Dynasty Warriors 9
XBOX-One / PS4 / Win
Single Player / Action-Fighting-RPG (and sort of educational)
So being the fanboy I am, having played almost all the DW’s thus far - including branching out through other ‘Warriors’ games under Keoi-Tecmo’s belt – I have of course acquired a copy of DW9.
Admittedly, I was indecisive at first, because I’d turned my love towards playing the ‘Empires’ versions of each release, as the notion of controlling the flow of history, making custom characters, and executing cunning strategies to bring down a difficult army captivated me, as well as gave precious respite from simply decimating thousands upon thousands of enemies all at once. Which is of course the series staple mechanic of 1 Vs Thousands.
So let me get started by explaining my draw to this release.
The game boasts an open world, a better combat system, and different ways to approach the primary objective. But for me, it’s mainly the open world. Perhaps a fascination for Chinese history and an appreciation for their scenery is the reason why?
So the game’s simple. Your options are to view a gallery of things you’ve unlocked. Review an encyclopaedia - which has subtly changed over time as historians have found new things - Or you jump right on in.
The options are small, naturally, in a new game. You can play as Cao Cao of Wei, Liu Bei of Shu, or Sun Jian of Wu. And the era is the Yellow Turban Rebellion. I’m not fussy, and figure I’ll play them all eventually. So for my first play through, I’m Cao Cao.
The game goes through its first in game cinematic, and I must note, I changed the voice to Chinese. A new option they didn’t have before. And I giggle at some of the poor lip syncing, as the animation was likely done in English or maybe Japanese.
The intro ends, and I’m in control. Standing outside a village. I marvel at the scenery. Gorgeous as I expected. I decide to open my map to get an idea of the situation, and I’m treated by what seems a small portion of a much larger area to unlock.
It truly is open world. On the map I see base locations of current forts. Castles, cities and villages. Along with other little markers, like Bonfires, Watch Towers and Way-Markers.
Then there’s the fighting. Armies clashing against each other. I notice some nearby to my first objective, and decide I’ll head in their direction and pick up the main quest along the way.
Then no sooner than I do this, and return to taking a stroll through the village to suss out the NPC’s and scenery. Two battle reports come up. I’ve lost allied officers in the battle. This will happen a lot later down the track. You can fast travel in this game to locations you’ve discovered – provided they aren’t under attack – and it won’t advance time by doing so. But it’d take a huge effort to keep every allied officer alive. And this early in the game, there’s not enough discovered locations for me to do so. You also need to remember that these are minor officers. Not essential, but it’s hard to weigh if they’d be useful later on.
Time will advance on in the game, constantly, and the battlefield will change. A base you controlled half an hour ago, may have fallen to the enemy advance while you were away on a scenic tour. And I rather like that! It makes me want to check my map to see how things are going, and sometimes I’ll find myself pushing outpost to another with allied troops because I want to see my supply line’s maintained and strong.
The combat system in the game is nice. It’s not so much about just mashing one button to attack now. You’ve got different ‘trigger attacks’ that replace the heavy attack of its predecessors. You string leaping strikes, wide swings, and launch your enemies into the air, followed up by mashing your main attack to beat them to a pulp. The game calls these ‘flow attacks’.
Then there’s a Special attack, which works a little like a second Musou attack. Unique to each character. In Cao Cao’s case, a hail of ice freezes and damages enemies in a small vicinity.
Lastly, there’s Reactive attacks. Used for countering, guard breaking and charging right into an enemy with a dash attack. These don’t always appear, but are satisfying when they do. Mainly, your reactive attack will be a finishing blow, used on named units and Officers. Appearing when you’ve knocked them around in a flurry of strikes, and if their HP is low enough.
All those techniques can be modified by Orbs and Gems equipped to your weapon, which you can change around at your own free will. So you can customise your play style a little depending on how you like to attack. Combining these elements together and the fighting is actually very easy. I’m playing on Normal, but I did switch to Chaos to see the difference. But all you really get is enemies with tougher armour, higher damage, and I assume for main officers, you’d need to charge your trigger attacks to break through their guard, and not miss a counter.
