The Dynasty Warriors series has always been a series with polarizing opinons among gamers. There is a vocal group who critcize the games for their repetetive gameplay, poor frame-rates, clunky graphics, and awful voice acting, among others. But there is also a very loyal fanbase who look beyond some of the negatives such as graphics and voice acting to appreciate the small things below the surface. With the latest entry, Omega Force is giving fans more of what they love while working on improving the gameplay. While it may not push someone from the negatvie side over, Dynasty Warriors 8 shows the most improvement in the series.
After saving the series from disaster with entry number seven, Dynasty Warriors 8 improves upon the groundwork laid by the game before it. First things first, Free Mode has returned, abscent from DW7 (not counting Xtreme Legends, the expansion that added the mode back in). This was sorely missing and it's very much welcomed back in here. Free mode really allows you to experiment and play around with different characters from different factions, making it a great place to try new officers and learn how to play with them as opposed to learning on the fly. Returning factions as always are Shu, Wu, and Wei, as well as the Jin faction introduced in DW7. For Dynasty Wariors 8 we are given in Story Mode the "Other" story. This storyline is fairly short and only include one playable character, focusing on the warriors that are significant to the story but not part of any of the four main factions; including Lu Bu and Yuan Shao.
Next we have the Ambition mode, which tasks you to building a town and creating and artifact to please the emperor to win. You fight in battle of various sizes, looking to capture gold, resources, allies, and fame. It's a nice diversion from the main game and is easy to pick up and play for a little bit then put down. Downside to this mode is when you start, you pick a character that you are stuck with until you unlock more characters by fighting them in battles.
The story mode is changed a little from Dynasty Warriors 7. We have the intros before the stage on the big map, but no voice narrorator. Returning factions as always are Shu, Wu, and Wei, as well as the Jin faction introduced in DW7. For Dynasty Wariors 8 we are given in Story Mode the "Other" story. This storyline is fairly short and only includes one playable character, focusing on the warriors that are significant to the story but not part of any of the four main factions. In the Xtreme Legends expansion, Lu Bu is given his own story, both historical and hypothetical. It's really nice to have another story to play through and while his is the shortest of the main story, it does provide more hours, characters, and stages to the game.
As we learn about the coming battle, we get the to the character select screen. Instead of only being able to control one character from DW7, several choices are available. While only a handful of stages allow one or two characters (these mostly being the "other" story stages) the choices are usually three to four characters. Also making this unique is each character has their own objectives. Great example is the stage Battle of Changban for Shu. Choosing Zhao Yun will task you with finding Liu Bei's son, fighting as Zhang Fei requires you to hold the bridge, and playing as Zhuge Liang tasks you with stopping the ambush troops. A much better improvement, making the character selection matter to how you play through the stage; different tasks given to each character. Speaking of these objectives, your current objective has a green square that glows always reminding the character where they need to go next. With the maps being as large as they are, pointing out where to go next is a great design choice and keeping the game flowing with little confusion. In the pause menu is also a battle log screen where you can view messages and where they pertain to on the map. Sometimes there are side objectives that might be highlighted when they are announced but not given as your current objective. These objectives are optional and most relate to getting Stars on certain missions.
Certain missions may have "star objectives". Completing these objectives changes conditions for a future battle, or even opens up a new one all together. The difficulty of these objectives range from normal to hard. For most players, completing these on the first try is not really expected. The best way to complete these missions is to play throught them and then go back to play them a second time once your characters are leveled up with better weapons. As players progress in the story mode, each faction comes to a mission where something disastarious happens, whether it's Cao Cao's defeat at Chi Bi, or betrayal at Fan Castle for Shu. These missions involve retreat and a huge defeat for the faction you play as. Playing through these as retreating (still counted as victory, but only from the sense of successfuly completing retreat) sends the path onto the historical route. The missions that follow are ones that have been played before in previous games that follow the story of The Rise Of The Three Kingdoms, nothing really different from any previous game. However, completing the star objectives in previous stages will open up a "hypothetical route". At the start of the disasturous mission, the cutscene that normally plays will be followed by an additional one; usually introducing a character that did not appear in the stage previously. By talking to this diffrerent character before the stage starts, the stage will play out differently and change the outcome completely, opening up a whole new set of stages. This is really a nice feature added in, giving more mission for the player and adding just a little bit more variety. Where players may have played the campaigns in previous games and are done after the playthrough, this feature really helps add the replayability to the game that many seek. The story for each faction takes about 5 or so hours for each to complete.
Let's get a little bit into the characters. As with DW7, unlocking a character to be used in Free Mode and Ambition mode is by completing the mission in story mode where the said character is first made playable. (NOTE: In Xtreme Legends on PC, ALL characters are unlocked from the beginning, no need to complete story mode to unlock them). Once a mission is done they are free to play with in other modes. Rather than collecting items to level your character's Attack, Defense, etc.; an exp bar is used. The game, nor manual, never really explain greatly how exp is gained, there are items you may collect after defeating an officer but other than that the system is not shown particulary well. Leveling up increases attack, defense, and health; as well with gaining more musou bars and the ability to use more musou attacks (each character has three). Something drastically improved is that all characters now have their own unique attack patterns. Where in Dynasty Warriors 7, players such as Sima Chi and Liu Chan shared the same weapon and attack pattern, that is changed here. While some may wield similar weapons, their attack animations are different this time around, with no more "clone" characters. It's nice to see this being addressed because while the roster is large, having several characters with the same attacks gets boring and show some laziness on the development side.
