Dynasty Warriors 8 (known in Japan as Shin Sangokumusou 7) is the eighth main installment in the long running hack and slash series from developers Omega Force. For the uninitiated, Dynasty Warriors tells the historical tale of “The Three Kingdoms”; a tripartite between the Wei, Shu and Wu states that followed the fall of the Han Dynasty during the imperial age of China. The story mode features four playable campaigns chronicling the many battles between the three aforementioned factions who fought for control, and the rise of Jin.
The motif of this game is to make the player the ultimate “one-man army” and that quickly becomes apparent as soon as you engage a group of enemies. The combat in Dynasty Warriors 8 is exciting, fast paced and ridiculously over the top. Players can combine light and heavy attacks to pull off some pretty outlandish moves that will clear a group of enemies in a matter of seconds. Musou attacks are powerful moves that do more damage and have a large radius allowing the player to take down even larger groups. Everyone can perform a total of three different musous, two on the ground and one from the air. Two of them have will have to be unlocked first (more on that in a bit) before you can use them.
It’s the simple yet satisfying tried and true combat system that DW fans know and love. It has suffered from becoming too repetitive in previous installments. DW8 features some new tweaks to help alleviate that in the form of the ‘Commander Affinity’ mechanic. Weapons now come with an affinity, one of three elements: Earth, Man and Heaven. This elemental system determines which weapon has an advantage and disadvantage. Think the rock, paper, scissors. Man is effective against Heaven, Heaven against Earth, and Earth against Man. This encourages players to switch between their character’s weapons during battles. Each warrior is equipped with two weapons: their main weapon and a secondary that can be swapped for another weapon type. The amount of weapons to choose from is plentiful and each feature their own set of combos, injecting more variety in the combat system.
Another exciting new feature is ‘Storm Rush’. This is triggered when the player faces off against an enemy officer whose weapon affinity is lower. Repeatedly striking said opponent will unleash a barrage of rapid strikes, that will not only damage multiple enemies unlucky enough to be within range but quickly deplete their health bars as well. ‘Switch Counter’ allows the player to land a powerful counter attack against an enemy whose weapon has a higher affinity, essentially knocking them back and quickly switching weapons afterwards.
Last but certainly not least is my favorite of the new mechanics, ‘Rage Awakening’. Similar to the rage system from Dynasty Warriors 5, players will fill up the awakening gauge by landing attacks. Once full, clicking down on the right stick will activate it and they will receive an increase in strength, defense and speed. They are also able to perform an ‘Awakening Musou’, an even more powerful musou attack that last as long as the button is held until the gauge completely depletes. This attack is arguably the most exciting to unleash in the game, as the player is able to steamroll through massive amounts of enemy soldiers while achieving a ridiculously high combo chain. The highest I’ve pulled off so far is over 2400. Together these new additions combined with the old, makes Dynasty Warrior 8’s combat the most satisfying in the series so far.
Slaying your foes will earn your character experience points, leveling him/her up as well as the special abilities you equip . Level a character up high enough and the third musou attack will become available. Thankfully the character progression system has been improved upon, now being persistent across all modes. All your abilities and unlocked weapons will carry over, regardless of what mode you play.
Speaking of modes, Free mode makes its return, allowing you to play through the stages already completed in story mode. In free mode however, there are no restrictions on what faction you have to fight for and who you play as. If the player wants to choose Cao Cao of Wei and play through the battles featured in the Shu story and face off against Wei, they have the freedom to do so. It’s a fun alternative to story mode.
Ambition mode is the third and brand new mode in the Dynasty Warriors series. In it players are tasked with building a city in with the hope of attracting the Emperor to their cause. You start off with a little camp and must earn the materials and such in order to achieve your goal. In order to do so, players will have to engage three different types of battles; Skirmishes will earn materials required to build shops and other facilities, unconventional battles earn fame required to recruit allies on the battlefield and great battles which earn you more allies.
Engaging in consecutive battles will increase the rewards but also the difficulty of each battle as well. Your health won’t regenerate and there is a chance you won’t bring back anything at all. Completing two-three consecutive battles will allow you to engage in a duel against special officers. Defeating them will get them to join your cause. Bonds can be formed with your allies, further increasing those bond will yield support bonuses for you when out on the battlefield. There are also animals you can unlock to fight by your side. Ambition mode certainly lives up to its name and is a great new addition to the series. It is great to note that all three modes within Dynasty Warriors 8 can be played with a second player, either offline or online. This leads to double the mayhem and makes for an even more fun experience.
While Dynasty Warriors 8 isn’t going to win any awards in the best graphics department, it is still good looking. The playable character models look good in game and their armors are detailed enough to make out. The environments aren’t breathtaking by any means but feature enough detail to not be a pain to look at. The non playable characters, the countless enemies on screen look bad. Their clothes have very little detail and when shown up close during cut scenes they look worse thanks to bad textures. It is only a minor gripe though. In the end when the action is on screen it is a visually stunning game and the environments take a backseat as your eyes will be fixated on all the carnage.
The soundtrack for Dynasty Warriors 8 is fun to listen to, providing you like metal music. The sound effects haven’t really seen any changes and the voice overs get very repetitive on the battlefield. Speaking of voice acting, with the exception of a few, the acting is very cheesy and laughably bad. It’s really annoying when the worst offenders are playing the characters during a tragic scene that is supposed to carry emotional weight. It is very difficult to be moved by someone’s death when it doesn’t sound believable.
Replay Value: High – Once you’ve completed all 4 campaigns, which last about five hours each depending on skill level, you can replay them again to try and unlock the hypothetical(bonus) stages. Free mode and Ambition mode offer a lot of content as well. To top things off, Dynasty Warriors 8 features over 70 playable characters and most must be unlocked in order to play with them. Add the ability to play with a friend, at home or online and you’ve got a lot of choices to keep you busy with this game.
Final Verdict: While it does suffer from the same faults that have plagued previous games in the series, Dynasty Warriors 8’s positives far out way its negatives. Thanks to an updated combat system, improved character progression, an abundance of content and the brand new Ambition mode, Dynasty Warriors solidifies itself as a worth purchase for newcomers and fans alike.
Overall Score: 8/10
RGN Award: Silver
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Available On: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. PlayStation 4 Version Coming ( 2014)
Played On: Sony PS3
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of the game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this review.