Game Review: Dynasty Warriors 9

Release date: 2018
Version played: Playstation 4 in 2018

As the name suggests, Dynasty Warriors 9 is the ninth in the main series of the Dynasty Warriors video games developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo. Much like the previous entries, this game serves as a romanticised retelling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, itself a novel only loosely based on the real-life Records of the Three Kingdoms. Players take control of warriors of the Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin or ‘other’ factions as they take part in historical battles across an open-world recreation of China. Battles are frantic, often a one-versus-hundreds scenario, with a huge total KO count available via the use of melee, ranged and horse-mounted combat.

+ the same exciting action gameplay of the series returns, with some new additions in the form of special attacks. One attack knocks enemies to the ground, one launches them into the air, the third breaks through their guard, and the fourth is a character-specific special attack, often with an elemental effect. The game can mostly be completed by simply mashing the attack button, but it is mixing in these special attacks that makes the game fun
+ the story itself is the same three-way back-and-forth between the Wei, Wu and Shu factions, with big castle-capturing as the set pieces. There are betrayals, character deaths and family vengeance plots to boot, but to be perfectly honest, these games have had the same story from the beginning, so if you know the gist of it, you’ll know the important stuff. You’ll probably choose a side based on the character you like to play as
+ I enjoyed the open-mission structure, and several times I did have to retreat from a mission in order to capture surrounding areas to bolster my own reinforcements. Castles will change ownership through gameplay or in cutscenes, but there is no real ‘goal’ to own the whole map, so this is never an issue

dynastywarriors9_3.jpg
Cheng Pu takes aim from atop the castle walls. The number of enemies is impressive, but visually they are incredible lacking.

– the change to open world gameplay was not a success. It makes the battles feel smaller, or somehow less important, and although castles and/or fortresses still dot the overworld, everything feels disconnected from each other. The smaller, but more cohesive maps from from previous games made it feel like one large struggle between warring factions; here, it is like a game of Connect 4 that nobody can win and there are no consequences for losing
– the game does not look good. The character models themselves are passable, though nothing special, especially on modern consoles, but the world itself is drab and static. The view distance is admirable, but the models for distant objects are laughable. The horse riding animation, which is what you’ll be seeing most of, if you opt not to fast-travel, is unbelievably bad
I couldn’t find any way to play using Chinese voice actors, and all the character sounded silly speaking English. update: there is a language option for voice and text, right on the main menu. I don’t know how I missed it.

> One of my first thoughts was that Cao Cao sort of sounded like Future Trunks (it’s a completely different voice actor, I checked), and his air-attack with his sword was very similar to Trunks’ Shining Sword Attack. It just made me want a Dragon Ball Musou game so badly

Should you play this game: The most notable change in the series is the switch to open world, and unfortunately that is the least intuitive part of the game. The combat is wild as ever, and you’ll get the same thrill from juggling 10 enemies in the air before they go flying in a fiery swing of your sword, but there never seems to be the ‘one versus a thousand’ battles from previous games. I’ll keep playing this while I’m streaming a movie, but as far as Dynasty Warriors games go, I preferred 7, or even the Warriors Orochi 3 spin-off.

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