Dynasty Warriors 5 Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and PC Developed by Omega Force Released in 2005
I wanted to start this review off by highlighting how crazy it is that Dynasty Warriors got 4 releases in one console generation, but that doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface. With all the spin-offs and different versions of each game, Koei has been absurdly productive on the Playstation 2. It’s just a shame that, once again, too little has changed to really warrant bothering with it if you have already played any other game in the series on the Playstation 2.
The Legend of …
The story still revolves around the various warlords of China seeking to conquer the land, but some changes have been made in the storytelling. While Dynasty Warriors 4 featured a long story where each chapter was broken up into several battles, 5 returns to the shorter format where a musou campaign lasts just a few missions.
To compensate for the shorter length, each mission has briefings delivered by your character of choice and plenty of cutscenes, many of which are specific to who you are playing as. Characterization gets to shine a lot more as your own character talks about the conflict from their own perspective and has unique scenes showing their meetings with various other warriors. Also, unlike in the previous game, if a mission expects you to be part of a strategy, it at least has the decency to inform you and mark objectives on your map.
It’s not mind-blowing, but it makes the heroes of the franchise and their stories a lot easier to digest.
Story score: 8/10
Please give me a sprint button
It would be unfair to say that Dynasty Warriors 5 is completely lacking in innovation. Among its new features are the bases introduced in the Empires sub-series, which bestow buffs to the army that controls them and require you take out a special camp guard to claim them. Supply bases improve morale, defense bases make enemies guard better, and offense bases are equipped with siege weapons that harass forces outside them.
Character progression has also been changed around again. Rather than gaining weapon experience that improves your one weapon over time, the weapon drops from Dynasty Warrior 3 have been reintroduced. By breaking boxes and pots you get temporary power-ups and items & weapons that become available after finishing the mission. You have a limited amount of slots to equip items into and they upgrade automatically when you get a duplicate that is better. The items you don’t equip are stored away for later use. You can also keep 4 of the weapons you found at any time and each comes with a base damage value, a weight that dictates how fast they swing, and a number of random, extra effects
I found it a shame, really. Managing your inventory of weapons was never any fun and the way DW4 handled it was a crafty bit of streamlining. Having to actively look for all these items and weapons added an extra layer of busywork to any mission, which feels particularly lame when most of them end up being discarded because of duplicates or because you already have a better weapon. Why give me this many slots for weapons to begin with? I can only use one and that is generally the one with the highest, useful statistics to it.
The core gameplay still has you run around a battlefield, fight armies of Chinese soldiers, and duel with officers and lords. It’s as cathartic as ever to slash your way through a ton of enemies, which is aided by improved rendering distance and increased number of characters that can be on screen. Even the random soldiers can now perform fancy moves like coordinated spear charges or jumping attacks, that is neat too.
While the rendering distance and amount of characters are a much-needed improvement, the game plays too slow for its own good. Your movement speed is slow, regardless of how much you improve the speed stat, and riding horses is too much of a bother; they are only slightly faster, hitting enemies is too hard, and any little hit will knock you off and waste even more time. Linear stages are no problem at all, but stages like Chi Bi that are large and wide are maddening to play through. You are constantly bombarded with notifications that an officer needs help and moving back and forth from one end of the stage to the other, over and over again, just turns into a tedious hassle.
Too many stages are like that, often because they feature three or more different paths that central characters move through and where they clash with an enemy officer. One annoying mission in particular would have the enemy’s strongest officer just appear before my commander unannounced and to get there from my starting position I had to detour around the entire level while messages constantly reminded me to help out. Some stages got so obnoxious with this I switched the game off a few times without saving, just to escape its constant notifications, pleas, and tips.
It’s the best gameplay of a Dynasty Warriors on the Playstation 2, but that sounds less and less like praise the more I play these games.
Gameplay score: 5/10
Get us a director
With this many releases on the Playstation 2 it’s increasingly hard to tell the difference between any of the releases. Visually there is nothing new, besides having more things on screen at any given time, without hurting the framerate to boot. The game also benefits from having more cutscenes and narration, both of which are neatly done. The actors are still a tad cheesy and stiff, and that sours some important scenes, but at other times the quality is surprisingly good. I, myself, was definitely caught off guard by the excellent voice work for Sun Shang Xiang.
Having all these scenes makes the story a lot more fun to follow and the rocking soundtrack mixed in with calmer, traditional-Chinese sounding tunes works as great as always. Overall a nice improvement.
Presentation score: 7.5/10
If you are getting a Dynasty Warriors for the Playstation 2 then I can now definitively say that number #5 is the best one, even if I dearly wish it would have addressed some of the series’ flaws. The maps are simply too large for how slow you are and how much you are asked to move around it. While it enjoys the best presentation and story of the franchise on the Playstation 2, those problems do remain irksome.