Dynasty Warriors 8 continues a series that I’ve been playing for a very long time indeed. Welcome back to the battlefields of ancient China in a game that feels just a little bit too familiar.
Dynasty Warriors 8: On the plus side
It only seems like yesterday that I was playing my first Playstation 2 game, on a system that — as of the end of the year when the PS4 emerges — can be properly described as “retro”.
There’s no way that doesn’t make me feel old — I can keenly recall wondering if Sony’s new-fangled original Playstation had any kind of chance — and unless you’re particularly dim, you might have worked out that the initial title I played was an earlier Dynasty Warriors title. Dynasty Warriors 2, but please don’t ask me to explain the series chronology. Just accept that there have been a lot of Dynasty Warriors game — more than the 8 suffix might suggest along the years. In any case, that early taste of Dynasty Warriors was enough to convince me that I had to upgrade from what was my fourth original Playstation — those things had seriously dodgy optical drives — to a brick-like Playstation 2. That was, sad to say, a long time ago.Shin Sengoku Musou 7… or in English, Dynasty Warriors 8. Please don’t ask me to explain why.
My first impressions of Dynasty Warriors 8 did put me back in my much younger shoes, simply because the core formula behind the Dynasty Warriors games hasn’t changed that much. You’re a warrior in the Three Kingdoms period of China — the history is, to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge fairly accurate — on a variety of battlefields faced with a massive horde of foes.
Scale has always been a trademark of the Dynasty Warriors series, and while it’s been a while since I’d dipped my sword (or pole-arm, or tonfa, or many other weapons) in the blood of my foes, it wasn’t long before I was racking up body counts in the hundreds. There’s a sheer demented glorious joy in watching the numbers rack up that’s never been equalled by any other series before or since, and in that respect, Dynasty Warriors delivers. Want to beat up thousands of foes in neon-drenched, adrenaline soaked frenzies? Dynasty Warriors 8 will deliver that, and more, with a wide variety not only of weapons but also warriors to dole out the punishment with.
The English language voice acting is terrible, and that nearly went into the minus side, were it not for the fact that it suits the tone of the writing almost perfectly. It’s not that it’s intended to be parody per se, but when you’re talking such epic and hyperbolic presentation of history, having soap-opera level acting to it somehow works to aid the presentation, rather than take away from it.
The choice of weapon you’re wielding and the weapon that the main enemy character wields changes up your combat options and approaches, but those who like an old-school beat-em-up on a truly military scale will have a lot of fun with Dynasty Warriors 8; once you’ve thumped through the campaign mode, there’s alternative history and the slow grind of the ambition mode to work through. In other words, there’s a lot of enemy soldiers to hack, slash and send flying in glittery slow motion, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.
Dynasty Warriors 8: On the minus side
It’s not entirely a good thing either, because what Koei’s done with Dynasty Warriors 8 — and indeed the entire series — is to only tweak around the edges. That means if you’re an existing fan you’ll be well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Dynasty Warriors experience, and there are plenty that date back all the way to Dynasty Warriors 2. The ordinary stock troops are still just plain stupid cannon fodder, only really good for mowing down to build up your combat meters in order to unleash heavier attacks against officers and titled characters.
Possibly that’s accurate in a historical sense, but when you’ve got foes with pikes just standing there waiting to be cut down rather than either fleeing or at least having a bit of a poke at you, something critical is lost. It was perhaps too much to ask of the Playstation 2 that it handle that kind of AI, but I’d really love the series to move into having an actual organic battlefield, where any foe is actually a foe, rather than just a collection of points to be cut down in preparation for the next big fight.
Dynasty Warriors 8 looks quite spectacular in motion most of the time, but every once in a while it gets glitchy. The action will slow down to a crawl for no readily discernible reason, or you’ll start clipping through things that were previously locked in place. I actually finished one early campaign mission because I inadvertently slipped through a locked palace door and could cut down my foe — who never moved — at which point the cutscene ending that mission played, even though the rest of my army was logically outside.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Pricing
Dynasty Warriors 8: Alex’s verdict
It’s taken me a while to write this one up, simply because I’m a bit conflicted on what to ultimately say about Dynasty Warriors 8. The slightly retro-side of me revels in the scope of its combat and the sheer switch-your-mind-off-and-bash aspect of it, which I adore. The more pragmatic side of me recognises that while the combat engine is improved and it’s much glossier than it was before, this is still fundamentally the same game I was playing thirteen years ago.
In some ways, there’s nothing wrong with tweaking a formula to the point of near perfection; that’s what I’d say Nintendo’s done with the Super Mario series, for example. Koei’s had that kind of time, but the differences ultimately feel a little superficial. One for the hardcore fans of the series only; I think I’d prefer Koei to change things up just a little bit more than they have.