Combat is improved slightly from the last entry. As introduced in DW7, players can equip any weapon with ANY character. There are new EX attacks (usually slightly more powerful than charge attacks or have a wide attack range), that can only be used by the character's favorite(default) weapon, but Musou attacks can still be performed regardless of weapon. Finally giving players the freedom of not being constrained to only one weapon doesn't seem like a huge deal, but it gives players options on how they choose to fight. No longer will players cringe and have to suffer through a level with a character/weapon they don't like, the player can change (somewhat) to how they choose. Zhuge Liang fights with a damn fan....however you can make him weild Guan Yu's spear if you so choose. A downside however from DW7 is while players can equip 2 weapons, they cannnot change them once the battle starts; a fair trade off. Fighting still involves mixing normal attacks with a strong attack. Hitting X (or square for Playstation users) constantly will have you clearing out enemies but mixing in a strong attack can really help clear the enemies. Mixing up these attacks may not be beneficial in the early stages or modes, but very essential on the harder modes; this game can be very tough on higher difficulties. While this can be repetetive over time, mixing up attacks, switching weapons, and using musou attacks do bring some variety to the battle. And as said before, being able to wield any weapon does bring many possibilities to the battlefield.
In the midst of all this is the new rage mode. Activating this mode (once a meter has filled) will unleash a crowd clearing attack. By holding down the musou button, your character will unleash an attack that will hit pretty much everything on screen. A very useful attack against large groups of enemies. It's very fun and satisfying to unleash this attack, it's so much fun to juggle almost 100 enemies at a time.
Introduced in Dynasty Warriors 8 is the Three Point System. Each weapon has a different affinity; Earth, Man, Heaven. It's a paper-rock-scissors system; Heaven is strong against Earth, Earth is strong against Man, and Man is strong against Heaven. If you have an advantage over an enemy's weapon, you will inflict more damage and cause the enemy to be less aggresive. Also they will show a spirit gauge above their head, and by depleteing that (by attacking, even when the enemy blocks) will initiate a Strom Rush. Starting a Storm Rush causes your character to start a massive attack that can surround enemies and cause lots of damage. Introducing this system really gives players a reason to constantly switch weapons during battle and think what kind to bring in beforehand. The introduction of this system combined with the weapon switching really helps take away some of the repetetive combat in previous entries. You can really see that Omega Force is trying to make combat fun and enjoyable, instead of being a constant chore for every mission.
Graphically this game is nothing special. The character models are all done well and look detailed. However, when up close the textures look really low and terrible. These are usually only visible during cutscenes, when the action is slow enough to see these textures up close. The framerate depends on what system you are playing on. I own both the Xbox 360 version as well as the PC Xtreme Legends: Complete Edition. Playing the 360 version out of the box, the framerate was unacceptable. Hardly running at 60 fps unless in the tutorial, the framerate constantly chugged, sometimes dropping to what seemed to be 15 fps. An update later fixed this mostly, there are some points where the framerate chuggs, but usually in areas with lots going on in the background. I am currently playing on the pc and I really have no issues. I'm running at mostly max settings, and the game runs at 58-60 consistantly with no slow down. Not that it's a graphically powerful game, but there is no reason this game shouldn't run at 50-60 fps consistantly on Xbox 360.
The soundtrack keeps with the same rock/orchestral sound that it has in the past, fans will love it, haters will hate. Back again is the so-bad-it's-good voice acting. The characters are constantly talking; giving you help on the mission and complimenting your skills in battle. The actors/actresses who perfrom the voice work are a mixed bag. While some deliver their lines and make their character interesting, there are some that make whoever they are playing completely fake and boring, (here's to you Sun Quan). While it's not very good it's just entertaining how bad some of it really can be.
Dynasty Warriors 8 has really helped turn things around for the franchise. Where the 7th entry turned the car on the right path, this entry keeps it riding on down the same path with improvements. Story and combat concerns have been addressed, improving what was good and fixing what needed to be fixed. While graphics are so-so, Omega Force gets the important thing; making the game fun. Moving around and killing hundreds and hundreds of soldiers is really a lot of fun. If you are interested in getting this game, I recommend purchasing Xtreme Legends: Complete Edition. This version contains the core game plus the additions of the expansion. Lots of characters to play, many modes to complete, this game offers up fun if you want to play for hours or just a few minutes.
- + Fun and crazy gameplay
- + Variety in stages and scenarios
- + Hours of replayability
- - Graphics are just average
Hours Played: 65+ (Between PC and Xbox 360)
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS VITA, PS3, Xbox 360 (Dynasty Warriors 8 only, expansion not available)