Dynasty Warrior 8 PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and Vita Developed by Omega Force Released in 2013
I must admit I wasn’t quite sure what I was thinking when I started this review series. I knew beforehand that the Dynasty Warriors franchise is notoriously stale, yet I wanted to go in there and really dig up how much it has changed over the years. The seventh generation of consoles proved to be dynamic for the franchise, with two of the most divisive releases in the series so far. Dynasty Warriors 8 seeks to change that and is just a plain, good game; no controversies, no major errors, nothing.
Not fresh, nor stale
Following in the footsteps of the last game, Dynasty Warriors 8 once again retells the stories of Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and the Sun family, in the long-form format that its predecessor introduced. You pick your faction and are brought along to experience their entire story, participating in both their greatest victories and worst losses. While it hasn’t copied the story wholesale and a lot of alterations have been made, it’s overall still the same plot, so if you played a lot of the last game, then you may find yourself too tired to take it all on a second time.
New inclusions are the short “other” campaigns to take part in and you can unlock alternate storylines that diverge from the historical path. Even so, to get to these you need to replay a lot of familiar content, so I sure hope you haven’t touched a Warriors game in a while if you were hoping to try it out.
Story score: 8/10
Return of the features
7 was a functionally good game, marred by the fact that a lot of the innovation added over the years was absent from it. The eighth game, thus, has to reintroduce and reinvent a lot of it, but went above and beyond in this regard. mid-air heavy attacks are certainly back, but the moveset of your characters is further expanded with a rage mode where you do more damage after filling a meter and triggering it, which comes with its own, alternate musou attack too. Switching weapons is also no longer just an extra attack to extend combos with, but can also be used as a counter-attack, much better than the one removed in 7.
The structure of missions is still largely the same, though the game does prefer larger and more complex stages than before. These are sometimes annoying when the layout is too confusing, but overall they are neat and allow for more flexible battles to take place. Instead of forcing you to take a specific character you now get a choice between three per battle, which also influences the objectives you get. Leveling is also back, but influences a lot less than before. You don’t invest any points yourself or pick up tokens to upgrade your statistics with, the game just does all that automatically as you go. This makes it less punishing to vary up your use in character, even if it simplifies thing a bit too much for my taste. You do get to improve and unlock perks that can be added to your character, but it’s nothing too exciting.
A new feature entirely is found in the rock-paper-scissor nature of the weapons. Each has a type attached to it, along with whatever random trait the weapon happens to have. A foe may either have a matching weapon or one with the nature that is strong or weak against your own. This means you either do more or less damage against that foe, indicated by a symbol over their head, and using a weapon that beats that of your opponent allows you to do a finishing move if you deplete their defense. This makes it more interesting to switch up your weapon use, though on the flip side, the game is a little too eager with weapon drops, making it a real hassle to clean out your inventory after every battle.
Adding these new and returning mechanics on top of the core, Dynasty Warriors experience leaves this feeling like a very complete game, even if it doesn’t top the sixth game in terms of complexity and flow. It has more options than any other title in the series and uses the power of the consoles to create large, lively battlefields with hundreds of characters on screen at once. It could still do with some polish and I do still miss some of the old features, but this is a great start.
Gameplay score: 8/10
The conquest mode from Dynasty Warriors 7 ended up being very much underwhelming, so Omega Force revisited this concept in this game with a new strategy. Rather than a massive board with tiles to unlock, you play the “Ambition Mode” from a village where you are building a tower, with the ultimate goal being meeting with the emperor and earning his favor.
To do this you develop your village, raise an army of allies, and garner fame, which is done by tackling small missions with specific objectives. These missions recycle parts of the campaign maps and aren’t really mind-blowing, but it’s a fun mode to play through once. It brings back the bodyguard mechanic from the Playstation 2 days that I really missed, you get to improve the village in whatever order you want, and it’s fun to recruit all these different warriors to your cause, even if repetition does kind of set in after a while.
Like always, there is also a challenge mode available and Omega Force had the good sense to reintroduce Free Mode, so there is plenty to do this time around.
Extras score: 8/10
Dynasty Warriors 8 didn’t quite set me on fire because the storyline was largely unchanged from the previous game and most of the improvements to gameplay aren’t too revolutionary when taken on their own, but if you have been away from the series for a while or are just getting into it, then this game offers a very nice package indeed. It’s easily the most satisfying and visually-impressive title in the franchise, and the story is still really enjoyable despite feeling too familiar to returning fans.