Dynasty Warriors 9 Review – Reinventing the War
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: PlayStation 4*, PC (Steam), Xbox One
ESRB Rating: T
Release Date: February 13th, 2018
*The PS4 Pro Version was used to review this game
Thank you, Koei Tecmo for providing a review copy!
Dynasty Warriors 9 is the long awaited new mainline title in the “Dynasty Warriors” series of hack and slash games. This game attempts to completely redefine the series with an open and fully explorable world full of minigames, armies to fight, and sights to see. Will fans of the series have the next true evolution of musou games? Today we dive in and take a look.
This series’ story has also been a constant retelling of the classic novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. This story explains the Three Kingdoms period in chinese history which is essentially a giant Chinese civil war. There are over 80 characters spread out across 5 factions, each of which have stories that carry over to various time periods throughout the war. Playing only one character will give you a story that wouldn’t answer a ton of questions and will constantly have you battling against characters you know nothing about. The more character stories you complete the more sense the overall story with make. The story itself is part cheesy, part serious war drama, and part anime. It isn’t bad by any means, but by the second or third character story you’ll already have seen all the major events at least once.
The graphical execution hurts me the most as a long time fan of the series. Even on the PS4 Pro the game looks extremely dated. Even last year’s “Fire Emblem Warriors” on the Nintendo Switch looked better despite running at 720p in its frame-rate prioritization mode. The two available graphical modes which consist of “Action Mode” (1080p, unlocked 60 FPS) and “Movie Mode” (1440p?, unlocked 30 FPS) run terribly. The resolution boosted mode runs at less than 20 FPS constantly and the framerate prioritized mode runs almost less the 30 at a constant. I can only cringe at what the game will run like on the base PS4 model and the original Xbox One. Musou games have never been known for running well but open world has proved to be far too much for this generations consoles to handle. The addition of dynamic weather, which despite being the only good looking graphical display in the game, becomes muddled down by the poor character and world textures. The game’s terrible presentation is easily one of if not its worst offending negative. Similar to “Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite”’s launch, I feel a large number of potential buyers will be put off by these dated visuals put on display.
One thing that the Dynasty Warriors series has always been known for is its weird and unique blend of Chinese history and power metal music. Dynasty Warriors 9 continues this trend and does it well. The new tracks introduced are varied and manage to enhance the emotional atmosphere of whatever battle the track is accompanying. All the jingles and series traditional tracks the fans know and love are here and even have some nice remixes of them. While some of the tracks can become a bit monotonous during long battles, the overall music is a very well crafted aspect of the game.
A large complaint the series has gotten over the years despite adding small additions every few entries is that the combat is has been stagnant throughout the many spin offs and standalone games in the franchise. Dynasty Warriors 9 aims to fix that complaint by adding the flow system. The flow system is a drop menu consisting of attacks like stun, or a launcher attack that sends you opponent flying. While the main combat of the game is the same as it has ever been, the flow system is a nice cherry on top to mix things up a bit. Traversing the land on foot, horseback, or by boat is a pleasant experience, although the horse controls can be a bit stiff at times. The added stamina bar makes you have to think a bit more carefully about your plan of attack as running out of stamina will leave you either stuck in place or moving very slowly. The game map can occasionally suffer from the current gen problem of creating a giant open world with not a lot to do in it, but as you explore and unlock various castles more activities will become open to you. One fun example of this is the ability to own a house and decorate it with furniture to invite your fellow officers for some company.
At the time of this review, I’ve completed all of the faction stories, and about 8 of the 80+ character stories available once you unlock everyone. All 5 faction stories are completable in about 25-30 hours if you skip out on the majority of non-story based side quests. That being said, character stories can be anywhere from an hour to 8 or 9 depending on how long the character lived during the story. A lot of the stories have you repeating battles you’ve already played but the change in perspective as well as the ability to fast travel once you’ve explored a location makes grinding through the same part over an over less of a chore. The game easily has over 50+ of just exploration and activites on top of at least 100 hours of character content. If you’re looking for a time-sink on par with that of an MMO, look no further.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is a bit too overly ambitious in some areas but manages to hold its own in this new reimagining of the series. What it lacks in polish it makes up for in sheer content and fun combat. The hammy power metal coupled with some over the top anime-styled fights and a rich world to explore makes for an experience I’m surprised I enjoyed as much as I did.