Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One (Reviewed), PC
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Price: $49.99 US – Available Here, $79.95 AUS – Available Here
Fans of the Dynasty Warriors series know that in recent years, Koei Tecmo has been following a rather simple but enjoyable enough pattern of releasing a core numbered game, an Xtreme Legends version with various upgrades, and finally an Empires entry that allows for the player to have freedom to create their own story. Such is the case with Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, where the series is making its debut on the Xbox One. The question is, should fans pick up this latest release?
Unlike the other two titles in the series, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is a far different game as those who are familiar with the series should know. Rather than take part in someone else’s story through history, players step into a world of turmoil where they can re-write history as they see fit. Players have the option to jump into a number of different historical scenarios such as the Yellow Turban Rebellion, craft their own, or start a randomly generated scenario using either a character of their choice or one that they made themselves.
This core mode, Empire Mode, follows the player’s character as they make their way through life in their chosen role. Players can start as a ruler of a land where they can plan out strategies, take care of their people, recruit soldiers, gather materials, and most importantly invade other territories to expand your rule. Or you can start out as an officer for a ruler, obey their commands and potentially offer some advice if you happen to be high enough of a rank, or if you don’t like the way things are going, betray them and try to start a revolution. Even then, you can also start as a free soldier roaming the lands and gathering allies by completing small quest missions to gain friends and form a vagabond unit of soldiers before either choosing up to join with a ruler or rising up to form an Empire of your own, all while earning ‘Merits’ by completing special tasks with these merits being the new way to level up your officer.
There are plenty of ways to experience Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires and every position gives the player certain tasks that they can accomplish and orders they can issue. Unfortunately being a free officer or even an officer working under a ruler limits what you can do by a fair margin. Free soldiers can still move freely and interact with those around them to gather their favorite warriors together into a makeshift unit, they are unable to upgrade facilities or make any significant changes to the landscape of China. The same can be said for officers as they must listen to their ruler and are generally extremely limited in what they can do, making the ruler mode perhaps the best way to take advantage of what Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires has to offer unless you feel like slowly rising your way through the ranks in order to garner enough influence to gain some sort of freedom as an officer.
Rulers are given the most options as they can not only invade other territories as they see fit but also form allegiances, recruit new officers, and even build various buildings on land to either increase the amount of resources they gain per turn or increase the number of items, weapons, or stratagems available for purchase. In fact, the amount of options available to the player at the start can be a bit overwhelming even for those who are familiar with the series as the tutorial only briefly explains certain actions and players are expected to learn as they go and learn quickly as a Ruler will have to plan properly or face losing battles and territories to other empires.
Once you do choose to enter combat there are a number of ways to go about it. Players can choose to go on raids beforehand or, if you chose to prioritize attacking other lands as a leader, your subordinates can possibly raid an area to lower its defenses making the area easier to attack. You see, while it is entirely possible to overthrow a stronger opponent through sheer might, it is generally a waste of time if you attack an opponent while outnumbered twenty to one as your own bases will likely fall before you can gather enough bases to take down your opponent.
The actual combat system remains the same as we have previously seen, with players being able to cut through swathes of generic enemies like tissue paper and having to face off against historical officers and lower officers in combat that plays the same way as you may remember. There are some changes this time as new strategems have been added to the game and, when activated, can do anything from building a temporary arrow tower to changing the weather on the map. In fact there are even large scale stratagems that require an officer or two to leave the field temporarily to prepare. These powerful stratagems pack a relatively large punch and it is possible to disrupt them by capturing bases or defeating the officer that ordered the attack while on the other side of things players will need to play a bit defensive to make sure their plans come to fruition.
I must say that while players have a plethora of options to already choose from, it is disappointing to see that the only added character in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is Xun Yu. While Xun Yu’s attacks are unique and fun to use, making him a good addition to the roster, it would have been nice to see some more characters appearing. That being said, since players can now create their own character, the revamped marriage system allows players to marry their character to another officer and even have a baby that can eventually grow up into a soldier that will fight for the player after a number of years pass in Empire mode.
Outside of the Empire Mode there is your standard Free Mode to fight various battles, an Online Mode to fight alongside others online, and an expanded Edit Mode. Now as mentioned, players will have the ability to create their own fighter and there are a number of new options available here to try and create a unique looking warrior but this time around players can create their own banners, horses, and soldiers. The banner creation mechanic is nicely varied while unfortunately the horse and troop edits are limited to pre-designed models that you can only slightly modify which is disappointing for a title where one is trying to craft their own story.
Visuals & Audio
Unfortunately, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires doesn’t look too much better than the previous Xtreme Legends release. This isn’t too much of a bad thing as the designs of the historical officers are still outstanding and the animations for the flashy musou attacks are as impressive as ever, but the amount of re-used stages and generic enemy appearances remain the same as ever. It must be said that there is always an impressive amount of action going on in fights, with there being easily over a hundred soldiers to mow through but there are plenty of times players will need to stand around a base waiting for more soldiers to pop up so that they can be slain to fully conquer a base.
The soundtrack remains as impressive as fans can expect at this point with there being countless fitting tunes to enter battle with. It is worth noting that this release only features the original Japanese voice track but this isn’t much of an issue as the original voice acting is a better fit for Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires’ setting.
With Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, this is the third time that players will be seeing a familiar system implemented in a different way and unfortunately it doesn’t really do enough to set itself apart from the past Empires title. The new customization is a nice touch but limited options lower their impact while the number of additions and tweaks to the Empire mode and combat system don’t do enough to really change the experience.
Now that doesn’t mean that Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires isn’t fun. Fans of the series will still be able to find plenty to enjoy here as they create their own version of history playing named officers or creating a warrior of their own to rise to power and attempt to conquer all of China in whatever manner they see fit.
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