The Warriors franchise is perhaps the most prolific of all videogames on the current-generation, including sports titles. When given the main series, adaptation releases such as the Empires and Xtreme Legends repackaging, Warriors Orochi and other spin-offs, there’s quite a variety of Warriors videogames currently available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, so to suggest that Dynasty Warriors 8 is the ‘definitive Dynasty Warriors experience’ is quite a bold statement. Then again, Dynasty Warriors 8 is a fairly bold revision of the core Dynasty Warriors gameplay.
Any gamer worth their salt will be well aware of what the typical Dynasty Warriors formula is. Taking an army general or notable personality into battle the player will fight in free roaming arenas against literally hundreds of foes – sometimes thousands – working their way across the map with the hope of reaching their destination and more-often-than-not defeating the warrior lying in wait. It’s not an elegant formula by any means, but it is a compelling one. More so now than ever, thanks to careful renovation of each of the surrounding mechanics.
The story is delivered with significantly more detail than ever before. The loading screens offer background information for each battle before giving way to a cutscene that develops the characters involved. This cutscene then bleeds into the battle almost seamlessly, creating one of the most dynamic Story Mode arrangements that the Dynasty Warriors series has ever been party to. Of course, this isn’t the case for every single level, given the literal hundreds of missions available across all four campaigns in the Story Mode, but each new cutscene punctuates the videogame in such a way that it narrates progress and motivates the player in that classic ‘one more go’ way that gamers know and love.
The base camp between battles seems to have become a staple, and here in Dynasty Warriors 8 it’s just as densely populated as ever. Players can buy and sell weapons and build additional supplies as well as interact with other key figures and learn about the relationships that exist within each clan. The base camp idea is as welcome an addition as it always was, but the predetermined growth in the Story Mode feels as though it’s entertainment value has been stunted as progress will always be the same no matter how well the player fights in a battle. This is not the case with Dynasty Warriors 8’s Ambition Mode, arguably the most addictive gameplay mode the franchise has offered since Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires’ Risk-style map management.
Ambition Mode sees the player taking on a battle chosen from a selection (typically of four) in order to gain one of three resources: materials, fame and allies. All three are required to develop your base camp and build new facilities or upgrade existing ones. Unlike the Story Mode, the progress of facilities – and thus, your base camp – is determined by your success on battle. Opting for harder fights in quick succession will significantly increase the rewards, and subsequently the resources at your disposal when returning to your base camp.
Throughout both of these gameplay modes and the Free Mode also, the biggest changes Dynasty Warriors 8 brings are on the battlefield. A number of new mechanics have been introduced to the combat, including a collection of six musou attacks per character depending on your positioning, the allies around you and the use of your rage meter. A brand new feature, the rage meter fills naturally over the course of time and allows you to enter a brand new fighting stance when full, effectively doubling each character’s versatility. Given that you can equip any character with any of the literally hundreds of weapons available, doubling the layers with the new mode is a huge feat.
The quality of Dynasty Warriors 8 at face value is also significantly higher than that if previous titles with far greater detail in each of the forty four new maps and simply ridiculous amounts if enemies on-screen at any one time, including troops, captains and characters. Dynasty Warriors 8 is undeniably the most progressive Dynasty Warriors experience since Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce, which is a genuine achievement for a bloodline title in a series known for its desire to maintain a similar standard throughout its many iterations.
Of course, all of this technical advancement doesn’t come cheap. There are, undoubtedly, some issues that arise from the hard push to break new ground. Dynasty Warriors 8 suffers from significant drops on framerate, more so than any other title the Warriors franchise has yet offered on current-generation consoles. It’s a trade-off that some will accept and others will baulk at, but less forgivable are the fairly regular system crashes brought about by the quick changes between densely packed combat areas and the highly detailed cutscenes.
When it comes to the Dynasty Warriors series and its many sister releases, there are plenty of naysayers who condemn each new title to being ‘more of the same.’ Dynasty Warriors 8 isn’t the title to change their mind, but for those already involved with the franchise it represents a huge leap forward. Just as with any change for a much loved formula, there will be those who like the progress that’s being made and those who wish the gameplay remained untouched, but as far as Dynasty Warriors is concerned Electronic Theatre is certainly willing to follow Omega Force down this path as we look ahead to the next-generation of titles. Dynasty Warriors 8 is the ‘definitive Dynasty Warriors experience’ you say? Well in this instance, Electronic Theatre is ready to agree with you.