Dynasty Warriors series has a long legacy of games with several spin-offs having branched off from the main series. However, as it tends to happen, the brand was starting to grow stale with its button mashing gameplay supplemented by a capture and siege based mission design which is why Koei Tecmo decided to take it off into a brand new direction by introducing the concept of an open world Dynasty Warriors game. While the idea sounds good in theory, has it been successfully integrated with the traditional Dynasty Warriors formula?
Open world games are starting to become the norm these days. Even some of the classic Japanese developed games like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid series have taken the approach to an open world design with their latest entry, however while these two ended up being excellent games on their own, I can’t really say the same for Dynasty Warriors 9. Despite having an open world and feeling like it is a big budget game from Japan, the game falls short on the technical front and the design of the open world does little to help with its repetitive nature of missions and sidequests. This is all made worse with the antiquated battle system that retains the same basic mechanics as its predecessors.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is not only open world, it is also absolutely massive. It will take several hours just to explore and discover all the locations in the game if you are up for the challenge, however it is best to play through the main story first while occasionally attempting the side missions when needed, since the game tends to become incredibly monotonous. Even in term of the character roster, we are talking about 90 different characters that can be controlled in battle. All of these characters are able to gain experience points and are divided among the 4 different dynasties that are playable.
Story wise, Dynasty Warrior is honestly hard to follow especially for someone who is just not well versed or interested in seeing the history behind the texts of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. There are various dynasties that appear to be fighting to claim power on the land and depending on which character you pick, you will be taking side of one of these houses while fighting against or along with each other. This also makes for an interesting narrative for the main story where you get to witness the story unfolding from multiple points of view. It also makes some of the character sympathetic in retrospect as you get to know their true motivation behind their actions.
Gameplay wise, most of the combat has remained practically much the same. You can still be a single warrior fighting against horde after horde of enemies. We are not talking about a mere group of enemies but battles that can feature more than hundred of NPCs letting you chain and combine attacks to unleash massive damage. It is fun despite its repetitive nature of button mashing that still seems to be prevalent in this latest entry. The difficulty is easy enough if you attempt to keep your level scaled well next to the required mission level, however boss battles can be challenging and can often require you to plan a strategy instead of rushing into battle during the heat of the moment.
There are light RPG mechanics integrated into the game this time around with experience points and an upgrade system. You can also attempt sidequests during your journey through the open world and the game never restricts you to a certain path. Rigth from the get go, you are able to explore the world map and attempt to free bases or capture castles, however the best way to enjoy the game is to simply do the story missions. One of the reason for this approach is because you will be attempting the same story sequences with different dynasties or characters so in this way, you will be already repeating most of the missions which can leave you feeling burned out.
The sidequests and missions are hardly interesting and feel like more of an afterthought for the open world. Koei Tecmo has even added the infamous ‘Ubisoft towers’ in Dynasty Warriors 9 that you can climb to unlock new points of interest on the world map. Climbing towers or obstacles like a mountain or castle is now easily possible through the use of a grappling hook. This lets you explore each location with full freedom without any restriction but sadly the towns lack any interesting interiors and are pretty lackluster in term of their design.
One thing that the game certainly doesn’t lack is the weapons that you are able to take in combat. There are a whole lot of weapons available in the game and you can equip them on any character, however their skills might be enhanced if they equip their favorite weapon so other weapon types are usually not good in this situation. You will start with just a few of them but it is possible to craft or buy more through materials or gold coins. The special attacks can be enhanced further with the use of gems, which can be crafted or simply bought through merchants. Aside from the traditional weapons, it is possible to use a bow now. It can be useless during combat but the possibility of hunting animals with the bow is better so you might get some use out of it. There are multiple types of arrows to use as ammo for the bow depending on the situation.
The open world map is huge but it is ugly. I was surprised at first how ugly it looked with textures that seemed to be straight from the early PS3 era. This seems to be an issue with the level-of-detail (LOD) implementation for the game which is pretty aggressive. Objects can suddenly pop out during cutscenes or when you fast travel. It will take the game a while to load textures which means you will be looking at an ugly image and texture quality during that time. I have tested the game on a PS4 Pro where the developers have given the choice of an Action mode along with a Cinematic mode. Cinematic mode is locked to 30 fps but maintains a better resolution while Action mode offers an unlocked frame rate but at the expense of the resolution. We have taken a comparison between both modes here but the ideal way to go is Action mode because Cinematic is clunky and the absolute worst way to play Dynasty Warriors 9. It is not like the game offers improved visuals after testing both modes, so going with the one that offers better performance should be the preference here.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Dynasty Warriors 9 is a hack and slash video game developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo.
This is the first time Dynasty Warriors has made it to an open world, but unfortunately it has also resulted in a product that is bloated and feels dated in term of the open world design. It is a good step forward for the series but it needs a lot more tweaks in order to remain relevant for any potential future entries.