Ninth time’s not quite the charm…

Which isn’t to say Dynasty Warriors 9 was a bad game by any means. It has its great points, but does not, in my “expert” opinion, measure up to the previous titles. At least in terms of overall game design. I’ll try to clarify what I mean, but first a quick bit of background on what I’m even talking about.

If you haven’t played one of these games before, Dynasty Warriors tells the story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese historical novel. Much like it’s Japanese counterpart, Samurai Warriors, the game is a beat em up, 1 vs 1000 set up. You control various figures from this period of Chinese history and violently slaughter your way across battlefield after battlefield in an attempt to conquer and unite the land. Since Koei Tecmo is retelling history here, this obviously doesn’t change much from game to game, though they have been steadily expanding the scope as more games come out.

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Dynasty Warriors 9 takes a different approach from normal though, which is where most of my issues lay. If you’ve played any beat em up games you can say you’ve played them all, right? Pick a character and progress through a series of stages, meet some objectives and kill a bunch of enemies. Boom, done. Rinse and repeat. Dynasty Warriors worked like this too, until now. With their ninth game, Koei Tecmo opted to switch things up and go open world.

Now, I love open world. There are few games I feel are not improved by more freedom. However, this may be one of the few exceptions. Why? Well, as more Dynasty Warriors games have come out, they’ve steadily expanded their roster. I’m not sure how many they had back when the first few came out, but they are currently at 90 playable characters with more planned for future DLC. Again I’d normally love that. More options, right? But then take into account how the game plays. When you start out, you choose a character and follow their story through the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history. You start out with only three available, but as you play through the chapters (13 in all) you unlock additional playable officers whose stories you are then able to play. And this is the root of my issue with the way DW9 plays out.

There are three different story-lines initially, one for each kingdom (and the Other category, but ignore that for the moment). Each kingdom has a ton of playable officers in it who each technically have their own story, but the story chapter plays out the same for each kingdom no matter who you’re playing. Sure, you get some additional or different lines of dialogue, maybe one scene or two. But 90% of the time, if you play through all of one story-line on one officer, then switch to another from that same kingdom, you’re essentially repeating the same experience you just had. On its own, this isn’t a deal breaker. It’s expected that you’ll see a lot of recycled content in this type of game. Except…

That the game is open world. Now when you play a character’s story you watch their introductory scene for whatever chapter they happen to start in and they are kind of turned free into the world. You’ll have a list of objectives to achieve if it’s a battle, or a simple ‘go hear and talk to this guy’ if it’s before a fight. Which sounds good, right? Mixes it up a bit from just ‘kill all the things’. Except…

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It doesn’t. Because most of the objectives consist of ‘go kill this guy’. Sometimes you’ll need to talk to people and craft items for them or something like that, but it adds to the monotony rather than breaking it up. So every chapter tends to devolve into a shopping list of people to go and take out before riding off to kill the enemy armies leader and wrap things up. Which is another problem with the open world set-up. In an attempt to let players freely navigate the environment, you have a grappling hook available that lets you climb over cliffs, houses and the walls of castles you’re supposed to be laying siege to.  While it is utterly hilarious to just climb over the walls and open the doors to let your people in while they struggle with siege engines, it’s now super easy to just waltz in and kill the enemy leader without bothering to do anything else.

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So TLDR, my issue with this game is that despite a large amount of content, a ton of it is just copy paste. You’re left to either run through a list of tedious objectives again and again or just zerg the enemy main camp. So the game would be great if you only planned on playing through each kingdom once and then calling it a day. In which case they should have just kept the old model, where you would play through a story for each kingdom and just choose from a pool of officers who actually fought in that battle. This game really doesn’t benefit from being open world. Despite the effort that no doubt went into making Dynasty Warriors 9, it just doesn’t feel worth it. Which is a damn shame.

Sorry if I was a bit long-winded there, just wanted to make sure I got my point across. Like I said, it’s not a bad game, but it’s replay value just isn’t there and it’s hard to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth when it’s just too tedious to even play a third of the characters they included. What do you all think? Did you prefer the old format of Dynasty Warriors or do you think that going open world was actually a good move on their part? Let me know what you though, and as always, happy gaming all!

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