This review is based on the PS3 version of the game but we would like to inform our readers that there is a slowdown issue with the Xbox 360 version. However, at the time this review was posted, KOEI has stated that there is a patch in the works to fix the issue.
Dynasty Warriors has come a long way from the days when it was a fighting game back on the PS1. From the outside looking in, you may not notice all the changes to the series with each new iteration. However, those with experience in the franchise tend to be able to immediately notice the difference in each game, some subtle like small changes to the weapon selection and others not so subtle like a brand new character.
Dynasty Warriors 8 seems to run on an upgraded version of the Dynasty Warriors 7 engine. While the overall engine is the same, things such as better lighting and weather effects make the game look much nicer overall. The game also generally seems to run a bit smoother than 7 although a few story stages seem to experience a slowdown when there is and exorbitant amount going on at once, though it isn’t too noticeable. There are also many changes to the combat system which keeps the combat fresh.
It always amazes me how a company can retell basically the same story time and time again but somehow manage to make it different each time. The way the story was put together in 8 is possibly the most entertained I’ve been by it to date. Not only is the story told very well but there are also new “Hypothetical” stages that change the story completely. To access the hypothetical stages you have to fulfill certain requirements in other stages; the team makes sure you know what to do in the stage without blatantly telling you how to do it (i.e. “ensuring Lu Meng is unharmed will allow him to appear in Yiling”). The hypothetical stages succeed in doubling how much play time you can get out of the story. Not to mention you are able to select which character you use on a stage.
Free Mode comes back and allows you to play through story fights in ways that aren’t necessarily presented in the story. You can play as whatever officer you want and can take up any side of the battle. Ambition Mode is new to the series and is the successor to Conquest Mode and also reminds me of Legend Mode from Xtreme Legends. You are trying to make Emporer visit your tiny empire which acts as like a small town for peasants. To do so, you have to build up the “Tongquetai Tower.” Building up your tower requires you to participate in various battles, of which there are 4 types; Skirmish battles to get materials, Unconventional battles which increase fame,Great Battles to get allies and every time you do 3 battles in a row, the 3rd battle is a massive “Duel” that pits you against famous officers such as Zhou Yu and Cao Cao. Co-Op also thankfully returns to the franchise. You would think that co-op would be a given now-a-days but the previous installment only had it in Conquest Mode. However, all modes in Dynasty Warriors 8 can be played in co-op both online and offline which just adds to the fun.
There are a good amount of new weapons along with the weapons from Dynasty Warriors 7 and it’s expansions making a return. All of the new weapons allow for each character to have a unique EX attack weapon, as opposed to some characters sharing EX weapons in 7, so each character has a “standard” unique moveset. The weapon switching system from the previous installment also makes a return with a few changes in terms of combat effectiveness. This is nice because now you can associate weapons with characters more easily while still being able to play how you want. There are also a few new characters as well, such as Guan Yu’s daughter Guan Yinping along with about 9 other characters; Zuo Ci also finally makes a return as he was last seen in Dynasty Warriors 5 (which makes me very happy as he is one of my favorites).
As I mentioned before, Omega Force didn’t slack in making this game different from the entry before it. The combat has many new changes including one of my favorite new system, the three-point weapon system. Think of it as rock-paper-scissors but for the weapons, except you replace the words with Heaven, Man and Earth. This doesn’t mean that if you have a “Rock” weapon that it will be powerless against a “Paper” weapon, but the latter will have an advantage. By using this system to your benefit though you can unleash another new combat technique, the Storm Rush. You can use Storm Rush by having a winning weapon against an enemy office and beating his affinity meter above his head down until it puts you in a speed mode where you hack and slash the officer and any surrounding enemies with them having no way to escape. This is very useful when there are multiple officers as you can combo them using Storm Rush to make quick work of them. If you are on the losing end, however, you can also time your weapon switch to active a Switch Counter that will deal extra damage to your opponent.
Another addition to the battle system is the Rage Meter that is similar to Rage from Dynasty Warriors 5. You build up your Rage gauge by killing enemies (of course) and then, once full, can be triggered to put you in a state that makes the three-point system irrelevant. It also allows you to unleash a special new Musou attack that changes depending on how high you get your combo to go while performing it.
Level design is at an all time high for the series to me. They have made the levels much more diverse in their differences so you don’t feel like you’re crossing the same plain again and again. One level even has you invading a castle that has traps and corridors, and there is a level with a maze you must navigate practically in the dark.
Dynasty Warriors 8 truly went above and beyond my expectations. The game isn’t perfect as its still very mindless but the changes to the battle system definitely make it an even more enjoyable game. If you are a fan of the series, you really should not miss this game, and if you’ve never played it, its a great time to jump in. The box doesn’t lie, it truly is “The Definitive Dynasty Warriors Experience.”
- Great new additions to the battle system
- Ambition mode is addicting
- New characters and new unique weapons
- Still very mindless
- Some rare slowdown issues