Dynasty Warriors 8 spins a similar story from the previous iterations (the emphasis on ‘similarity’ is something that will pop up very, very often in this review) and focuses on a faction based storyline, as you follow the Kingdoms of Wei, Wu, Shu and Jin in highly stylized recreations of stories from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. New ‘hypothetical’ scenarios are thrown into the main story for some interesting new settings and stories, more of a ‘What If?’ sort of mode that allows for the story to take some huge deviations WITHOUT breaking historical accuracy (to a degree). Fans of Chinese history and the study of the Han Dynasty will love the focus on Chinese culture but otherwise it’s not entirely engaging.
While Dynasty Warriors has never been the pantheon of high quality graphics and realism, the half-hearted graphics, bad English voice acting and repetitive animations are sort of a staple of Dynasty Warriors, and most of the charm comes from that necessitated quality. Because of this, is it fair to knock down a game like Dynasty Warriors because it RELIES on these points?
I mean, it’s up to 8. Obviously people are still buying them, and when you make it to 8 without changing the formula drastically, its image is pretty much set in stone. Much like Suda 51 games or Deadly Premonition, the (almost deliberate) bad presentation is the charm. Unfortunately, unlike those aforementioned games, what Dynasty Warriors lack is originality, as its umpteenth iteration is utterly devoid of innovation or creativity.
Again, if you’ve played ANY of the past Dynasty Warriors, the formula remains the same, albeit with some minor improvements. The crown of crowd combat remains resolutely on the head of Dynasty Warriors, more or less due to lack of competition, which is a shame since this (most likely) final outing on this generation is more or less yet another shoehorned in sequel. The ability to mow down hundreds and thousands of mooks is still the best part, and the HUGE cast of characters and weapons is a huge boon to the game. The ability to choose from dozens of weapons and dozens of characters allows for some creative choices, and the surprising different amount of combos with different weapons means you’ll be dipping in many choices early on. Unfortunately the game still remains repetitive, as you may find yourself settling into a favourite character and weapon set when you get comfortable.
For some reason, like watching fish swim around or petting a purring cat, there is something almost….therapeutically rewarding and comforting about the repetitive combat in Dynasty Warriors. Its lack of depth or difficulty allows for entertainment in its basic form (of course the higher difficulties result in tougher resistance, though this is more frustrating than ACTUALLY challenging). Mowing down legions of enemy guards without much effort or resistance is delightful and the emphasis on crowd combat is always fun to see on screen, as literal hundreds of people fill the screen. Like the forgotten Vikings: Battle of Asgard or the criminally underrated Kingdom Under Fire series on the original Xbox, I always love to see this sort of impressive crowd dynamic, and if anything it just makes me lament for a proper sequel for Kingdom Under Fire for this generation, or the next.
Dynasty Warriors 8 boils down to 3 main modes; Story, Free and Ambition. While Story and Free mode are exactly what they sound like on the label, Ambition allows for a bit more depth to the core game and is surprisingly fun. Ambition takes you on a mission to build a ‘Tongquetai’ in your base, in order for the Emperor to come, as you slowly gather resources and fame to build your base bigger and bigger, as you venture out from your base to fight battles to gain allies, materials and fame to keep upgrading your base. The ability to fight battles back to back which quickly rise in difficulty with the rewards of bigger and bigger prize pools is hugely satisfying, as you overcome huge odds in order to win battle after battle.
The AI remains as dumb as a brick. While usually this wouldn’t be a problem seeing as this is Dynasty Warriors, 8 decided to add some objectives that DON’T revolve around simply killing an officer or….killing more officers. Having to escort an ally to a designated location is infuriating especially if the ally is running into a brick wall half the time. Having to backtrack to move a catapult or to rescue burning peasants is just tedious at best and brutally boring at worst.
Dynasty Warriors, now up to ‘8’ (excluding spin offs and side sequels) isn’t going to win over anyone that hasn’t been interested in the series before, but it’s a relatively solid sequel. While the relatively high price tag in Australia (currently $80-85 in most popular retail stores) isn’t justified, the core gameplay is solid and the small but significant tweaks to the formula bode well and hopefully this is a sign that the next iteration could signify actual change for the next generation.