The Dynasty Warriors series revels in its adrenaline fuelled, hack ‘n slash, arcade action. Large battlefields act as your playground to brutally and spectacularly stab, slice, smack and subdue hundreds of on-screen enemies. It’s a very pleasant and satisfying experience. You wield unparalleled power and can decimate troves of enemies with a single swing. Add to that the over the top special moves and magical techniques and the whole thing turns into a wonderful spectacle based on the unification of China in the second century BC.
The Dynasty Warriors Empires spin-offs take this same hack ‘n slash experience but adds a layer of big-picture strategy to it, incorporating more mechanics, thought, and customisation, to expand the concept beyond mindless combat. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, many prefer the more simplistic experience, but if you’re itching for a more personalised and immersive genocide simulator, the Empires versions are certainly worth a try.
Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is Omega Force’s latest entry, however, the Warrior titles are frequently criticised for their repetitive nature and lack of evolution: does this one finally do enough to shake that reputation? Unfortunately it doesn’t. Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires certainly makes some smart changes over its predecessor but the experience remains much the same.
The primary mode follows the adventure of your chosen character, or custom-built character, as you join a ruler, or rise up against one and attempt to bring China under the rule of a single kingdom. Both historical and fictional scenarios crop up and challenge you to strategically plan your invasions, raids and missions, purchase and train troops, build facilities and obtain goods and gold. Then, of course, are the battle themselves, which sees you take to the battlefield with your forces and generals and hack ‘n slash your way through countless soldiers and enemy generals and commanders, to control points on a map, defend the ones you have and conquer specific individuals.
Indeed then it’s a game of two halves: the battlefield combat and the strategic ruling, each offering drastically different experiences that pair together surprisingly well. The combat is fast paced and immediate, while the strategic planning and crafting of your kingdom is much slower and drawn-out. The result makes for some interesting and compelling scenarios. For instance, you may have a high enough rank to organise your own raids of territories, weakening them ready for an invasion force, but your ruler may have other ideas and invade somewhere you hadn’t expected, throwing you into a difficult battle that could have been made significantly easier if you’d softened it up instead.
The strategy portion is also highly varied. Your rank determines what you have influence over and what option you can choose between battles. A low rank limits you to following orders from your ruler and their generals, and fighting in battles. Meanwhile, a high rank will allow you to influence your ruler’s strategy, keep you own forces and perform raids independently and also get more involved with the politics of your kingdom. You can also take control of kingdoms and become the ruler, giving you ultimate power. Furthermore, you can complete missions for generals to increase your friendship with them, help with diplomatic relations and even marry and have a child to further manipulate alliances. With all these options and decisions you can make within a campaign, you can create a highly personalised narrative for yourself and experience something very different every time you play.
The combat is far more predictable, but undeniably a lot of fun, initially at least. It does still suffer from repetition, with battles, regardless of objective, all coming down to hacking up the troves of enemies and their key commanders, but Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires makes a few good changes to help alleviate this. Stratagems can now be earned and unleashed on the battlefield, these cards offer things like random lightning strikes against enemies, or wave after wave of incoming arrows. You can even change the weather with some stratagems, which can improve or limit the usefulness of others.
Additionally the fame system from the previous game has been replaced with a traditional levelling system, so your character improves linearly and doesn’t fluctuate like before. And defence battles now require you to protect your points on the map for 5 minutes rather than the previous 15, making them far less tedious. However, the biggest change to the combat side is the different default weapons and move-sets for the characters. There’s been a reshuffling that will give veterans new techniques to master for their favourite characters, a move that is likely to displease more than delight the fan-base.
Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires hasn’t changed much from its previous iteration but the changes and new additions do improve the experience for the most part. Things like the new customisation options for your horse, banner and troops are great for personalising your experience, but unfortunately poor visuals with low detail, ugly textures and objects/enemies popping into existence, are off-putting and disappointing. However, the series has never been visually stunning and a smooth, fast frame rate despite the hive of on-screen activity is perhaps worth the visual banality. And It is still fun but if the strategy aspect doesn’t appeal to you then the fun is going to dry up fast. Otherwise it’s another good but predictable entry in a series that hasn’t evolved enough.
Thanks to Tecmo Koei for supplying TiX with a download code
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