Dynasty Warriors 8 Review
Writing a Dynasty Warriors review is an awkward task, mostly because it’s a case of preaching to the converted.
Some will see ‘Dynasty Warriors 8’ and presume it’s another case of mashing attack until your thumb turns to mush, bone reluctantly clicking against the Square button while the KO counter runs into triple digits.
Others are fans of the series and want to know what’s changed. Good news fans! Good news converted! Dynasty Warriors 8 is a ridiculously dense package that encapsulates all the good ideas the series has touched on thus far, while pushing the gameplay forward without abandoning what makes a Dynasty Warriors game feel like… well. Dynasty Warriors.
Dynasty Warriors 8 Combat – It’s Better! Much Better!
Given you’ll be spending 90% of your time smacking enemies out of the way, and given it’s arguably where the biggest changes have occurred, it makes sense to start with the combat.
It’s hard to describe the changes without descending into a dull list of New Features but the main thing is that while you’ll still smash enemy guards out of the way with ease, there’s now an entertaining variety of ways to do so.
Storm Rush lets you lock enemy officers into place as you slash away once they’ve been softened up, Rage Awakening mode powers you up and gives you access to a Musou Attack that is ridiculously overpowered and a joy to watch while Switch Counters work as a parry of sorts, triggered timing a weapon switch with the enemy’s attack.
This is tied in with the new weapon affinity system, a rock-paper-scissors elemental system that determines whether your weapon is stronger or weaker than the officer you’re facing. Stronger? You can Storm Rush him. Weaker? You have the option to Switch Counter.
Another huge upside is that while Omega Force has added a handful of new characters, as with every sequel (there are 77 to choose from now), they’ve all been decloned. We might have just made decloned up, as Microsoft Word has underlined it in angry red, so translated into English: each character now has a unique moveset. Nothing is shared anymore.
And there we go. The review has descended into a list of New Features and we’re not even halfway through.
Another important change is that items drop more frequently. You can unlock Skills by meeting certain objectives during each level, and one of those skills encourages frequent item drops. Items are also more likely to drop when Rage Awakening is activated too. It may sound inconsequential but it’s a powerful hook to the gameplay, when the each battle is laced with the promise of another weapon unlock.
And there we go. Yet another list of New Features. The key point to remember is this – the combat in Dynasty Warriors has more variety than the series has previously allowed and the frequent item drops will keep you motivated to keep mowing down the mobs and officers.
Dynasty Warriors 8 – Item Drops And Ambition Mode
Outside of the combat, not much else has changed. There are still bases to conquer as you clear out each level, the soundtrack is still dominated by squealing guitars, even the sound effects are oddly familiar. Fans know what to expect. There’s an extra layer of complexity to the levels, which have more vertical structures to explore alongside the traditional flatlands-plus-mountains arenas, but it’s not exactly threatening Skyrim territory.
Instead, the bulk of the work seems to have gone into fleshing out the actual modes. Story Mode is split between historical and ‘what if?’ scenarios, and it lets you rotate between four characters to tackle each stage with. It’s a good addition if you’re fussy about the sort of characters you like playing as, particularly as levels still take around 10 to 15 minutes to plough through. The flipside of that is Free Mode, which lets you mix and match characters and stages.
But it’s Ambition mode that’s the star of the show here. You begin with a weapon shop and grind for materials in skirmishes to upgrade it and recruiting officers by defeating them in battle, eventually building an entire base and a tower. The endgame here is that the emperor visits your palace, which means you have to first build your fame through successful raids. It marries the traditional Dynasty Warriors gameplay with a compulsion to keep grinding, keep building and keep improving. It’s a surprisingly successful mix.
Between all three modes, and with Chaos difficulty continuing the tradition of being ridiculously tough, there’s a lot of beefy content in Dynasty Warriors 8 for fans to get through.
Dynasty Warriors 8 – The Downside
The key word there is fans. The law of averages suggests most console owners have tried at least one Dynasty Warriors game at some point, so we’ll keep this short – if you didn’t like Dynasty Warriors then, you won’t like Dynasty Warriors now.
The rhythm of Dynasty Warriors 8 is the same as it’s been throughout the series – you’re either mowing down an army of thousands culminating in a battle against an officer or you’re having to race through a cleared out part of the map when an objective suddenly pulls you elsewhere.
There’s a lot of repetition involved and there’s a lot of button-bashing involved. A lot. The added complexity of the levels and the tweaked combat helps take the edge of the repetition but this is still a game that demands you’re a fan to really enjoy the core gameplay. It hasn’t branched out nearly enough to draw those put off in the past back in.
The AI is also terrible. By now, it’s a given that unless you crank the difficult up to Chaos mode, the guards put up almost no resistance. They are little more than bowling pins in a man costume, existing only for you to smash them out the way. Occasionally, if one of them is feeling particularly brave, they might even give you a reluctant poke with a spear before you smack them aside. You can almost see the regret as soon as they prod you.
But the bigger AI issue is seeing guards running into walls, trying to attack through scenery, trying to move around a rock and failing and so on. Ploughing through them is easy enough. We don’t need the added embarrassment of seeing them stopped by a stationary horse.
The weapon affinity system also needs tweaking – the main problem is that while it spices up the combat, it also introduces an element of luck and randomness into the mix that isn’t as welcome. You can’t predict what weapons officers will have until you reach them, which is important because officers with stronger weapons take longer to kill. Another annoyance is that Storm Mode is automatically triggered, and you don’t always want that to be the case.
Mostly, the problem with Dynasty Warriors 8 is that it has to face a tricky conundrum that any series lasting this long has to – does it try something new and risk alienating the fanbase or continue to refine what it has, catering to the fanbase that already exists?
Dynasty Warriors 8 has clearly gone for the latter option and those who have made their minds up that the series is doomed for eternity to button-bashing hell won’t see anything here that changes their minds. For fans, the improved combat and addictive nature of the item drops and Ambition Mode make it a worthwhile addition to the series. It doesn’t quite top the brilliant Warriors Orochi but in the mainline series, Dynasty Warriors 8 stands as the best so far.
Version Tested: PS3
Note: The Xbox 360 version suffers excessive slowdown but this problem isn’t apparent in the PS3 version, which does suffers from minor slowdown but nothing nearly as crippling as seen on 360.