Back in the day, I used to really enjoy the Dynasty Warriors series. There was something really appealing about overcoming many enemies in a seemingly impossible situation. As I played more and more on my Playstation 2, I began to grow bored of them. They all felt similar, recycling gameplay and stories to the point where I just stopped. I loved Hyrule Warriors (as a Zelda fan, of course), and dabbled in some of the spin-offs on Wii, but never really got into the games since the newer consoles launched. With Dynasty Warriors 9, the franchise is clearly trying to reinvent itself – and it certainly has.
Perhaps in a bid to appeal to the lapsed fan like myself, what you get when you first jump into China in Dynasty Warriors 9 is different for so many reasons. Now, you take your officer into an open world filled with all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from a game of this caliber. Massive map, heaps of missions, key landmarks and even a new hunting and fishing system that feeds directly into the new crafting mission. Previous Dynasty Warriors games felt like a disconnected set of battles you navigate to using numerous menus. Dynasty Warriors 9 feels like a bigger world that offers a lot more variety and offers a real sense of place and time.Dynasty Warriors 9 offers players multiple storylines across different timelines while giving them the opportunity to play from the viewpoint of different officers. In short, there’s a lot of content to plow through in Dynasty Warriors 9. You can finish a conflict as one character and then basically play through it again as the someone from another faction. I appreciated this as it gives Dynasty Warriors 9 immense replay value and the storylines feel fresh enough to warrant another playthrough. Some might get bored as the structure and content is largely similar, however, but they’re scenarios that Dynasty Warriors fans already know and love.
Most Dynasty Warriors games provide a hectic 1 v 1000 style battle experience, and Dynasty Warriors 9 is no different. While still making major changes to the structure, namely introducing an open world, the crux of the experience still feels like authentic Dynasty Warriors. Rather than navigate through menus and loading screens to get to the battle you want to fight, your officer and merely travel either by horse or fast travel to a location to complete either main quests or side quests. Providing more freedom than previous games, completing side quests before the main on lowers the level of enemies in the main quest. If you’re feeling brave, you can go straight there instead. The choice is yours.While this sounds like it might be padding the game unnecessarily, I find it has the opposite effect. Rather than play the same style of battles all the time through the old style of Dynasty Warriors, with 9 I felt like the distractions added to the experience rather than detracted from them. If I was tired of the same old battles I’d just go fishing, or do a few side missions, or go hunting to craft a new piece of equipment. The new open world design provides much more variety to the game than any other game in the series thus far – you can even scale most walls with the new grappling hook which is incredibly handy.
Also improved, the flow of combat in Dynasty Warriors 9 has been revamped to provide greater variety. During combat you’ll not only be attacking other enemies, but you’ll have the ability to counter attacks as well as chain together a wider variety of attacks to subsequently create a wider variety of combos. It’s a little bit glitchy, sometimes I’ll perform a takedown move and the animation will play but nothing will happen. Sometimes it’ll connect perfectly. The revamped combo mechanics are nothing as extensive as games like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry or God Of War, but still feels a little bit more involved than previous games; where the main combo systems felt limited and weren’t as engaging.A little more randomly, every now and then while roaming the open world of ancient China, you’ll come across houses that can be purchased. Once bought with your hard-earned gold, you can invite other officers to the home to improve your relationship with them, granting a small selection of benefits. It’s a nice little distraction that once again breaks up the monotony of just simply having battles and feels like the systems previously introduced in the Empire spinoffs though makes more sense given Dynasty Warrior 9s open design.
I suppose the big question with Dynasty Warriors 9 is just how much all these extra systems contribute to the experience. Put simply, it makes Dynasty Warriors 9 a more enjoyable experience. The literal freedom you have in choosing how you carry out a main battle, whether it be straight it or completing side missions first, is appreciated and makes sense. The problem however is that in a crowded market of open world games, Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t really doing much new when compared to it’s contemporaries.The team wanted to use the open world to capture the atmosphere of Ancient China, and they’ve done a great job at making the world feel authentic, but it does fall victim to all the downfalls that an open world can be susceptible to. It’s large, it’s barren, and it can be a chore to run through. I always endeavor to play any open world game without fast travelling to soak in the ambiance and the atmosphere, but with Dynasty Warriors 9 I found myself fast travelling quite a bit. Perhaps the developers weren’t entirely confident players would either, since you can fast travel to locations you haven’t even visited yet too. A bizarre choice but also a reasonable one given that this is the team’s first open world.
From a presentation standpoint, despite the barren feeling open world, Dynasty Warriors 9 is an okay looking game. The performance was clearly the highest priority for the team here, with areas feeling barren but still somehow managing to accommodate hundreds of enemies on-screen at any given time. On the PS4 Pro, the options to prioritize framerate or resolution are available. Trying both modes, neither excelled in what they were trying to do.Unfortunately, even with framerate prioritized, the game still stutters regularly during battles. I’d surmise most Dynasty Warriors players are used to such a thing but given this is the first proper instalment on the newer consoles, it’s a bit disappointing. The shift to a larger more open world also has introduced a lot of weird animation issues – capes flutter erratically, climbing animations don’t flow and sometimes animations stop and don’t play at all. It’s admirable that Dynasty Warriors 9s scope has increased so much, but with this rapid expansion comes quite a bit of jank.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE FOR THE REVIEW. DIGITAL CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Dynasty Warriors 9 attempts to expand the scope of what a Dynasty Warriors game is with varying effects. The new open world helps to break up the monotony of just playing battles repeatedly, while introducing issues of its own. These are just growing pains though, and Dynasty Warriors fans will appreciate how Koei Tecmo have successfully reinvented their franchise and what the future holds.