Dynasty Warriors 3 Playstation 2 (reviewed) and Xbox Developed by Omega Force Released in 2001
A mere 13 months after Dynasty Warriors 2 completely overhauled the franchise, Omega Force made the surprising move to release a sequel. Dynasty Warriors 3 is what started a cycle that harmed the reputation of the franchise and branded it as “that series that never changes”. It comes with many improvements over its predecessor, but without looking closely, it’s sort of hard to tell.
Conquer China. Again.
In Dynasty Warriors you choose from one of several heroes of the Warring States period of China and accompany their lord on his quest to unite the land under their rule. There are several distinct factions with their own story-line to follow and DW3 brings some improvements in regards to how this is done. For starters, the musou mode is notably longer with more missions and it tends to involve the characters a whole lot more.
Cutscenes focus more on the personality of these warring lords and the specific character you pick is specifically highlighted in cutscenes. I played as Xu Zhu (who else), who in DW2 was completely absent from cutscenes, whereas in DW3 he would regularly pop in during Cao Cao’s speeches to lend a bit of comedy to scenes. I tested three different characters, each from the same faction, and none of their stories were even close to similar. In fact, none of them even started with the same mission!
Another nice touch is that more lines are now voiced, such as officers complementing each other and requesting help when in trouble. During play you can also run into special events that radically change the flow of battle, such as one occasion where I caused two brothers on opposite sides of the conflict to meet, leading to one initiating a retreat. A regrettable side-effect of this is that the game goes kind of crazy with introduction sequences. Any officers that is even slightly above par will trigger a cutscene the moment you come in range and after defeating them. This might not sound bad, but when you get six of these in each battle and every, single time it interrupts you in the middle of a combo, it starts to really wear out its welcome.
Story score: 8/10
It’s new, we swear!
You might be wondering how much Omega Force could do with only 13 months of development and the answer is complicated. The feature that works best as a box blurb is that we have gone from 28 to 41 playable characters, each having their own weapons and style. Many of these need to be unlocked via various criteria or by inputting a cheat code.
You once again take your officer of choice on a campaign through China with significantly more stages to play in compared to Dynasty Warriors 2, with some being exclusive to certain factions. You string together combos with light and heavy attacks, assault enemies with bow and arrow, or mount a horse and cavalry charge through hordes of footmen. While the average soldier can only chip away at you, the real threat lies in the enemy officers that can take good bites out of your health. During all of this you also need to tactically move across the battlefield, taking over gates to prevent enemy reinforcements and picking your fights wisely. It’s perfectly possible for you to be at full health, only to suffer a tactical defeat because you failed to protect your general.
New to the series are items. Upon defeating generals something will drop, usually stat upgrades like +1 attack or defense, but now you can also get items and weapons. After finishing the mission you’ll get an overview of everything you have found and you’ll get to discard any duplicates. Each warrior has 4 tiers of weapons that can be found, but you can only keep one of each tier, so you’ll have to check their stats and decide what you want to keep. Items, on the other hand, only have 1 stat they upgrade, so the game automatically keeps the best version of that item.
This also means that there is more to be found in stages this time around. Each stage has a permanent upgrade item hidden for your health and musou bars, and now you can also track down rare items that sometimes require specific (unknown) conditions to be met. While this whole systems expands the character customization, I found it to be underwhelming. Higher tier weapons do improve the length of your combo, but their bonuses, and those of items in general, are often negligible aside from a few specific ones. You’ll find stuff that improves your damage on horses or improves your defense against bows, which I found added little to the moment-to-moment gameplay.
A bigger problem is that I couldn’t actually level up at all and this made later mission in the game much harder than intended. I figure this is some sort of glitch, as I would farm a lot of stat upgrades, yet at the end of the mission I didn’t actually receive any. Throughout the entire campaign my character kept his base stats and after a while even the regular mobs became a problem to deal with. If I started a new game and looked up my character again, his profile would show me the stats he was supposed to have, only to revert it back to base if I actually picked him. I couldn’t even find any information about this online, so I just had to deal with it.
Gameplay score: 5/10
It’s always foggy in China
You know, I don’t mind that these games come out as often as they do. Sticking with either the main releases or the Xtreme ones cuts down on how often you have to pick up the latest copy, but going from 2 to 3 really made me grumpy. In my opinion, Omega Force should not have had the gall to release a new Dynasty Warriors until they fixed the rendering distance. I know that the Playstation 2 isn’t keen on rendering hundreds of dudes at a time, but you can barely see anything in this game. Anything a few centimeters away from you disappears into the fog and the enemies pop in and out of existence constantly.
Getting hit by enemies that are completely invisible is not fair and especially when dealing with tough cookies like Lu Bu it would be splendid if they didn’t start destructive combos from beyond the rendering distance. The textures are less glitchy this time around though, and there are more stages to play in that all have their own looks and crazy guitar theme to accompany them. The character designs are still splendid, for all the relevant officers at least, and the cutscenes are nicely put together.
Lets address the elephant in the room, however. Dynasty Warriors 3 has a lot of dialogue to it and with dialogue comes voice acting, which somewhere along the line had to be dubbed to English. On both a performance and a technical level, this English dub is incompetent to the point it has become almost adorable. While later series would take this and pile up the cheese, the voice-work in this entry is too plain to illicit the same sort of hilarity. Officers either overact the most mundane lines of dialogue or drone out the most emotional moments. Outside of a few special cases, we either needed a better sound director and cast or just embrace the silliness.
Presentation score: 3/10
More of the same
Besides the Musou story mode there is a free mode where you can play as whoever you want for whatever side you want, with experience and stat bonuses collected carrying over into the story mode (assuming you don’t have the same bug as me). You also have a challenge mode that isn’t really worth mentioning. You can either do an endurance or timed mission to see how many enemies you can defeat. There are no rewards tied to this, so it’s pretty much just you running around a field and hitting people for a few minutes. The endurance mode took 90 minutes, had no challenge to it at all, and you couldn’t quit out of it.
Besides extra modes there is a neat database with information on every character in the game and replay value is present in spades thanks to each character having their own story. While some of it invariably overlaps it can take a good, long time before you have seen every scene in the game, and at that point you are probably starting to unlock some of the special characters like Lu Bu and the big generals.
Extras score: 7/10
I don’t know why I can’t level up my characters and that certainly deducts some points from the score, but Dynasty Warriors 3‘s biggest failing is the lack of improvement in the presentation. While difficult to see in pictures, dealing with the fog, constant interruptions from cutscenes, and obnoxious voice work is a constant struggle that weighs heavily on an otherwise fun game. If you have already played 2 then just skip this game and wait to see if 4 brings something substantially new to the table.