Game: Dynasty Warriors 9
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Second Opinion: Xbox One X
The Dynasty Warriors franchise has been around for what seems like ages. Sparked into existence back in 1997, the overall series has received countless spin-offs along with installments to the main series over the years. Recently, the latest main installment of the long-beloved hack and slash series, Dynasty Warriors 9, has launched for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms.
While the series as a whole has received some tweaking and slight innovations, this latest release may have one of the biggest innovations from developers Omega Force since changing the game up from the standard fighting title when Dynasty Warriors first launched. Dynasty Warriors 9 claim to fame is its open-world environment, a drastic change up in comparison to the previous title releases. Though with a series of technical and performance issues hindering the gameplay experience, the focus may very well be worth putting towards the next main installment release.
With Dynasty Warriors 8 released into the market back in 2013, Omega Force looked to make a massive change up on how players would enjoy Dynasty Warriors 9. As expected, the overall story narrative remains mostly the same. Players will still go through The Romance of the Three Kingdoms storyline with a bit of focus on the variety of characters available to play as. If this is your first time playing a Dynasty Warriors game, you’ll be completely fine with the story.
Speaking of characters, there’s over eighty to choose from, most of which can be unlocked as you progress through the game. Likewise, playing through the various characters will give you a slight look at the storyline through their individual viewpoint, but that can get a bit repetitive.
Being a hack and slash video game combat plays a massive role. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with the Dynasty Warriors series as a whole. Gamers will still feel like a one-man army charging into a slew of opponents, tossing them up with your weapons and completely pulverizing them. Although, fighting off the random warriors from the opposing faction never felt like a challenge.
Instead, the goal would be to take out the bigger fish, your captains and generals that are in command of the enemy platoon. You get rid of them and the rest usually drops their weapons, fleeing from the scene. Even with the slightly buffed up opponents of an enemy group never seem to be all that challenging either. Your real challenge comes from the narrative progressive enemies. These foes are the real fight in Dynasty Warriors 9, causing you to level up, upgrade your character, adjust equipment, and of course, using consumables to bring your HP up during a battle.
Speaking of adjustments, items are another big part of the game. As you level up, you’ll be able to spend your upgrade points by navigating through a slightly messy menu screen. Players can raise stats in several key aspects of the protagonist.
Likewise, there may be a bit of grind to discover resources and scrolls which are used to craft new weapons. As a result, exploring the open world, hunting the wildlife or even fishing may prove useful, though they tend to fall flat in being all that fun to actually go through.
This would be a good time to bring up the open world of Dynasty Warriors 9. This is where I have a slightly love-hate relationship with the game. Visually, the game doesn’t offer very much which is a real disappointment. Rather having a lush thrilling environment to explore with war-torn villages to untouched oasis, the game instead offers a rather bland experience. Don’t expect a colorful flashy gameplay but one that seems rather muddy.
I would compare the open world exploration to be that of an older MMORPG. There’s nothing really hidden away for players to discover and the target is always just moving from one point to another. You’ll find that there several reused assets and as such, hitting one location to another feels the same if that particular destination point isn’t directly tied to story progression.
Even with the quests, you can pick up from an NPC tends to be lackluster. The narrative may have a slight interest to undertake, but it’s almost always the same. Travel to a destination, fight off a slew of enemies and travel back. There were even requests to help train a group of soldiers to prepare them for war, but the game simply had me mop the floor with them until they suddenly were trained.
It’s quests and gameplay aspects like mentioned above that takes my interest out of the open world component of Dynasty Warriors 9. With that said, seeing the battle lines moving in real-time with notices of what has happened at any given time popup is enjoyable.
Furthermore, the open world of Dynasty Warriors 9 is pretty big and you’ll want to help claim points of the map in order for fast travel use. Sprinting across lands or even using horseback is not something all that realistic in order to reach areas that span a great distance. It’s just a shame that there’s nothing really of interest while traveling through the map.
Unfortunately, there are more issues that had popped up during my gameplay experience. At times, there were some slight frame drops, texture popping in which was noticed during cutscenes in particular, and of course, some oddity performance glitches. While on the PlayStation 4, there also seems to be a ratio issue where the game doesn’t appear full on display.
I’m a sucker for voice acting. I absolutely love it when voice over work is included in video games as a voice actor can really give life to their assigned characters. Dynasty Warriors 9 has to be one of the worse games I’ve played with English dubbed voice acting. I’m not sure if the goal was to be so bad its funny, but the voice acting is atrocious.
With all that said, I’m excited about Dynasty Warriors 10. This feels like the developers are taking a step in the right direction, but there are enough problems right now that I’m hoping the next go around really makes something incredible.
[Second Opinion: Christopher Kysse]
Dynasty Warriors 9’s move to an open world doesn’t necessarily re-invent the series’ formula as it does expand its borders. The meta mechanics are still very familiar – troops move between control points that players capture from base captains to weaken enemy forces and strengthen their own – but it’s now easier than ever to get into a rhythm of strategically choosing targets to attack and shift battle lines. No more time limits or linear corridors restrict the flow of combat, and it’s been great to see what once would have been a single map in previous games be just another city on a huge map that I could conquer. The result is that engagements feel like a proper war rather than a series of small missions. The change is welcome and excites me for future entries. Unfortunately, an open world alone isn’t enough to get me to immediately recommend Dynasty Warriors 9.
The game is held back by its presentation, performance, and its combat. The visuals are abundant with low resolution textures and sparse, uninteresting environments. It certainly doesn’t look like a demanding game, and yet the framerate suffered significant drops on an Xbox One X whenever a building or person was near. And while there’s still mindless fun to be had carving your way through thousands of enemy troops, the incredibly simplistic, repetitive combat feels like a step back in relation to Omega Force’s other recent games, such as Warriors All-Stars, which introduced a degree of complexity to move sets keep battles fresh. Few of those improvements are found in Dynasty Warriors 9. As such, it may be worth waiting for a sale before diving into the Three Kingdoms once more.
Full Disclosure: Copies of this game was provided for purposes of this review.