So moving on. The quest system works pretty well. You’ve got your main objective, and then side quests that will shift the end battle in your favour if you were to complete them. Depending on your chosen difficulty, you could probably stampede the main objective and win without breaking a sweat. But on the games notorious Chaos mode, even with the streamline flow of attacks you have available, you’d probably die to a stray arrow or a miss timed counter.
So even if you want to play a more direct approach. It’s worth doing the main side quests. They’re usually one fortress, or a designated area on the map. Finishing them lets your allies advance, thwart enemy attacks, greatly affects morale, and rewards you with part of the scrolls needed to craft items and weapons to give you an advantage.
Other little quests you’ll find at cities, some guard posts and a fortress here and there. But they’re all more of the same. Normally taking out an enemy unit, sometimes wild animals, or bringing an item. But hey, it’s a nice way to get a little gold and some materials for crafting, and once I got asked by an old man to join him on a climb to the top of Mt Song. This did offer a rewarding vista.
If there’s one little quest that will rattle you, it’s the hunting one that needed me to bring back a specific part of an animal and of a specific quality. I’ve ignored most of these now, as whether I’m using my bow for stealthy hunting – which gets you the best quality materials from hunting – or beating them down with my sword. I never seem to get the same quality item I need. More often, it’s the better quality. Maybe I’m too good a hunter?
This leads me to this. Hunting! You can fish too, but I don’t think I need to explain that. You can hunt beasts, sometimes very powerful ones, and slowly gain hunting points which you then visit the Dilettante in cities to exchange for rewards based on how many points you’ve accumulated thus far. Which rewards you with Gems and ‘Old Coins’, which you’ll want to use to buy enough scrolls of a weapon type to forge the very powerful and unique weapons that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise. You can buy higher quality furniture to for hide outs too, which I shall mention now.
You can purchase Hide Outs throughout China. Normally, they’re a little way outside major cities. They’re all the same, really, but you can use them as a fast travel point, sleep and write letters to invite other officers to your abode to raise their friendship with you. You can also cook here to boost a single stat for a short while, provided you’ve bought the oven, or receive items from officers that like you if you’ve got the Wisteria basket. I’ve also started laying box traps, another hunting item, to get materials. I don’t have to plant them at hide outs, but for some reason I like to. And it gives me another reason to return the hide out and check the basket, or hopefully talk to a new ally.
So at this point, I’ve put a good 10 hours into the game. A lot of that, has been lollygagging and touring the realm. I’ve only pushed the main story so far as to defeat Dong Zhou, and now, I’ve suppressed and executed Lu Bu. It’s easy to waste time on this game, if you do decide to travel, unlocking way points, and supporting you supply lines – entirely not essential, I might add – but it’s also repetitive. If you’ve come from another Warriors game, the endless battle won’t be too much of a drawl, and you’ll enjoy taking a moment once in a while to fulfil the requests of the common people between hunting enemy officers and completing the main side quests.
But it will tax you, as I’ve found myself doing more-of-the-same many times already and realising that I’m getting a little bored. But the best thing about a game like this is that there’s no difficulty putting it down, then picking it up, and taking off exactly where you left it as if you’d never stopped at all. It’s almost charming the way the series lures you back, and I don’t find this one failing to do that again. And if you do simply focus on the main quest line and not the exploring, the game flows really fast from one story to the next. So you can play this like any other DW game before… or, you could not.
Which is the highlighting point of this editions design.
If anything, this game could pull MMO players towards it, with the open world and side quests. If they were to add even little mundane things later on in a update, like cutting down trees for lumber or helping some peasants sow a field. Well, I’d honestly say I would totally do that, even if only for a while. Just to take a breath of fresh air from forwarding the main story. The game’s got good potential, and now I’ve got 36 characters unlocked, I know I’ll be itching to test out a story arc for one of my other favourites. Like Zhou Tai, Lu Bu, heck, I’d even like to see what happens if I play as the Yellow Turbans. There’s a large window of potential for a game like this, and I do hope that the creators really take the time to bring more in and make the game worthwhile. I’m not playing the PC version, but perhaps they’ll consider MOD support for those that do. Then try what some other companies and make use of those people and ideas to make a bigger, better game again.