experiencing all 90 endings of an average game. This is another senseless addition that though is wonderful fan service, its development could have been better spent on other parts of the game.
Dynasty Warriors 9’s approach to satisfy all gamer demographics didn’t work out in their favor, and in a climate that is hosting the stellar Monster Hunter: World, among other great releases, I doubt this game will have the time to build enough of a momentum for itself.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is available for PC (reviewed), PS4, and Xbox One. A review copy was made available to us via Koei Tecmo.