(Played on PlayStation 4. Also available on Xbox One and PC.)
An entry that will divide the fan base.
It’s been several years since the last numbered entry Dynasty Warriors 8, a game I enjoyed immensely. It improved upon its predecessor in every way and its Ambition mode was a lot of fun. I would put Dynasty Warriors near the top when ranking the games in the series. For me Dynasty Warriors 9 had some big shoes to fill.
Now developer Omega Force and publisher Koei Tecmo are back with the ninth entry in the long running franchise and this time they have made some big changes such as going open world, in the hope to advance series further. Are these big changes for better or for worse? Well… some of them hit and some them miss but I am sure on one thing, Dynasty Warriors 9 is an entry that will divide the fan base.
Let’s start off with Dynasty Warriors 9’s biggest change, the open world. The playable world is Ancient China and it is staggeringly big. At first the sheer size can be at first overwhelming but there’s no need to worry as chapters tend to keep you within a certain area. If you want to explore the vast open world of DW9 then you can do so at anytime. All you have to do is simply ignore the main objective and the missions and you then you can roam Ancient China to your heart’s content.
The world is massive and at first is rather impressive but the charm goes away as quite a lot of the world is just empty fields and forests. It isn’t completely empty however as there are landmarks scattered across China like The Great Wall. You’ll come across bases which are occupied by either allied forces, the enemy or bandits. Nearly all of the bases look the same, some are a bit bigger and have a several tents in them. Most of them are along the roads and they are basic wooden structures. It wouldn’t be too bad but they are pretty much copy and pasted throughout the world which breaks the immersion.
There are big cities throughout the world and thankfully these aren’t like the bases. Each one looks different. Some have slight differences but there are some like Chibi or Chengdu where they look completely different. The big cities are pretty cool as you see civilians walking around in casual clothing and you can sometimes come across playable officers in their casual outfits. My biggest gripe with the cities is that there isn’t much to do aside from going to the various merchants and the blacksmith. Not all of the city has a use and it’s a shame as they have potential.
One of the other changes that Dynasty Warriors 9 brings to the table is the combat. In Dynasty Warriors 8 I felt they got the combat just right. You could equip two weapons and switch them on the fly and still mow through the soldiers but because of systems like Weapon Affinity, there was depth to it. Dynasty Warriors 9 gets rid of equipping two weapons and the Weapon Affinity system in favour of Trigger Attacks.
Trigger Attacks are activated by holding R1 and one of the face buttons and there are three kinds, Launch, Stun and Knock-Down. These attacks can also be charged by holding down the required face button and by doing so you will create a stronger attack. Pressing R1 and circle will perform the chosen character’s special attack. You can’t continuously use special attacks as they are on a cooldown which is to make you not feel overpowered however, it doesn’t work as intended.
There are also Reactive Attacks which allow you to perform a technique according to the situation you are in. There are three kinds of Reactive Attacks, Counter, Guard Break and Assault and they are activated by pressing triangle during a situation or when a prompt appears. Reactive Attacks add a little bit of depth to the combat but they can make you feel overpowered.
You can put gems on your weapons to give your attacks effects like fire, ice and poison. Gems are acquired by completing missions, fulfilling a requirement or you can simply buy them. Weapons with gems deal more damage as a result of the effects and again, you feel overpowered.
The changes to the combat in Dynasty Warriors are unfortunately for the worse, as whilst it does have flow it doesn’t feel as fun as Dynasty Warriors 8’s combat. You are very overpowered thanks to the new combat mechanics as even enemy officers are easily defeated. The changes that Omega Force have implemented have done the complete opposite of adding depth. The combat feels greatly simplified and as a result some of the fun has been take away. That’s not say that fighting is void of any fun, far from it as it does have moments where it is enjoyable. I still haven’t decided whether DW9’s combat mechanics is worse than Dynasty Warriors 6’s Renbu system or not. I’ll leave that one to you.
The Dynasty Warriors series is far from perfect but the one thing that Omega Force nails every time is the music and Dynasty Warriors 9 is no different. During combat, you’ll hear the guitar riffs and pounding of drums; Rock and Metal music fits so well with Dynasty Warriors. The new combat tunes are brilliant, they add a level of intensity the game and they help with providing the fun factor. Sometimes I couldn’t help but headbang whilst I was fighting because the music is that good. Of course I have to talk about Lu Bu’s theme, (otherwise Lu Bu will kill me) is it a hit or a miss? Thankfully Lu Bu’s theme is awesome as usual but I personally think that it isn’t his best. Regardless of if it’s the best or not, when Lu Bu’s theme kicks in you’ll get a rush of energy and if you’re like me, you’ll headbang until it stops (resulting in a head ache that is worth going through).
The music isn’t all Heavy Rock as there is some lovely background music that plays whilst you roam the cities and the open world. The music when you explore is a stark contrast to the tunes that play when you battle. The games score can grind on you if you decide to go exploring for a long time as it repeats over and over. There is variation in the game’s background music but if you decide to explore the world for an hour so, expect to hear the same tune for some time.
You can listen to the game’s music whenever you want in the game’s gallery or in your Hideaway (more on the hideouts later) when you buy the music related item. There’s quite a large selection of tunes to choose from but if you want to headbang to Lu Bu’s theme without the fear of well, Lu Bu, then you can.
