Despite the common misconception that the Dynasty Warriors franchise hasn’t progressed for half a decade, Tecmo Koei Europe is still confident enough in their franchise to promote at least two new titles with the Warriors branding every year. And unsurprisingly so, as the franchise still has a huge audience ready to adopt each new release as soon as it arrives, and in the same breath are just as ready to be vocal on their opinions about it.
Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires suffered a backlash upon its announcement due to being a PlayStation 3 exclusive title. It’s understandable that those who have invested in every one of the sixteen titles currently available on Xbox 360 would be negative towards what is clearly a purely business based decision, but the quality of the videogame on PlayStation 3 clearly has not suffered. Hopes remain high that a conversion of the newest title, Dynasty Warriors 8, will be made available for Xbox 360 in western territories, but only time will tell on that front.
The matter at hand however, is a much less complicated affair. For all intents and purposes, Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires is a readdress of Dynasty Warriors 7. The time when you could consider the Empires spin-off series little more than an expansion has long past: this is an entirely new experience built using the same technology, nothing more and most certainly nothing less. It is still a Dynasty Warriors videogame of course, and so doesn’t make even the slightest effort to break any of the pre-established rules, but it does make some casual renovations that are very much welcome.
First and foremost is the customisation component. Reaching far further than any previous Warriors title, the reasonably detailed system allow for some truly varied creations based upon the components that make-up the pre-built cast. Players can manually add visual items, such as hair and clothes, and are able to customise movesets through the inclusion of two Musou options. Given that the Musou attacks selected can be borrowed from different pre-built characters, your custom creations can be quite varied on the battlefield in both look and performance. What’s more, custom characters can be shared online and used in any mode, meaning that your friends creations can appear as a base captain during a random mission.
The menu design for all of this is somewhat lacking, with some genuine localisation issues occurring throughout, but elsewhere the presentation os more successful. The colour co-ordination of the map, though appearing somewhat unwieldy at first, offers all of the required information about each mission and your overall progress at just the merest glance. The battles themselves do of course follow the well established Dynasty Warriors ruleset – unsurprisingly sticking very close to the Dynasty Warriors 7 template – but on top of this is an added layer of strategy.
Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires features the same system of political negotiations and resource management that have become the staple of the spin-off series. However, unlike previous Empires titles, Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires hinges a great deal of its strategy gameplay on the idea of making your combat an easier and more beneficial process. Much like the card system included in Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires, Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires’ Stratagems are purchased and selected prior to battle and can be used to offer additional bonuses. Some are automatically active, others benefit you when used and other still affect other members of your army, but all will increase your chances of victory. On the harder difficulty settings, there are some Stratagems that – when used correctly – can swiftly turn the tide of a battle.
As your Fame increases you can use more Stratagems in each battle, and in a typically cyclical fashion using Stratagems can increase your Fame quicker. Each character has a role to play in the running of an clan during each of Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires’ six campaigns, and with War Councils held twice per year it’s necessary that you have your political and military strategies planned far in advance. As a ruler you will have the sole decision making responsibility, as a subordinate you will put your commander’s plans into action and attempt to climb the ladder. Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires gives you the option to seat in both seats during its campaigns, and a more traditional, action-orientated experience online.
Players can invite their friends to join them online, participating only during the battles of Empires mode. Both players will still reap the rewards of victory, but of course only the host will progress their campaign. It’s an uncomplicated system that has arguably been missing from many Dynasty Warriors titles, and now that the kinks have been worked out Electronic Theatre very much hopes it’s hear to stay.
The presentation of Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires is very similar to Dynasty Warriors 7, and as such does not sit well next to its bigger budget peers. The recent releases for DmC: Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance certainly make Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires look like the damp squib of the family, but nonetheless fans of the series will find much to celebrate in the new weaponry gifted to familiar characters and the return of those once absent, as well as a brand new face.
Establishing itself as the poorer sibling of Dynasty Warriors 7, Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires hasn’t done itself any favours in terms of market appreciation. However, given the variety in the videogame’s structure and the renovation of many of Dynasty Warriors 7’s features and characters, Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires could well be considered an equal. It’s a shame then, that Xbox 360 fans won’t be able to experience the videogame firsthand, but remains a good sign for the quality of any future Empires titles that benefit from a multi-format release.