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Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires (PS4)

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires (PS4) - Review

by Jake Weston , posted on 26 February 2015 / 9,127 Views

Ever since 2004, the Dynasty Warriors franchise has regularly received two spin-offs for its numbered main entries - Xtreme Legends and Empires. Xtreme Legends can be considered a more standard expansion pack, generally including new characters, weapons, moves, and game modes.

However, for many fans of the series, it’s the Empires edition that is looked forward to the most, as it adds an entire strategy meta-game framework over the core Dynasty Warriors gameplay. This is essentially a return to the roots of the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, of which Dynasty Warriors is itself a spin-off. Dynasty Warriors 8 was considered somewhat of a return to form for many fans of the series, but does Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires carry on the torch? 

To be completely honest, I’m a relative newcomer to the Dynasty Warriors series, having not had any extended time with the series since way back to Dynasty Warriors 2. However, I have been vaguely aware of the series' “more of the same” reputation, which has accrued over the years, so I wasn’t surprised to find that the core combat has basically remained - a lone warrior rushes into hundreds upon hundreds of enemy combatants across open battlefields, laying waste to dozens with each blow. What WAS surprising was that the combat is... actually pretty fun! 

I was initially prepared for a deluge of simplistic button mashing - and those looking for precisely that will certainly be able to find it - but combat scenarios eventually give way to higher difficulties, with crowd control, blocking, and smart use of each character’s assortment of combos required to conquer the battlefield. It can get repetitive mowing through wave after wave of mindless enemies, but there’s also a cathartic joy to seeing your controlled chaos reverberate throughout the screen, especially with the series’ consistently awesome metal music blaring in the background. 

Of course, for a detailed breakdown of Dynasty Warriors 8, you can check out our review. This is the Empires expansion of Dynasty Warriors, which brings with it a heavy emphasis on turn-based strategy. Eschewing the traditional campaign mode of Dynasty Warriors 8, Empires instead tasks you with conquering the land, one region at a time until all of China is under your rule. You begin by selecting a time period and a character, with over 83 to choose from (six more than the original Dynasty Warriors 8), and are then tasked with making tactical decisions for the future of your empire. 

Whether it's through invading adjacent regions, recruiting officers to join you in battle, drafting more troops, forging alliances, or completing quests, eventually you’ll spread your influence across the land, “winning” the game once you have conquered the country. Depending on which character you pick, you can either start off as a ruler - giving you the full range of tactical options - or choose to start as a free officer, working your way through the ranks until you can claim the throne for yourself. 

The game takes place in turns, with each action you take as a ruler comprising a “month” of in-game time. If an enemy nation takes over all areas, or 50 years (600 months) pass without anyone winning, the game is over, so you need to plan out your decisions ahead of time if you intend on playing the long game. As your influence grows, you can choose to form friendships with your fellow officers, or even form a relationship with them if they happen to be of the opposite sex to your character. 

“Stratagems” make their return from Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires, allowing you to select up to six abilities to bring into the battlefield with you, be it a spell to heal yourself and your allies, summon fellow officers to your location, or placing turrets to fire upon foes. Unlocking stratagems and deciding on the combinations to bring into battle can be fun, and using them to dominate the battlefield gives you a sense of power to which few contemporaries can compare. 

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires' strategy systems have the potential to be deep and complex depending on how you approach the game, at times to the point of being daunting. If this is your first foray into an Empires game, the game does little in the way of explaining its systems to you. A basic text tutorial is available in the options, and fills in as you progress through your various campaigns, but many of the intricacies of the system are seemingly left unexplained. Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires definitely seems to have been made with those readily experienced with the franchise in mind, but it means newer players will likely feel left out of the fold.

Koei Tecmo has spent a decade and a half fine-tuning and tweaking the Dynasty Warriors combat formula, but unfortunately lingering issues in series’ presentation remain. The amount of enemies on-screen at any given time is truly staggering, but watching soldiers pop-in and out of thin air can get grating. I get that this is almost necessary for the game’s core conceit to work - enemies constantly respawn at enemy bases until you’ve overtaken them - I just wish Koei could figure out a way to make it feel more natural. Other issues, like a frenetic camera that gets lost in giant crowds, and framerate dips can sometimes hinder the experience, but for the most part everything else seems to work as it should. 

Fans who have enjoyed Dynasty Warriors so far are no doubt already on board with Koei Tecmo’s iterative approach to the franchise - if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, after all - and Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires continues this trend by introducing the sub-series’ strategy elements to the foundation laid by Dynasty Warriors 8. Those who loved what Dynasty Warriors 8 brought to the table and have enjoyed Empires in the past will therefore find a lot to like here. For those looking to get into the series for the first time, or lapsed players like me who have been out of the fold, engrossing yourself in Empires can be a daunting task. Perhaps brush up on Dynasty Warriors 8 first, and if you like what it has to offer, then Empires might be for you. 

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a retail copy of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires for the PS4, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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