Dynasty Warriors 9 Review – Known For It

It’s finally back! Dynasty Warriors 9, baby!

Well, actually it’s Dynasty Warriors 8, as the first Dynasty Warriors was a 3D fighting game, which is not in line with the rest of the series, with it being famous for having arguably the best hack-n-slash gameplay around. Massive battlefields, cool combos, all that jazz that makes it a niche game, but still one that many people enjoy. Well… until the 9th one, that is. I mean, 8– Ah, fuck it.

Omega Force is really THE one trick pony developer. Aside from a few iOS titles and the odd straightforward RPG, Omega has stuck to one type of genre, and that’s the hack-n-slash. They’ve tuned their preferred craft to near-perfection, with the best entries being spin-offs, oddly enough; Fist of The North Star: Ken’s Rage and Warriors Orochi 3. Here, Omega have taken an entirely new direction, and for a first attempt? It’s pretty pitiful, I’ll be honest.

Every Dynasty Warriors entry has been the same, story-wise, loosely based on the historical text “Records of the Three Kingdoms”. There’s hundreds of people who all want to be the king or queen of China, and they’ll slaughter anybody in their way to make sure it happens. Well, I say “slaughter”, but no one really dies in the world of Dynasty Warriors, and this is a problem that’s always been prevalent in the series.

In stuff like Bayonetta and MGR: Revengence, I know I’m causing damage. I know that these people will not be returning to the fray any time soon, and the cathartic nature of it is unmatched. In Dynasty Warriors? You can swing around with Cao Cao and Xiaoqiao with blades and a flurry of beautiful swings, your enemy will either disappear from sight, or simply wriggle around on the floor until they eventually vanish.

That’s not really the biggest problem here though. The biggest elephant in the room is the new open-world setting, a decision that can bring glee or despair from the crowd. Given that “The open-world with zones to liberate etc.” is a mechanic tried and tested to death as of late, I’m not really for it. However, Omega Force has tried to make the open-world worth it.

You can buy furniture, you can hunt, you can fish, you can ride 1 of 5 horses through the endless Chinese lands until you reach your objective (or you can fast travel), you can craft your items, there’s definitely a lot to do in here. The word of the day, however, is “context” and Dynasty Warriors 9 lacks any and all context, to the point where this might be the dullest open world in a video game to date.

Sure, you COULD buy furniture to make your barracks a bit more homely. Yet, why would you do that? For one, I have no idea where my character’s home is, so this furniture will be ignored for the most part, and there’s no reason to go to it in the first place. There’s no meetings with your superiors and commanding officers, there’s no residents of the world that you can invite over. It’s merely there.

Sure, you COULD hunt or go fishing, and make yourself a meal that provides temporary bonuses to your character in battle. Yet, why would you do that? The crafting system can provide you with temporary bonus items with crap you can find walking through the world in the first place, and the battles, while still retaining the same blessed fun that they’ve always provided, are never too much of a challenge to even consider using these bonus meals.

With this “upgrade” in the game world, Omega & Koei have made sure to dumb down everything else, for fear of the game having too much tricks up its sleeve to be considered interesting. The voice acting comes to mind first, and yes, I know the series has never been in the running to win an award for voice acting, but it still needs to be highlighted.

The English VAs are so stilted, so painfully straight-forward and practically lobotomised, that it brings the whole quality down a few pegs. Everyone sounds like they’ve been offered a dose of heroin, and if you really think that you can enjoy this game, you’re going to have to switch to either Japanese or Chinese voice acting, so the game seems culturally enriching.

The gameplay itself has been streamlined to meet a more casual audience. In previous games, there was the tiniest ounce of strategy behind it; team attacks, combos, weaknesses you could exploit in your enemies. Now, almost every fight has been reduced to spamming X until the health bar disappears, or the enemy can be one hit by a cinematic.

That is, until the game throws one of the bigger guys or gals. Levels are disregarded in these cases, you could be a beast of health and offensive capabilities, nothing you do will be able to make these bastards flinch in the slightest. It’s a nice change of pace from turning every other named character into mincemeat with no hassle, but seriously, Huang Gai, I’ve been juggling you with various attacks for 8 minutes now, and you’ve yet to flinch once. What gives?

Nevertheless, if you squint your eyes, you can fool yourself into believing that you’re playing some classic Dynasty Warriors, and sometimes, the insane odds from previous games can be replicated… when the game isn’t bugging out, that is. From your horse clipping into objects, invisible enemies getting insane combos down on you, and named enemies not even bothering to get out of the water to attack you, providing you with an easy kill, the game is disgustingly glitchy.

Oh yeah, there’s also a stealth mechanic now! I add surprise to my realisation of it because it only happened once in my playthrough, yet the game was extremely proud of this addition. I’d imagine they’d be prouder if it actually worked! Despite the mechanics being set in stone with the tutorial, the game still wouldn’t comply with itself, with enemies spotting me, even when their cone of vision would be focusing on an entirely different part of the country.

I must also make note of the music, which is… awful. I’m sorry, B’z, I’ll listen to your music any day of the week, but you’re unbelievably mismatched here. It’s also mixed awfully, with the screeching guitars and drums usually drowning out dialogue and making tense scenes look absolutely stupid. Maybe Koei are onto something for hiring B’z though. Maybe Dear Esther would be more interesting with PanterA blasting in the background. Hmm.

The biggest flaw of this entire game though is the graphics, which usually isn’t a talking point for me, which goes to show how vile the graphics in question are. The character design is fine, everyone (the named characters, at least) is vibrant, they’re beautiful and distinctive. It’s nearly everything else that looks foul, however, with buildings and the world being ugly, disgusting, undefined messes.

I don’t understand this. The rest of the Dynasty Warriors games, and even the spin-offs, at least looked good, or had life when put in their respective generations. Warriors Orochi 3, another current generation iteration, comes to mind. It’s got a lot of varied environments and some gorgeously animated action. Here though, everything is locked to 20fps and the battles are sluggish as molasses-covered asses, easily making it the worst looking game of the current generation.

No, I’m serious. This game looks that awful. Every town looks the same, every tree is this dead, polygonal set of branches that don’t move, the render distance is still struggling to go further than 20 feet in front of you, the mountain vista views are just foggy PS2 backgrounds. It’s all quite depressing to look at. It’s like ancient China is being invaded by the modern China.

One question I have; was it worth it? Was it worth sacrificing all of these ideas and functions that made the previous games great, all to have a world that falls in line with everything else? Was it worth changing so much and adding so little, all because you read somewhere that the open-world was the new way to get fans for your games?

There are probably a ton of other things I’m missing, like commanding your own squadron, attempting the campaigns with different characters on the fly, but I unfortunately don’t care. I get what Omega is trying to do, they’re going for the whole Yakuza thing with a land filled with funny stuff to do, but Omega don’t have nearly as much grace when going for it.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, Dynasty Warriors 9 is pretty bad. It’s not the same cheesy, endless brawl with Chinese bad guys anymore. The question is “can they be forgiven?”. Omega Force is trying to crawl out of the niche spot they set themselves in, and I imagine with time they’d be able to provide an open-world with meaning behind it in Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires.

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