Dynasty Warriors enters the open world in its most ambitious entry yet, but it lacks the execution and polish to make it something special.
Dynasty Warriors 9
Developer: Omega Force
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
MonsterVine was provided a PS4 code for review
I have no problem saying Dynasty Warriors is one of my favorite franchises in gaming. Yes, it’s extremely repetitive in its gameplay, story, characters and structure. But Omega Force, the studio behind the series, has managed to capture my attention with its “fantasy meets historical” premise. The latest entry in the series, Dynasty Warriors 9, takes a step in the right direction by taking the game to the open world genre. But like the rest of the series, for all of the game’s ups, it ultimately lacks execution and polish to make it feel like something truly special.
Dynasty Warriors 9 uses an open world to tell its expansive story across the factions of Wei, Wu, Shu and Jin. With a cast of 90 characters, each with their own story beats and endings, this game does not lack in quantity. The story will take players across the game’s vast map, with equally large battles.
Battles in the Dynasty Warriors series are about clearing out as much of the enemy as possible. In this game they call it the “Sphere of Influence,” which means tipping the scale of the battle in your favor. All of the battles come with side missions to trigger events that help with that scale, like opening floodgates to swamp an enemy general’s castle. You can also skip the side stuff and head straight to the enemy general but that means it would be drastically more difficult to complete.
The structure of these battles is very similar to past games in the series. But the vastness of the open world made these battles feel stretched out. That created disconnect between my actions and that of my ally officers. In fact, I never felt like the actions of my allies impacted the battles in a meaningful way. The game relies too much on your input, so even when I carried out every side mission and cleared every base, I was still the lone soldier storming the castle gates and defeating the enemy general.
There are side activities in Dynasty Warriors 9 like hunting and fishing or helping out the general population in the game. You can even purchase a house and invite friendly characters to hang out with you and give you gifts. The ancillary activities allow you to collect materials to upgrade your weapons and items. But most of these activities were uninteresting and I preferred sticking to the major battles.
I think my larger problem with this game is that it feels like it gets close to being something special. There are various instances of that ranging from the combat to exploring the game’s map.
For this title, Omega Force revamped its combat mechanics. New to the series, the game utilizes three attack styles: trigger attacks, flow attacks and finish attacks. This translates into tactics like juggling your enemy in the air or stunning them in their tracks. After chipping away at their health system, opponents can be obliterated with a finishing move. While I appreciate the addition of these styles, the core repetitive nature of the series’ gameplay is intact; I still found myself jamming on one button to attack my foes.
The world is vast and its topography varied. Mountain ranges are beautiful, the jungles are lush and its cities look handcrafted. But there are also large swaths of land that are empty and underutilized. It made the game feel lifeless, even among the hundreds of skirmishes taking place at any given time. Exploration never felt like a thing I wanted to do.
Later in the game, it introduces a few instances that actually felt like positive changes to the formula. In one example, I was tasked with helping an officer plan out the best formation for defending against an enemy unit. But even that turned into me having to face the officer and his hundreds of troops by myself. While the game attempts to explore new mechanics, it ultimately reverts back to something familiar, but stagnant.
Dynasty Warriors is notorious for not being the most polished series. But this game’s technical issues are amplified by its open world, even after downloading the day-one patch for the PlayStation 4 version. Its frame rate never felt smooth enough for me to ignore it. Animations were stiff and the vocal track never lined up with the each character’s mouths. The vocals would cut out in many instances, both in-game and in pre-rendered chapter intros. There were instances where character would clip through the world or get stuck behind a rock or ditch in the road.
For all of its faults, I would still recommend this game for fans of the series. There’s something whimsical about this game that reminds me of why I love this series. Dynasty Warriors 9 has all the series’ flavoring that makes it fun. The corny dialogue and bravado speeches give the characters personality. The combat is repetitive but it’s still fun to cut through thousands of virtual troops. Dynasty Warriors 9 is a series of skirmishes building up to something grand. Sometimes I was satisfied, but most of time the payoff was dull and forgettable. That’s the story of my relationship with the Dynasty Warriors series. I’ve bounced from game to game hoping each entry would deliver on something impressive. Instead, I’m left feeling somewhat happy but mostly let down by a series I remain loyal to.
The Final Word
Dynasty Warriors 9 takes the series in the right direction by introducing an open world, but the final product lacks the execution and polish for any of it to work. Fans will find all of the familiar tropes of the series, but ultimately, this game left me wanting more from it.
– MonsterVine Rating: 3 out of 5 – Average