Dynasty Warriors is a hell of a series. Since at least the second game in the series, it has mainly stuck to what it’s done best: historically themed hack and slash games where you fight off large groups of foes. While there have been numerous spin-offs, pretty much all of the games, excluding the mahjong one, have stuck to gameplay fairly similar to the original concept. Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a big departure for the series, being the first game that switches up the gameplay by turning it into a turn based tactics game.
The game begins with a vague recap of the series’ story, mainly dealing with a highly-fictionalized depiction of China’s Three Kingdoms Period. The story then goes on to follow the exploits of two youths from a small village, Zhao Yun and Lei Bin, as they explore a local cave to defeat the remnants of the yellow turban army before they can threaten their home. While exploring the cave, they come across a girl frozen in a block of ice (not the new Avatar), and after the two friends accidentally break the seal on the block of ice, the girl starts to follow the pair around.
The girl is called Li Xia and appears to be some sort of goddess; you can tell this because she floats a few feet above the ground and appears to have the ability to control people’s thoughts. This is the narrative’s way of explaining both why people don’t comment on the floating girl all the time and also why you very suddenly gain direct control over several famous historical generals. It’s nice that the developers thought about explaining this through the narrative, but it feels a little superfluous to the actual game.
The first thing that hardcore fans of the series will notice is the fact that there are a huge number of characters from the series’ past here, over 60 in fact. So, if you have ever really enjoyed a Dynasty Warriors game, then you’ll probably notice at least a few characters who are familiar to you.
Gameplay-wise, the game has quite a lot in common with games like Final Fantasy Tactics and the Advanced War series, in that everything plays like a board game on a grid. You take it in turns controlling your group of characters by moving them around the board and then either selecting one of your multiple attacks, or by defending and picking a direction to face. As with most other games in the series, you also have a ‘Musou’, or special, attack which is more powerful but can only be performed once you’ve filled the relevant gauge.
During combat you also have something called the ‘synchro’ meter. Basically, as you attack and defeat enemies, the circle at the top of the screen fills up, and once it has filled you can perform an attack that uses several characters at once. On top of that, characters involved in a synchro attack also get to move again, even if they’ve already taken their turn, giving you a huge advantage.
A slightly strange addition that doesn’t make much sense is the ability to place your commanders at the beginning of battle. At first this seems like a solid idea, but for a lot of the story missions you can only move one or two of the commanders, and you don’t get to pick from a range of different spots. Instead, you can only swap your generals between pre-designated locations, severely limiting the tactical value of this feature.
As well as the main story missions that detail the adventures of the main characters and their many battles, there are also side missions which give you extra rewards as well as more details on each of the different characters that you come across. These side missions also tend to offer a greater variety of objectives than the main missions, ranging from protecting certain units to preventing enemies from reaching a certain point on the map.
There is also a large amount of RPG elements, including levelling up, unlocking new skills and equipping different weapons and healing items. Surprisingly, the skill upgrade system is similar to that in games like Final Fantasy X and XIII, featuring a grid where you must unlock small circular nodes that unlock different bonuses and stat upgrades. There is also a pretty complex system for creating and altering different weapons, including the ability to take specific stat boosts from weapons and add them to other weapons, meaning that if you get into it, you can probably spend hours crafting the perfect blend of stat increases for each of your generals.
The game looks pretty good, especially in the combat animation department. Pretty much all of the combat animations looks like they could be from a main series Dynasty Warriors game, but there are other issues that the graphical design does bring up. The main issue is that at times the screen is so completely cluttered with units that their names and character icons completely obscure what you’re doing, but for the most part this is avoidable as you can use the right control stick to freely move the camera around.
The level design leaves something to be desired, although it’s probably due to the game’s setting being mainly historical, so everything has to be pretty realistic, and this does tend to make things look a little boring. Having said that, it is possible that a little more creative license could have been taken to prevent every single stage from consisting of yellow rock canyons with the exact same style of wooden fortification.
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Platforms: PS3, PS4, PS Vita
Release Date: 1st February 2017