Despite it all, I genuinely had fun with Dynasty Warriors 9. I don’t really know how or when it happened, but during my fourth attempt on a particularly tricky base I realized I was having the trance-like fun previous titles in the series had put me in. It’s a testament to the franchises core gameplay of hammering combos and watching them wreak havoc on flocks of enemies. There’s a real flow to battle in DW9 thanks to a bevy of moves that fluidly set up effortless combos. I always loved knocking enemies into the air at the end of a melee encounter and continuing the onslaught airborne.
Bosses are always a particular treat (especially if you’ve overlevelled and can absolutely smash them) and the stages here – when you get to the real, meaty missions – balance fun and taxing in smart ways. The ability to scale walls allowed me to approach missions that would have otherwise felt linear in new ways every time I retried them, and levelling up and getting stronger stats and gear delivered the same carthartic thrills I’d enjoyed so much in previous games. There are actually smart additions here, and ideas I hope Omega Force salvage when they move on from DW9.
It all wouldn’t be so bad if this open world, which obviously cost the game a lot of what made the series great in the past, was something to behold and take part in. Sadly, it’s just not. It’s a lifeless, empty affair that looks okay flashing past on horseback but is just plain ugly when taken in at a standstill.
It doesn’t help that the game runs appallingly on consoles, with a chugging frame rate, archaic texture work and last-gen character models. I’m guessing this fidelity and stability is being sacrificed at the altar of having a hundred guys on screen and a seamless open world to beat them up in – but if that’s the case I’m just not sure it’s worth it.
The audio is as laughably bad as it’s ever been, with some truly spectacular and cringe-worthy dialogue accompanied by a forgettable score. Only here, in DW9’s lifeless world, can these 90s-style soundbites actually become one of the most colourful pieces on display.
I have a lot of respect for Omega Force, even with how much of a mixed bag Dynasty Warriors 9 turned out to be. Shaking things up, especially in an established series such as this one, is a risk-filled proposition, and I’m still thrilled to see the series take steps to reinvent itself. Whilst some of what’s here works – and hints at a potentially brighter future because of the very steps DW9 shakily takes – it doesn’t manage to pull it all together in satisfying ways. If you’re mad on Musou, I’d still recommend it – after I started ignoring a lot of the shortcomings I still managed to have that familiar mindless fun the series has always offered – but for more casual fans I’d say this is an experiment you can safely skip.
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