A date with Dynasty, at the same packed restaurant we always go to. However, this time we have a little more room to stretch with Dynasty Warriors 9.
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: PC (Version reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: February 13, 2018
There are many publishers out there that would love to have the longevity that Koei Tecmo has had with its Dynasty Warriors franchise. The series has spanned over nine games in the main lineage and 11 different spinoff games that stand on their own merits. Though the franchise is considered to begin in 1997 as a one-on-one fighting game for the original PlayStation, it is a spin-off of Koei’s turn-based strategy Romance of the Three Kingdoms series that was started in 1985.
With so much history, it does seem like there is a Dynasty Warriors game every year, but Dynasty Warriors 9 is the first in the series that was developed 100% only for eighth generation consoles. Dynasty Warriors 8 was originally a PlayStation 3 game released in 2013 but had expansions to PlayStation 4, PC, as well as a recent Nintendo Switch port. It does get very complicated seeing the many spinoffs exist and even more considering how this game is the eighth in the franchise according to the Japanese numbering system.
This is not to say that Dynasty Warriors 9 has not advanced the franchise; in fact, it packs some of the biggest leaps in franchise history. Dynasty Warriors 9 moved the franchise from arena-based combat to an open-world depiction of Mainland China. Having the ability to explore ancient China and famous landmarks like the Yellow River do give a greater sense of the games “historical” significance.
These moments of unintentional hilarity did help me develop my bond with my horse and did make me want to play more horse video games.
However, China is a very large place, and much of the landscape in this open world seems repetitive. Environments like Jungles and snow-covered mountains are welcome breaks and perhaps the only place where the games hunting elements become fun due to the more exotic creatures. However, this too becomes repetitive very quickly.
Dynasty Warriors 9 does have a fast travel mode, but one that always seems to put you just a minute or so away from where you want to go. This is where I am glad that your horse comes equipped with an auto-run mode. This auto-run will get you to where you want to go via horse but in some often hilarious way. Many times my horse would run around and then slide down a mountainside as the most efficient way to get me to my next point. These moments of unintentional hilarity did help me develop my bond with my horse and did make me want to play more horse video games.
This brings me to a unique part of reviewing a Dynasty Warriors game; the glitches and overall campiness of the games have become part of what is revered by the Dynasty Warriors community. The fact that when you call your horse it magically appears out of nowhere without even the semblance of a transition is part of the character of Dynasty Warriors 9.
That is not even to mention the ridiculous over the top rock guitar riffs that are used for battle sequences. I draw a line when the guitar riffs from the last battle don’t stop in the following cutscene that has an intense tactical dialog.
There was a part of me that wanted to take this game as a serious historical depiction of ancient Chinese war and statecraft (okay, a semi-serious historical depiction). The game does offer three excellent voice options, and though the English version was charming in its own campy way, I chose to play the game with Chinese voices.
The Chinese voices did add a sense of urgency to gameplay that an 80s guitar riff just doesn’t offer. This option made me have to rely on the subtitles more, and that’s when I noticed how crappy the text content of the game was. When your game is full of dialog and complicated menu systems, I would hope you would have a pretty decent user interface or at least decent text. The crappy UI combined with the offputting complexity of several of the games non-fighting mechanics made for an overall lack of interest in certain aspects of crafting and cooking.
Well, the thing about Dynasty Warriors 9 is that no one should be playing it for the crafting and cooking elements. As much as Koei Tecmo wants to push the open world, that is not going to be what brings players to the game. Why people play and ultimately love the Dynasty Warriors games is the fighting, the glorious over the top, hack and slash 500 enemies at a time, fighting. If Dynasty Warriors 9 does something well, it is fighting.
The game’s ability to throw you into the battlefield and with little effort or training start mowing down hundreds of soldiers is almost cathartic. Though the crafting system is more complicated than it is worth, the first gem I crafted into a weapon using the tutorial gave me an ice sword that served me well for three chapters. That pick up and just fight aspect is what really draws players to Dynasty Warriors.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is essentially a historically relevant mass murder simulator, but somehow the games over the top nature approach to fighting make all the violence seem whimsically methodical. In a way, it feels more like trying to actually beat the high score in a classic arcade game like Space Invader or Pac-Man than killing a multitude of enemy soldiers in a COD game.
The fighting aspect of Dynasty Warriors is the real meat of the franchise and in its latest iteration developer, Omega Force gives you many ways to do it. There is a plethora of weapons and many ways to upgrade them. Oh, there is also 90 playable characters with unique playstyles and their own individual game endings!
90 playable characters with their own individual game endings are quite a bit, and you can access these side stories after finishing chapters. I passed over a few of these until the Diaochan story became available. Diaochan’s backstory, weapons, and move set seemed pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the mission objectives of her quest were vague and sometimes felt like an added chore to boost gameplay content. This seemed to be a constant with the several side quests I played and makes it very hard to see myself doing the side quest of all 90 characters.
Still, the game offers more opportunities to button mash than any previous Dynasty Warriors game. Hitting R1 on a PlayStation 4 controller opens up a mini menu that gives you several simplified yet robust attack options, and with 90 characters you will have fun with the many attack combinations.
The real major issue I have with Dynasty Warriors 9 is that it feels that though Omega Force has pushed forward with its core franchise it seems like it has taken a step back when in comparison to its recent spin-off games Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors. With those games, Omega Force took elements of what makes the Zelda and Fire Emblem franchises work and added it to its core Warriors game mechanics. The art style of those games, as well as the overall history, added much to the Warriors world. Though they are different games altogether, it would have been nice to see Omega Force apply some of the lessons learned to Dynasty Warriors 9.
In the eyes of fans, Dynasty Warriors 9 only has one job to do, and it does that job adequately. However, much like the NBA 2K and Madden NFL franchises are scrutinized for just throwing a new year on the box and shipping it out, Dynasty Warriors 9 feels like a similar situation.
The open world and crafting elements may add something to the game, but they feel more like an afterthought. Still, for the type of game it is, the only competition Dynasty Warriors 9 has is the other games Omega Force has put out. If you are a fan of that type of game and currently not playing any of the Nintendo based spinoffs, then you should check this out. Just don’t buy into the hype that this is a radically different experience than what you may have played.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.