I imagine that anyone who has played a Dynasty Warriors title will have made a fairly rapid decision about whether or not they like it. As it now reaches its ninth numbered iteration (which conveniently ignores about ten thousand spin-offs and related titles) I am therefore left asking the question; who might still be reading? Who am I trying to convince?
Well, as it happens, the answer to that question is: probably anyone who was previously unconvinced by the Dynasty Warriors games. You see, this is a series that is well known for delivering the smallest of iterative upgrades with each of the almost annual updates, but this time something has changed.
In the past and with a few exceptions, Dynasty Warriors games consisted of controlling a single character (chosen from a cast of about two million) through a series of missions that related to their core storyline. Back in 2001, I loved experiencing the story from different sides and reveled in the discovery of new missions and locations that I hadn’t seen before – I also loved the full motion video sequences that hung it all together.
Sixteen years later, playing missions with the same names and objectives, in very similar looking ocations, using the same characters (or their new pals) had begun to feel incredibly repetitive. Yes, by Dynasty Warriors 8, I had fallen out of love. I guess a lot of people were beginning to feel the same, so as I said – things have changed.
In Dynasty Warriors 9, there is a fundamental change to the way that the game world works, which in turn links to how the story pans out, but there are also minor tweaks and additions all over the place. First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Dynasty Warriors 9 is now completely open world and in fairness to it, it’s a large and very well crafted world at that.
Whilst it isn’t something I care about per-se, this world now comes with the full suite of Ubisoft fixtures and fittings – from slaughtering wolves and tigers for their skins to collecting gems to forge into your weapons, DW9 has it all. No matter how hard-as-nails or high ranking your character is, you’ll still be tasked with completing a myriad of menial activities for farmers, soldiers and local dignitaries.
The cast of characters now (in all seriousness) stands at about ninety, introduced to the player via a well organised selection screen that demonstrates faction alignment and timeline. There are something four hundred weapons and now, characters can use any weapon, where in the past there were at least some restrictions.
This aligns to the minor tweak to combat that features in DW9, which switches the old two button attack system for a new light and heavy attack mechanism, supported by a specials button that introduces the same juggling, knockback and other attacks that have always been core to the experience.
Musou attacks are still the most exciting thing about combat, with each character now having their own unique moveset. I can’t say that I’ve tested every character, but of those I did play with, this variety seems fairly legitimate – even if there simply must be some similarities between at least some of the characters because of the number of them.
The combination of the open world style and the new freedom to (kind of) create your own character (because weapons were always a key consideration of choosing a character in the past) makes DW9 feel very different to previous outings, if nothing else. For me, it has refreshed my interest in the series because it really offers the player freedom to experience either the full, traditional DW experience, or a lighter, more accessible version of it.
Once you’ve explored the map and unlocked all the fast travel locations, for example, you’ll simply be able to skip from fight to fight and approach them in the way you always have. There are something like sixty battles to fight through and over a hundred event scenes, which is where the story plays out, so all of that remains intact and as interesting (if not more so) than ever before.
You can still fight through legions and legions of enemies using the new moves, which are easy to master for both new and returning players, but you can also use the new grappling hook ability to kind of skip a lot of the grunt work and go straight for key leaders. The ability to craft powerful weapons from relatively early makes this viable, despite a fairly hefty increase in hit points for named soldiers and enemy heroes.
Of course there are downsides – change isn’t always good for starters and some of these shortcuts and changes of pace will outrage a few fans. Equally, I don’t care much for the crafting system because frankly, crafting was interesting about five years ago but nowadays I’m just kind of done with it. The open world is, like so many before it, a bit devoid of life – although there are some still impressive villages, forests and fields to meander through.
Ultimately I think there is enough here for me to recommend that the average detractor should give Dynasty Warriors another try thanks to this version, whilst I certainly think there’s enough of the core DNA left to please lifelong fans. In either case though, the argument for Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t clear cut because it is still a very marmite game. As a result, you should: