Dynasty Warriors is a long running series that I have never really played. When I worked at GameStop, the series would have their small group of dedicated fans that would come in and excitedly ask for the next iteration. Often I would look perplexed at the endless titles, rivaling Street Fighter in terms of how many extra words can be thrown on a title before ticking over to the next actual sequel. It wasn’t until the Dynasty Warrirors and Legend of Zelda crossover, Hyrule Warriors which I really liked, that I actually started paying attention to the beat ’em up series. Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is where I jump in on this train with bright-eyed enthusiasm for my first foray into a proper Dynasty Warriors game, somewhat.
As I said before, the Dynasty Warriors series has it’s fair share of multiple titles between actual sequels. The Empires portion of the name denotes a slightly different gameplay experience from the â€œvanillaâ€ and Xtreme Legends names. In the Empires expansion, the player focuses more on the strategic element of the battles and ruling a kingdom. There are plenty of numbers and stats to be cautious about before heading directly into battle. In fact, you can battle as much or as little as you would like. Battles are similar in style to any regular Dynasty Warriors game; it’s the player characters against hundreds of expendable soldiers with a few tougher officers and lieutenants thrown into the mix.
The Empire Mode is where the game’s meat and potatoes lie. The player selects an era of Chinese history they want to â€œplayâ€ in, after which the player selects their playable character. There are about 800 officers to pick from, but if that doesn’t tickle your fancy you can select a character you created in the Edit mode. Depending on your character’s status, you may begin the campaign as a Ruler, a Prefect which is the second-in-command, or a Free officer allowing you to choose which kingdom you want to be part.
Each action you take, barring a few select ones, skips time ahead by one month. So you need to prioritize whether or not you want to donate money to your controlled lands, participate in an invasion, or just build that fancy new blacksmith you had your eyes on. There are tons of actions you can do that will determine how battles will fare for you. You can raise the Happiness level of your lands which will allow you to have more troops who are willing to fight for you. You can also recruit other officers to assist you. Most actions take some sort of resource to complete, either troops, money or materials. Often times it will take two different types of resources to complete the intended action. Every once in a while you will experience an event cutscene which will play out based on how you’ve performed your actions. So if you level up your friendship with another officer you might get a cutscene that shows them telling you that they have feelings for you.
Every few months, a War Counsel is scheduled that will determine which nearby lands your kingdom will invade. If you are a lieutenant, then you must participate without any changes to the plans. As a Prefect, you can challenge the ruler’s decisions and make changes as you need. And, of course, as a ruler you decide when and where to attack. In addition to the War Counsel you can select certain objectives to meet before the next War Counsel which will net you merits that level up your character.
Whether you are starting an invasion, or just defending a territory from a foreign kingdom, battles are essentially the same. The only major exception is the main objective. When defending, you must survive five minutes without your character dying or your main base falling to the attacking group. Invasions are won by taking out the general of the defending group or taking over their main base. How you’ve managed your kingdom determines how easy, or difficult, it is going to be to achieve victory. You may find yourself gravely outnumbered or you may find yourself with an immense amount of firepower.
As someone who has very little experience with the Dynasty Warriors games, this game was a massive mixed bag. I’ve found the Empires mode to be a bit convoluted for a new player both in battles as well as the Empire mode. Looking at the Empire mode specifically, the game inundates the player with a lot of information as fast as possible with little to no time to have it sink in. Often times leaving out important information without any resources in-game to find out how to do something specific. I’ve had to search Google several times just to figure out how to achieve something. Not only that but event cutscenes sometimes happen far too often and there is no way to skip if before hand. Playing as a female character, I would often find myself getting into confession cutscenes after every battle because I some how enamored another officer by mowing down 500+ enemy soldiers in one fight. Inexplicably, there is slowdown in the blacksmith and item shop menus while outside of battle. To the point that selecting the confirmation button when buying new things will take a second or so before it registers.
The visuals are bland and awful. The battlefields seemingly have had their color levels turned all the way down. Leaving extremely lifeless environments. While the battles ran at a fairly solid framerate, they game suffered from ridiculous pop-in of enemies. It got to the point where I just assumed the enemy soldiers I saw weren’t actually there and were going to disappear in a few seconds. Luckily, the officers wouldn’t bounce around as much as the nameless pawns on the battlefield, but it made it hard to plan more powerful attacks.
Overall? Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is forgettable. While, the battles are a lot of fun, the strategic elements are obtuse and parsing through the information you get to have a successful campaign is frustratingly tedious. It’s, sadly, not expansive enough for a fan of strategy games to be completely satisfied and a lot of choices you can make feel as though they don’t have any barring in how the battles flow. I had a hard time trying to distance my expectations of this game based off of Hyrule Warriors, but I found it difficult when HW provided the better expereince. Both in it’s gameplay and polish. I was expecting more from a game on the Xbox One. It’s got a pretty decent create-a-warrior mode, at least.
Reviewed on Xbox One. Also available on Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, and PC.