Tecmo Koei Europe’s catalogue of releases has proven to be particularly impressive in recent years. Concentrating on a few select franchises and ensuring that their relatively niche audience is very well aware of each title’s appeal, the likes of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden remain as relevant today as when audiences were first introduced to them thanks to careful modernisation and precise delivery. The forthcoming Dynasty Warriors 8 isn’t about to be the exception to this rule, proving there’s plenty of life in this frequently flogged horse yet.
The Dynasty Warriors franchise was slow to prove its worth as a current-generation design, relying for far too long on high-definition (HD) touch-ups and gentle modification. Dynasty Warriors 7 was arguably the first real example of just what the team at Omega Force were capable of with more powerful hardware, significantly renovating the formula whilst remaining true to the Dynasty Warriors experience. Dynasty Warriors 8 doesn’t look as though it’s going to disrupt the series in the same fashion, but it is pushing that same envelope even further.
The first aspect of Dynasty Warriors 8 that argues this case is the level design. The environments are remarkable in the variety of their terrain not just across the selection of maps, but even in a single level. During Electronic Theatre’s time with the preview build only a single mission was playable, the infamous Yellow Turban Rebellion, and yet even here in this tiniest of samples the player will visit mountain ranges, running through caverns, assault temples and fight your way across miles of sun soaked sand. What’s more, it all looks absolutely fantastic.
This visual quality is maintained across all areas of the videogame, with the character model animation – both ally and generic enemy – significantly superior to any predecessor in the series, bloodline release of otherwise. The cutscenes are also of a noticeably higher standard than previous titles as the typical polish skin appearance of the many characters appears to offer more detail than ever before.
Eight characters were playable in this build, with Electronic Theatre opting to sample franchise newcomer Zhang chunhua. Armed with two weapons, claws and wheels, the player is able to change between sets instantly during gameplay. The claws offer a decent combo string, quick to move from one swipe to another and easy to manoeuvre into a vantage point, while the wheels are slower and more difficult to pre-empt artificial momentum but compensated with a significantly longer range. A renovation of the combat system that applies to all characters is the new auto attack sequence. A new mechanic comes into play after building up a successful and lengthy combo string, wrestling control of the camera away from the player and making additional hits automatically. It’s an interesting addition that certainly adds yet more variation the to combat system, but exactly how the core Dynasty Warriors will react to it over an extended period of play remains to be seen.
Despite being seen as a remodelling of Dynasty Warriors 7 as opposed to a complete overhaul, Dynasty Warriors 8 is already proving to be an enviable action videogame. The visual quality has been reached a higher standard than ever before and the new gameplay mechanics do appear to present an ever deeper combat system than Dynasty Warriors has yet laid claim to: an impressive feat in itself, to say the least. With less than a month until Dynasty Warriors 8 arrives on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it’s only a matter of time until we get to see if the potential demonstrated in this preview build is lived up to in the final release.