The Dynasty Warriors empire is finally crumbling
Dynasty Warriors

With latest Dynasty Warriors experience ‘Empires’ failing to fuel his fire, Ian Cooper argues that the iconic action series’ formula has finally begun to run out of steam. 

So. Here we are again. Another Dynasty Warriors game – or should I say another spin-off of a Dynasty Warriors game.

Omega Force and Koei Tecmo’s patented hack and slash franchise is back once more with Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires. It’s more of a variation on the traditional gameplay we have come to know oh-too-well by now, with the inclusion of strategy-type mechanics and tonnes of customisation options. But it isn’t enough.

Empires mode is the the main attraction, so we will start there. Unlike Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme where you choose an era with its own warring factions then fight scenario after scenario, in Empires you again choose an era – but this time each era has different regions of China ruled by different factions, and your goal is to take over China by invading enemy areas.

These eras and wars are purely fictional of course (I mean how cool would it be if Chinese armies actually could cast magic spells and dress like Glam rockers?), and the customisation starts here. Some eras allow you to choose who rules where, making up your own war. Customisation continues in Edit mode, as you can create your own armies from scratch: altering your officers, soldiers, your banner, and even your trusty steed.

The nitty gritty though comes down to the battles themselves, which haven’t changed much sadly. Traditional Dynasty Warriors gameplay remains mostly untouched, with few notable improvements. Once again you roam a large battleground, sorted into areas which are populated by your army in blue and the enemy in red. You yet again plough through hordes of weapon-fodder to get to your objectives, which may range from taking a particular outpost or stronghold to defeating a particular enemy officer.

Despite the added strategy involved, Dynasty Warriors: 8 Empires doesnt do a great deal to discourage players from mashing them buttons. It gets mundane quickly, boiling down to running to an area, mashing till everyone is dead, running to another area, mash mash mash, rinse and repeat. The rock-paper-scissors system returns, with each officer possessing two weapons which have to be carefully utilised to counter enemy officers; not mastering this will make the game more frustrating than it already is.

At the beginning of each battle, you can take on side missions, which gives you more of a reason to explore and increases the challenge, but you will soon find that even extra objectives can’t hide the sense of repetition.

All 83 characters from Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Edition are here, with the inclusion of Xun Yu. It sounds amazing to have all those characters to choose from – until you realise they all control the same, with similar move sets and weaponry.

One upside for Empires is its visuals. On PS4, it looks nicely polished throughout, with the character models looking marvellous. But still the environments are nothing but empty battlefields. Grubby textures at times and random smashable objects means there’s room for improvement. DW’s main attraction is cramming hundreds of characters on screen at once, and Empires achieves this with flying colours, but this does nothing to improve the experience as it’s all been done many times before.

Pros

  • Character models look great
  • Customisation is endless
  • Dynasty Warriors action remains mostly unchanged…

Cons

  • …Dynasty Warriors action remains mostly unchanged
  • Pointless tacked on strategy elements
  • Poor story elements that fade into the background
  • Too many key characters to keep up
  • Mash, mash, mash

Summary

After eight main games and bucket-loads of spin-offs, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires tries to add strategy to the well-worn button mash gameplay. But it still feels far too familiar. A pretty face doesn’t hide the samey tedious interior; a bit like a fresh lick of paint on a rickety house.

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