Also On: Xbox 360
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Omega Force
It’s no secret that enjoy the Dynasty Warriors series and its spin-offs, with a lot of love given to recent releases like Warriors Orochi 3, and the not so recent Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3. By and large I think they’re a lot of fun, often mindless fun sure, but there’s room for what I’d dub “comfort gaming” in everyone’s diet, which for me is what the Musou titles represent. I have no qualms with the complaints against the repetitive nature of the gameplay, but I certainly do find some fault in the thought that the games never change. Dynasty Warriors 8 tries to prove that thought wrong, featuring a host of new mechanics, a significant new mode, and a couple callbacks to concepts from the past
Let’s get the same old, same old stuff out of the way first. Yes, there’s a story mode. Yes, it features the Wei, Wu, Shin, and Jin breakdowns. Yes, you still play through the Yellow Turban Rebellion right at the start. This is certainly a Dynasty Warriors game, make no mistake about it. But while story mode doesn’t bring much new to the table in way of structure, there’s still some unique mechanics here. The “other” characters get a more fleshed out campaign to engage in this time out. The cutscenes are really well-rendered and mesh seamlessly with the in-game action this time around. I’m not a huge fan of the forced English voiceovers (Japanese voiceover DLC is coming soon for free), but I still found myself willing to sit through some of the retread story content simply because it just seems better directed this time around.
The map layout for story mode missions is expanded upon in comparison to Dynasty Warriors 7, relying less on limited paths and routes and giving players a more open ended way of handling objectives. Also, and this is a pretty big addition, co-op play has been added to story mode, allowing you to team up with a friend either locally or online. Of course not all changes are on point, like the expanded A.I. for friendly and enemy units, which honestly feels identical to the previous entries for me. Dynasty Warriors 8 offers up little challenge unless you’re bumped up to hard right off the bat, and even then you’ll only suffer a loss if you’re being particularly careless.
Other new elements are split between Story mode, Free mode, and the new Ambition mode. Weapon variety is expanded further than DW 7, while retaining the EX weapons found in the previous entry. There’s a new affinity system in place for weapons, with weapons being categorized as Heaven, Earth and Man. You’re able to select two weapons for a character, and when in combat against enemy generals, it’ll benefit you to use an opposing affinity in order to trigger a new “Storm Rush” attack that unleashes a flurry of powerful blows when triggered. You can still switch between equipped weapons in combat, but a new ability also allows for a counter against strong enemy attacks when doing so.
Rage returns from Dynasty Warriors 5, with an independent meter that fills over time, and can be unleashed to ramp up attack, defense and speed. While in Rage mode you can unleash more devastating versions of Musou attacks as well, along with some neat visual flair when running around the field with Rage activated. Ground and Air Musou variations also return, and you can still perform more powerful Musou attacks when your health is low.
Various skills can be upgraded and equipped, most of which are unlocked by meeting certain accomplishments in battle. Weapon specific skills are also present, mostly late game unlocks for max leveled characters proficient in certain weapon types. There’s a form of weapon fusing/crafting present here too, more similar to the one found in Warriors Orochi 3 that allows you to carry over skills from one weapon to another, along with empty slots to house those skills. This system from Warriors Orochi 3 is probably my favorite weapon crafting mechanic in the series, so I was pretty happy to see it in Dynasty Warriors 8 with little change other than name.
Ambition Mode is the biggest addition mode-wise in this entry, featuring a non-story mode to play through. You can pick a starting character, but can change between any available Officers after any battle, provided you’ve unlocked them first. The initial Officer selection is pretty slim, but it doesn’t take much time before you’ll outfit that roster with most of your favorites. There’s a hefty number of characters present, like we’ve come to expect in Dynasty Warriors at this point, and I’m pretty confident that you’ll come across a favorite quickly enough.
The new Ambition Mode focuses on building up a base, called a Tongquetai Tower, with the hopes of getting the Emperor to visit. There’s little narrative here, instead the focus is on earning supplies, new Officers, new buildings, and engaging in different battles. Fights are broken up into different types, focusing on gaining allies, gaining supplies, and obtaining fame. The more fame and allies you have the more structures you can build, which consist of places like the Blacksmith, Merchant, Barracks and so on. These structures require supplies to be upgraded, which expand their usefulness and abilities, allowing you to do things like the aforementioned weapon crafting. There’s also an emphasis on participating in successive battles without returning to camp, upping the difficulty of each fight and occasionally leading to special “duel” battles, where you’ll gain most of the playable Officer characters. Overall, most of the concepts in Ambition Mode aren’t entirely new for the series, but it definitely ends up being the mode you’ll spend the most time with.
Again, I think there’s merit to the thought that Dynasty Warriors is a very safe, repetitive series. But this generation has seen a lot of refinement in the house that Omega Force built, most of which has been for the better. Dynasty Warriors 8 feels like the culmination of the series for this hardware cycle, across not only the main series but all of its spin-offs as well. And while I’m sure we’ll see at an Xtreme version of this game down the road, I definitely think DW 8 is worth checking out. Whether you’re a lifelong fan of the series, or if you’ve spent some time away, it’s a really solid effort with enough new game shine to make it worth picking up.