Dynasty Warriors 6 PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 2, PSP, and Xbox 360 Developed by Omega Force Released in 2007
I really miss the days when getting a new console was like starting on the next chapter of gaming as a whole; the leap in technology opening up countless new opportunities for designers to forge new games or even create whole new genres. Few games are as good an example of this as Dynasty Warriors 6, which compared to its predecessor on the Playstation 2 from just 2 years earlier, looks and plays like a game that is on a whole other level. After barely innovating for so many years, Omega Force went to work to prepare their beloved hack & slash series for the seventh console generation.
Wu are you?
Once again the game revolves around the fall of the Han dynasty and the numerous historical characters from Romance of the Three Kingdoms fighting each other for control of the land. Following the fifth game’s example, you once again pick a character and be told the story from their perspective over the course of about five missions each, and the same praise I used for DW5 still applies here.
This format suits the series well because it makes it easy to finish a story in one sitting and it makes sure your character of choice will prominently feature in each scene, rather than some of the previous games where your hero of choice was irrelevant to the story. Even though Zhou Yu and Sun Shang Xiang are both part of the Wu faction and both accompany their brother Sun Ce, their stories feel like their own without feeling completely detached from their faction.
You start with 9 characters unlocked by default and by playing through the game with these you unlock more and more heroes to play as, including bizarre distortions of history like playing the game as Dong Zhuo or Zhang Jiao.
Story score: 8/10
Your Diaochan is in another castle
My main issue with the fourth and fifth games in the franchise was that they were just too slow and didn’t change enough to really warrant getting them if you had already played other entries, which the sixth game changes completely. You still pick your hero and partake in large battles where you capture bases, fight enemies, and complete specific objectives, but all of it is so much more fluent. You move faster and maps are more packed with content, but you also have access to a horse right from the start, which can be summoned to your side by whistling for it. The pathfinding for the horse is a bit bugged, but compared to how it used to work this is a major improvement.
Another new feature I really enjoyed is the improved sense of character progression. You always had level ups and those are still here, but not only do they improve your statistics slightly, they also give you a point to spend for each level up. Each character has their own skill tree that allows you to tailor the way they grow. The tree has simple stat improvements like +5 defense, but also passive skills that are really worth getting, but require you follow the correct path through the tree. Since the story for each individual character is a bit short you won’t be able to get everything, unless you replay it a few times of course.
Your horse now also levels along with you and during stages you can find new ones to add to your stable. Horses can level up five times and have their own statistics, which determine how fast and strong they are. Horses can even have elemental values that make it more fun than ever before to fight from horseback. Weapons are also reworked to have a more satisfying drop rate, rather than forcing you to hunt for them in the stages. I also found their traits to be more useful and was particularly fond of weapons that had True Musou on them, which gives you your improved musou attack even if you aren’t low on health.
The basic controls have also been reworked. Whereas before your amount of attacks was mapped to the tier of your weapon, you can now string together significantly longer combos of basic, weak strikes. This does mean you only have one heavy combo, rather than before where you had several depending on the exact number of weak attacks you did before doing a heavy one. This is a bit of a loss in terms of complexity, but the game compensates for this, at least in my eyes, by adding stuff like grapple moves, an improved counter-attack, and a number of special attacks that are activated by using up tokens you can find. Overall the game controls fine and is satisfying to play, though some inputs like trying to jump with a horse sometimes mess up.
Missions themselves are more complex too, featuring optional objectives for a boost in experience points and levels that are more complicated in their layout. This does lead to some stages that are frustrating to navigate due to bodies of water you can only exit from a few bits of shore or hills you need to completely walk around because you can’t move on slopes, but overall it makes the levels more fun. Following a mountain trail and jumping down into an enemy base is the kind of tactical nuance I really enjoy, especially since the game doesn’t hold your hand and points it out, instead just creating the opportunity and leaving it up to you to find it.
A completely new factor in the game are castle sieges and gates. Whereas before bases were always open, they will now try to shut their gates as you approach, which forces you to break them open with your standard attacks or use some other, clever means to enter them. These bases will frequently employ volleys of arrows and spawn enemy troops to harass you, so leaving them untouched is an option that may come back to bite you later. Castles are another matter entirely and require the construction of siege engines. This happens automatically once you clear out the enemy defense captains (which respawn), but you can also use siege ladders that troops will place to get on the walls and attack the enemy’s defenses from there. It’s an exciting new addition and often the highlight of any mission that has it.
At launch Dynasty Warriors 6 was panned by critics for not innovating enough, which I find absolutely ridiculous. While the series has been slow to implement improvements, this sixth game features the most change compared to its predecessor since Dynasty Warriors 2. With its new control scheme, completely new philosophy on level design, and reworked character progression, this is a fresh, new entry in the series and the first “must play” entry since the second title.
Gameplay score: 9.5/10
Busy day on the battlefield
In terms of music and visuals Dynasty Warriors 6 looks pretty much alright. It’s a lively game with nice-looking stages and a rocking soundtrack, which does the job even if nothing in particular stands out. Character design remains a strong suit for most of the relevant officers, while the regular troops and throwaway commanders have generic designs to them.
Improvements have been made in the cutscenes that are now more active and well-animated than ever before and the game can handle much more troops on screen than any game in the series so far, though in all honesty that comparison is a tad unfair towards the Playstation 2. The amount of soldiers that can be on screen is impressive and cutting through them is a lot of fun, but it does make fights crowded and I sometimes lost sight of priority targets when things got particularly busy. The game also has some pop-in, with groups of foes disappearing and reappearing; I think the game wants to only show enemies when they are near you and this pop-in results when it misinterprets the positioning somehow.
Voice work remains a dubious matter in these games and the same is true here, with characters blurting out shamelessly cheesy speeches and one-liners that that are tailored to their over-the-top personalities. While it’s a love-it-or-hate-it part of the franchise, the one-liners here are somewhat of an issue because they trigger each time you defeat an officer. This leads to instances where you defeating five officers in an amazing display of fighting prowess is soured because that means having to listen to Zhou Yun blurting out the same, stupid line five times in a row. For some characters it’s enough to want to mute the game entirely.
Presentation score: 8/10
Finishing the fight
Though the game features a total of 41 playable characters, only 17 of them have actual story modes to play through on account of how much more developed these are. The remaining ones can, of course, be played in free mode or you can take them for a spin in one of the challenge modes. Besides that you can work on maximizing your character by hunting down the best weapons possible, leveling up the ultimate horse, and completely maxing out the stats of your favorite warriors.
It’s a shame that, for all its new features, Dynasty Warriors 6 didn’t bring anything wholly new to the table in terms of gameplay modes.
Extras score: 7/10
With its strong level design and different leveling trees for each character, as well as the castle sieges and new attacks, Dynasty Warriors 6 has just the right amount of complexity for my taste. While few will look to it as a highlight of the Playstation 3’s power to produce graphics, it’s not a bad looker either and has enough content to keep you playing for a while.