I know I’m not the only one who had begun suffering from Warriors-fatigue. Despite absolutely loving Hyrule Warriors and Musou games in general, my love for the formula had begun to wane. When I heard about the big changes coming to Dynasty Warriors 9, I got excited.
A drastic reinvention was exactly what this series needed. Having now put a lot of time into Tecmo Koei’s latest button-mashing brawler, I’m not so sure this was the reinvention Dynasty Warriors deserved.
For a series that obviously understands that less is more when it comes to gameplay, I’m left wondering why these lessons aren’t applied to Dynasty Warriors grandiose storylines and history-rich narrative backdrop.
I’m here to smash enemies into dust, and yet DW9 refuses to let me until I’ve sat through (or mashed through) endless cutscenes and boring dialogue. It’s a series staple that hasn’t gotten any less perplexing as the years have gone on.
Whilst its Three-Kingdoms-inspired stories are lofty in their settings, they’re almost always lacklustre in their execution, and DW9 is no different. A dull story that throws a truckload of names at you and a list of who’s fighting who doesn’t help me care about the myriad cast of characters or the political back and forth than is constantly being waged on the battlefield. Just let me wage it already!
Whilst its story is the same strange affair that I end up skipping through, the gameplay is where Dynasty Warriors 9 rocks the boat. After decades of the same mindless button-mashing, developer Omega Force decided that the series had stagnated enough.
The main difference between DW9 and its predecessors is the large open world it offers its players. Instead of loading up missions and wailing on crowds of enemies until a boss appears, you can run freely around the world and tackle camps and missions as you see fit. Unfortunately, this boils down to crossing vast spaces of empty land (only occasionally populated by trash mobs you’ll soon stop fighting) to get to the next mission marker. As you liberate more of the enemy bases you can use them to freely warp around, getting you closer to the action quicker than riding on horseback.
The thing is, the open world adds very little to the game, and instead acts as sort of a bloated menu system. You’re still mostly travelling from mission to mission – and the base warps only serve to shorten that process and bring the game more in line with its linear predecessors – so what’s the point of it? There are distractions in the overworld of course, and plenty of grinding available to you if you need to level up before the next big bad, but really it only seems to homogenize the gameplay further in a series that already feels overly samey at the best of times.
This repetition has always been broken up by a very important aid: the multiplayer component. It doesn’t matter how brainless an in-game activity is, it’s made all the better for having a bud sitting beside you and tackling it together. Dynasty Warriors always sung in co-op, and yet DW9’s lofty ambitions for being a more immersive and freeform game have meant that this long-touted feature had to be cut. More so than any of the game’s other missteps, this one hurts it the most.
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