|PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Dynasty Warriors 9 tries too hard to innovate but ruins everything that made the series great in the process.
The Dynasty Warriors series offers a very specific type of button-masher, one so unique that it has an entire sub-genre of hack-and-slash games named after it, the Musou Game. For the better part of two decades, Dynasty Warriors has remained steadfast in delivering its unique brand of action game. Dynasty Warriors is over-the-top and hammy, full of cringe-worthy voice acting and the type of cheesy, theatrical gestures you’d find in an episode of Power Rangers.
And that cheesiness is also a part and parcel of its core gameplay. The joy in a Dynasty Warriors game isn’t found in tactical mastery or a well-written story, it’s much, much simpler. It’s based in a basic, almost primeval want for pointless destruction, the asymmetrical power dynamic where we’re the horse-sized duck fighting a thousand duck-sized horses. It’s the same reason we’d run private Counter-Strike servers where humans faced off against dozens of bots equipped with only knives, and why we love watching those viral videos of two professional players absolute destroy 100 kids in a game of footy.
For those near twenty years, it worked. Fans ate it up and consequently its developers, perhaps understanding you shouldn’t fix what ain’t broke, milked that formula for all it was worth. There have always been changes, of course, improvements added between titles. Most of these changes have been small, often insignificant, but the core game remained undeniably Dynasty Warriors.
And then Dynasty Warriors 9 came along and ruined everything.
Like the previous titles in the series, Dynasty Warriors 9 is set in ancient China under the Han Dynasty which is on the verge of collapse. The emergence of formidable warlords, to geniuses who make a difference with their war tactics. The emergence of 3 kingdoms of Wei, Shu, Wu all vie for dominion over mainland China, aiming to fill the power void in the wake of the Han dynasty’s fall. in mainland China. In story mode, the player chooses from a selection of key campaigns and which character to play. Each character has a story to tell.
Dynasty Warriors 9’s gameplay is very, very different. Unlike previous games, which were strictly linear and divided into distinct stages where you were tasked with completing certain objectives, in Dynasty Warriors 9 you traverse an open world in search of battles and missions to complete. The open-world itself is sparse and movement is slow and tedious. You arrive at a location, enter combat, win, rinse and repeat. It feels like the old system but with extra, pointless, steps in between.
Once in combat, thankfully, the game is much more familiar. Many of the elements new in Dynasty Warriors 8 have carried over, and we were pleased to find that combat is just as insane and frenetic as ever. Characters still have personal weapon affinities and weaknesses, and the rock-paper-scissors system of previous titles is still here. You can still swap between weapons to take advantage of certain enemy weaknesses or mitigate damage from your foes exploiting your own weaknesses.
There’s also a new grappling hook to scale walls or reach high points, though, frankly, it’s underdeveloped and rather useless considering the distinct lack of options for attacking from range. It’s not a stealth game either. You want to be in the thick of battle, a one-man army taking on a sea of mindless soldiers – what do you need a grappling hook for?
Of course, graphics are also very important in hack-and-slash games, you can say the graphics are pretty good, but also not optimal. The real issue is the performance, and even after many patches, the game remains a laggy, buggy mess.
Koei seems to make a blunder by making the game Dynasty Warriors 9 as a semi-open-world. before this game was released maybe many hoped this game would be like Mount 'n' Blade or other open-world games where we could interact with NPCs, recruit troops to make relations with certain factions and others. Unfortunately, Dynasty Warriors 9 game is more like an action RPG set in a large, empty world with very little to do.