Hideaways are effectively homes for your character. They cost 30,000 gold to buy but that amount of gold can easily be obtained by completing missions or selling valuables. Once you have one, you can customise it with pieces of furniture and other accessories. Some of the things that you buy have a use, the bed can be used to advance the time of day, the desk can send letters to officers that you have met and you can cook with the pot. It’s nice to have things that can be interacted with but not everything has a use.
Hideaways are also where you can meet officers and build up a friendship with them. By building up a bond with them you can get items and there’s even multiple trophies related to the friendships with officers. It works in similar way to the “Bonds/ Friendship system” in previous games.
The Hideaways whilst are a nice little addition feel like a stripped down version of the village that was in Dynasty Warriors 8’s Ambition Mode. There could’ve been a lot more done with the Hideaways and it feels like Omega Force didn’t capitalize on its potential. One thing I do like about Hideaways is that they carry over with each character, so you don’t have to buy the same place over and over.
Dynasty Warriors is not a perfect series but one thing that has plagued it for a long time now is its performance. Previous entries have all had frame rate issues that occur when the action gets really heavy. Dynasty Warriors 9 despite running on new tech still has frame rate issues and sadly they are much more prominent than they have been before. The tutorial mission doesn’t set a good impression as it runs at a choppy frame rate and it’s weird as the game runs fine when you get into the main chunk of the game. The frame rate does drop in the open world. Sometimes when you are galloping away on your horse, the frame rate can drop a little.
The frame rate issues also happen during combat and sometimes it can be pretty nasty to look at. Whilst fighting I have had the game’s frame rate fluctuate and when I pulled off Cao Cao’s Musou attack against a large group of enemies, I am fairly sure the game’s frame rate went to single digits or it temporarily froze. The weird thing about the frame rate issues is that it is inconsistent. Sometimes it is fine and runs quite smooth and then there were times where it stuttered like crazy, making me reset the game and by doing so cures the problem. Thankfully Dynasty Warriors 9’s frame rate is much more stable now thanks to the updates but the base game had many issues.
Dynasty Warriors 9 also suffers from pop-in textures and even assets. If you are on your horse and sprinting away trees and small bases will sometimes phase into existence. It’s jarring and can break the immersion. The pop-in is very noticeable when you fast travel as some things will again suddenly phase into existence or the textures haven’t loaded properly. Again like the frame rate issues, the pop-in is inconsistent. Sometimes everything loads in fine and then there are other times where things have yet to appear or textures haven’t loaded in yet. As with the frame rate issues, the pop-in issues have been improved since the base game.
The graphics in Dynasty Warriors 9 are nothing to shout about, I’d say they are pretty much the same as they were in DW8 which is a shame. I know Dynasty Warriors 9 is a much bigger game and it is open world but there are games that came out halfway through the last generation that look better than this. I don’t usually have a problem with the graphics in Dynasty Warriors games but with Omega Force using a new engine, I expected a big improvement that would bring the series into the current generation graphically.
The character models I will say do look a bit better. Their designs look great and they all have a good amount of detail which is impressive considering the roster of playable characters is now a whopping 90. However there have been changes to the characters and some of these changes may annoy fans of the series.
The changes to the characters I am talking about are the weapons. Some characters have lost their iconic weapons like Zhang He’s claws and Sun Ce’s tonfas in favour of apparently more realistic weapons. I have to say that realism is the last thing I want in Dynasty Warriors. When has Dynasty Warriors been realistic? The combat isn’t realistic at all, play the awesome For Honor if you want that. The Musou attacks are effectively super powers and deal tonnes of damage and they aren’t realistic in the slightest. I honestly have no idea on what they hoped to achieve by changing some of the characters weapons. What they’ve done is effectively ruined some characters and made them clones. The Dynasty Warriors community has always been vocal about characters with cloned move sets (e.g. Dynasty Warriors 6) so I am surprised that they have done this. The changes to some characters weapons will annoy some fans of the series.
There are three kinds of language dub this time around, Japanese, English and for the first time in the series Chinese. The Chinese and Japanese dub is rather good and the Chinese dub adds a level of authenticity to it. The English dub which many fans like because of how cheesy it is, is not on the same level. The English dub for Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t cheesy or so bad that is good, it’s abysmal. The English voice acting seems void of any emotion whatsoever. Avoid the English dub and go for either the Chinese or Japanese voice acting as they are miles better.
I’m torn on Dynasty Warriors 9. It has moments where it shines and parts where it’s a mess. Some of the changes work, some don’t. The weapon changes for some characters is sure to annoy some fans of the series, the combat has lost any depth it had from previous instalments and the open world is mostly empty. The game has some performance issues on PS4 and from what I can gather, the game has the same problems on Xbox and PC.
However despite the game’s problems, I had fun with it. It’s not perfect but when has a Dynasty Warriors game been perfect. I admire Omega Force’s effort in trying something new for the series but it’s clear after playing nearly 100 hours of it, it hasn’t worked as well as they hoped. At the moment I think the small maps from previous games or something like what was seen in Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, work much better than a big open world. If they intend to stick with the open world formula then I hope that they improve on it in an Xtreme Legends, Empires or a future numbered release.
To repeat something I said at the beginning of this review, Dynasty Warriors 9 is an entry that will divide the fan base.
(I recived a download code for Dynasty Warriors 9 which was provided by the publisher Koei Tecmo).
I wrote a trophy guide for Dynasty Warriors 9 last month. If you want to get every trophy/ achievement then click here.
If you want to talk about Dynasty Warriors or games in general why not talk to me on Twitter – @ThatGreenDude95