If I may, let me take you back to a forgotten time (well, in the UK, anyway). There was once a magical place where, if you couldn’t afford to buy a brand new game at the full price, you could rent said game for a small fee for a couple of days. This magical, mythical place is now lost in the annals of history, but when I was a kid (which also feels like a long, long time ago now!), there was no better feeling than being taken to Blockbuster on a Friday night to rent a new game for the weekend. This rental service also provided another great positive in that, if you wanted to play a game but you know you’ll complete it quickly and have zero desire to play it again or the game can get a bit tedious after a few days, then paying £4 for a weekend instead of £40 is also extremely appealing. The latter is a perfect example of the Dynasty Warriors series. Fun games they might be, they also become quite dull after a few short hours due to the one-dimensional gameplay. Developers Omega Force would have hoped converting their long-standing title to an open world format might elevate the repetitiveness the series has always been known for, but sadly, this is not the case.
Dynasty Warriors 9 again takes place in an ancient China divided into three warring states. The story in DW9 is actually based on a 14th century novel called Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the 13 chapters that make up the story of Dynasty Warriors 9, you’ll find yourself battling during the Yellow Turban Rebellion and other such historical uprisings and events. Do not expect any real historical accuracy here; if you have a test on the post-Han dynasty of Ancient China, I’d grab a textbook and not Dynasty Warriors 9. If, however, you just want to hack your way through thousands of mindless cannon (sword) fodder, then this is exactly what you need.
We all know what the Dynasty Warriors franchise brings in terms of gameplay, but Omega Force has, for the first time in many, many years, changed some of the gameplay here. Some changes are for the good, some seem pretty pointless and some are just complete misses. Let’s start with a positive though; killing thousands of nameless enemies has never been more fun. There is a tutorial mode where you can learn the new combat mechanics, but this is completely and utterly pointless as, during the first mission, the game tells you what is new and how to do it anyway! So just jump straight in, my friends, and have at it. Basically, you now have two types of main attacks: flow and trigger attacks. Trigger attacks allow you to knock an enemy in the air, stun or knock them down. After executing one of these attacks, flow attacks are the standard button-mashing attacks we all know about. Trigger attacks do look good, and they are needed for the higher level enemies you will encounter because they will block the normal flow attacks, but the mindless drones really do not need a trigger attack as they will just fall easily to less than a dozen normal attacks. Fighting the high level officers or bosses is where the trigger attacks are a necessity, and after a few goes, you’ll be an expert in switching between the two. Getting combinations will also charge the special attack meter which, in the big, big battles, you’ll be able to pull off a handful of times.
Does this new combat system keep the game fresh 6-7 hours into the game, I hear you ask? No, unfortunately, it does not. It will become more routine than fun as you get deeper into Dynasty Warriors 9 as you see the same attacks again, and again and again. This is somewhat helped by changing your character so the attacks and weapons offer something different to look at, but changing your character is not simple like it is in, say, GTA V. To change your character, you’ll first have to unlock them by interacting with them in one of the chapters, which is fine. To actually change though, you have to start again from the chapter in which you first met them!! So, for example, if you meet a character in Chapter 2 that you’d like to play as but you are in Chapter 6, you’ll be starting again from Chapter 2, buddy! This is because the over 80 characters in Dynasty Warriors 9 all have a sort of mini-story each, and they all will fall in battle throughout the game. Also, really, after going through the first dozen or so of the main characters, they all become pretty samey.
One big change Omega Force has introduced here is changing Dynasty Warriors to an open-world format. The map is big, very big, as in it takes two hours to cross it big. It is all very well having a huge map to explore, but it’s pretty pointless if the world you’re exploring is dull with very little to do. And this is exactly the case with DW9’s world. There is really not a lot of incentive here to avoid missions and explore the world around you, in fact, there is zero incentive to postpone missions. Sure, there are some additional activities to do, like hunting (boring), resource gathering (pointless as you’ll find more than enough coming to and from missions) and also some side quests (just small, dull kill everything in sight missions). Even traversing the world is a chore! All I can say is thank God there is an auto-run feature while riding your trusty horse. Some missions are so far apart from each other that it can take over five minutes to reach the next one. I just advise you to stick on auto-run, keep an eye out every now and then and do something more interesting while you make your way to the next quest. It’s such a shame because historical games like Assassin’s Creed, for example, make you want to explore the ancient worlds you have found yourself in. It was a huge step to turn Dynasty Warriors into an open world game but Omega Force really shouldn’t have bothered.
The big battles are what rescue Dynasty Warriors 9 from being a complete snore-fest. At any one time, there can be hundreds of enemies just waiting to have their lives ended by your hand. Even with this huge number of enemies before you, the framerate rarely noticeably drops. The camera also does a great job in keeping you in the middle of the action; simply pressing L1/LB will snap the camera to whichever way you’re facing. You can also lock onto the higher level officers you’ll encounter, which will help you concentrate your attacks on them. Ending these huge battles is simple; just kill the bosses. They are usually hidden at the end of an area, and if you choose to, you can just run through the hordes in front of you and end these encounters quickly, or you can spend half an hour slicing down hundreds of re-generated soldiers. The bosses are the only enemies that will offer any challenge, even the equally leveled officers are easy to dispatch. A generic guitar soundtrack plays in all of the battles, and with how easy it is to listen to your own music through the consoles now thanks to the incredible Spotify, I highly suggest you do just that. Swedish metal gods Amon Amarth were my main choice through my playthrough of Dynasty Warriors 9.
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Temco
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 13th February 2018