The following game software was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.
Dynasty Warriors is a name many gamers of yore recognise. A long-running hack-n-slash series developed by Omega Force, a division of Koei Tecmo, players take control of numerous historical-like figures in the battle for total control and/or reunification of inner China. And in a way, the gameplay of these titles reflects that: players typically clear levels (or stages for that matter) by battling hundreds of soldiers and their generals to capture key points, lower enemy morale, and declare victory. If you’re not playing for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms setting, you’re playing for the fun gameplay loop that can last you hours per entry.
The Empires series of games within Dynasty Warriors changes up the dynamic by being more focused on strategy, by being the ruler first and foremost. Rather than being just the warrior completing campaigns, now you’ve got to worry about the politics, your people, and your troops. It might sound daunting to the X and Y-mashing player, but these adaptations are some of the most fun I’ve had with the series in a long time. And that fun continues in Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires (“DW9E”), but with some caveats.
After choosing a playable campaign scenario, players will have one job: unite China—but how to get there varies on player choice. Each Empires game takes on from the game it’s based on. In this case, the original Dynasty Warriors 9 featured a large but less-than-stellar open world for its main gimmick. This was thankfully scaled back for more traditional stages as seen in prior games but still exists as an option to walk around in and deepen your relationships with other officers during a turn. Said turns are denoted by months, which advance by selecting options within the command menu that you’ll be getting comfortable with.
This menu is your powerhouse. Anything that needs to be, whether it’s getting money, troop recruitment or training, making your people happy, etcetera. Depending on your actions, you’ll either be a good ruler or an awful person, but these stats add a nice layer of depth that lets you live out the Three Kingdoms dream that the other Empires games can’t quite do. Marriage and Sword Sibling bonds, character customisation, political negotiation—these make for a uniquely fun Dynasty Warriors experience like nothing else.
The combat features a perk and elemental system that can change how you play your characters. Move sets might not be expansive in DW9E but figuring out how to improve your level in Command Mode while maintaining and improving your gear will mean a lot more than just mashing buttons—Trust me, it’ll save you a loss. Besides the character progression changes, it’s still the same Dynasty Wars experience you already know about, with a large-scale battle against hundreds of troops and its loveable cheesy guitar finish.
No Dynasty is Perfect
I have had some frustrations with the game, many being technical issues. This game has plenty of loading screens, and as you’ll be doing more menu management in this game than before, you’ll be staring at plenty of blue before you can make your next move. Opening and closing the guide while in-game feels unresponsive. In combat, the game will disrupt your flow of combat by focusing the camera on officers you meet even if you’ve been pummeling them all this time.
The open-world returns but feels completely useless and serves to highlight the poor environmental visuals, especially against the gorgeous high-resolution models for the many bespoke officers in the game. I won’t even mention how poor navigation is in this mode of the game. Castle sieges are all that this game seems to offer for stage conditions, and while not a big deal I would have preferred more varied map types. Another small picking point of mine is that the game doesn’t feature spoken Chinese or English voice acting. I can understand the latter (even if it has its charm), I’d have liked an option for the former.
Over time you’ll notice little frustrations building up when playing DW9E. I think its focus on strategy and roleplaying is much more appealing to me this time around, even with some features being lost from prior Empires games (like quests and events from Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires). But despite some shortcomings, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires offers a unique strategy experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Release Date||February 8th, 2022|
|Available on||Playstation 4, Xbox One, Android, Microsoft Windows|
|Developers||Omega Force & KOEI Tecmo|
|Rated||T for Teen|
DYNASTY WARRIORS 9 Empires$59.99 / $109.99
- Focus on strategy and stats is a welcome change of pace.
- Combat system doesn't always reward the button masher.
- A solid number of playable scenarios with many options to customize your own.
- Quite a few technical issues.
- Open world, though taking a back seat, is useless and feels incomplete.
- Features from previous entries that are missing leave an empty void.