Dynasty Warriors 8 (PS3) - Review/ 2,638 Views
For a decade and a half now Dynasty Warriors has ploughed its own way through the gaming industry. Originally a side-on beat'em up, the series has developed a cult following keen on its mixture of historical grounding (I use the term loosely) and huge, rampant battles. Although never a favourite of critics, Dynasty Warriors once again returns to offer its unique take on Luo Guanzhing's 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms', but does this edition offer anything different to the previous pantheon?
On paper, little has changed. The aim of the game is still to smash through as many opponents as possible, defeat enemy officers and emerge victorious for your respective kingdom: Shu, Wei, Wu or Jin. Same old, same old you could say, but Koei have gone to great lengths to ensure that Dynasty Warriors 8 at least offers value for money. A lot of effort has been made to justify the back-story, including an extremely interesting encyclopaedia explaining the history of the Three Kingdoms. Free mode returns, as does a story mode, featuring arcs dependent on which kingdom you choose. Both of these can be played alone or with a friend, on or offline. Ambition mode is a new addition to 8, and allows the player to build a base worthy of a visit from the Emperor Xian. Players develop their Tongquetai Tower by recruiting officers, erecting new buildings and increasing your fame; all are gained through battlefield endeavours.
Combat is immediately familiar to any player of the series; the engine is the same as Dynasty Warriors 7. Framerate issues have been resolved and fogging is less obvious, but there are still huge amounts of pop-up present; the occasions when enemies just emerged from thin-air in previously empty spaces are too numerous to count. For a title in the later part of this generation, this is extremely disappointing. This could perhaps be forgiven if the masses of soldiers in your way offered any sort of challenge, but they are just there to hack and slash your way through until you meet an officer. Although not actually inconsistent with the way masses were portrayed in classical battles (to be slaughtered by god-like beings) it doesn't make for a particularly engrossing gameplay mechanic.
Encounters with officers bring through one of the better combat mechanics, that of dual weapons. Each character (from a roster of 77) has two weapon slots. Each weapon is assigned a nature of either Man, Heaven or Earth, and an effective game of rock-paper-scissors emerges; each nature is weak to one and strong against the other, as shown by an indicator above the head of the officer. You thus go into the battle with a strength or weakness against your opponent. If at a loss, a weapon change can be performed, which itself instigates an attack, and turns the fight on its head. It's a little feature, but it at least makes you think and adjust your strategy, and there is not a lot of thinking in Dynasty Warriors 8.
Battlefields, despite the similarity to previous editions, have the suggestion of ebb and flow – at least they do on the overall map. When you decide to slog over to these encounters, more often than not the combatants are standing around as if preparing for a dance, with more milling than mutilation. This spoils the illusion and comes across as sloppy.
Sloppy could also be used to describe the visuals as well. Although perfectly adequate, there is a lot of clipping with the camera becoming lost in the action, along with the aforementioned pop-up. Although reasonably clear, the pallet is mostly dull and lacking in detail, meaning that one map often just merges into another. Over-the-top character models, a woeful script and painful voice-acting are tropes of the series, but the joke is beginning to wear thin. In Dynasty Warriors 3 it was mildly amusing, Dynasty Warriors 6 a trope, now it is just annoying.
For all its obvious faults, the basic premise of Dynasty Warriors is still fun; hack as many people as possible using semi-mythical god-like warriors until your fingers bleed. This formula was correct as of Dynasty Warriors 2, so to see the series effectively treading water since then is disappointing. While there is a lot that Dynasty Warriors 8 gets right - for it is tremendous fun and in many ways good value - there are just too many avoidable errors, too much technical sloppiness and a sheer cob-handedness that prevent it from progressing on this promise. Story of the series, really.
This review is based on a retail copy of Dynasty Warriors 8 for Playstation 3, provided by the publisher.
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