+Controls have been simplified for better ease of use.
+Massive open worlds that are ever-changing as the game progresses.
+Level scaling is done quite well, emphasizing the need for side-quest completions.
+Every character has open access to all weapon types.
-Problematic framerate spikes and character pop-in.
-Horrific English voice tracks that could have been left out entirely.
-Framerate dips do become problematic and take away from the experience the game has to offer.
In one way or another, there’s little to no doubt that you’ve some way encountered a Dynasty Warriors style game. In many ways, the franchise has been the quintessential experience within the very genre the games have created. Even if not a direct Dynasty Warriors title, there’s no doubt there may have been a chance you’ve played through games such as Fire Emblem Warriors, Hyrule Warriors or even Berserk and the Band of the Hawk.
Even if you haven’t dipped your toes in recent versions, Dynasty Warriors 9 is a solid place to start and could quite easily be considered the most complete version to do so with. Just like any title, the Warriors franchise is one that heavily improves itself with each new release and even manages to cut out the bad without changing its formula too much or too little by finding a middle ground while doing so.
For veteran players of the franchise, the roster will seem rather familiar as the franchises full cast of characters makes a return to the Three Kingdoms era of China’s history. Just as expected, the franchises key characters such as Lu Bu, Cao Cao, Lieu Bei, and even Jia Chang make a triumphant return. In truth, there are too many characters to name without filling up an entire post or two here on our site due to how huge the series has gotten and how many characters there are to keep track of.
Dynasty Warriors is more-or-less a staple of Koei Tecmo’s franchises and is their biggest hitter in recent years. The series has seen nine main entries with various spin-offs and re-release iterations that featured more content than the previous version and the series have even inspired an entire genre of its own. But in recent years, Dynasty Warriors 9 is the first to change up the formula. It’s the very first to make the move to a giant open world that’s meant to capture the sheer scope of the Three Kingdoms China, an era where one ruler beleaguered another for dominance of the lands.
As a game set to usher in a new era where the old menu-based elements of the series were traded in for something more organic and alive, the game faces off with several fundamental challenges. As an open world game, you imagine a team that had sat down at a table, each taking turns at playing numerous open world games, ones where fans applauded their success and voted for awards for those very titles. But instead, it seems none of that happened and a massive problem has once more appeared in the series.
But unfortunately, Dynasty Warriors 9 is perhaps a troubled title in a few ways. As a long time fan of the franchise, the idea of approaching open world sent shivers down my spine, and sparks of curiosity rushing through my mind. The idea of seeing this era of Chinese history come to life has magnificent appeal to fans of the franchise. They could take to the world about them, dashing towards hordes of enemies, eliminating the very threat that seeks to steal their lands.
Just like any other title in the franchise, Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn’t forget the roots it came from, there are watchtowers that you can climb in order to observe the lands and open up never-before-seen areas. Along with this observational takeaway from franchises such as Assassin’s Creed and Horizon Zero Dawn, comes a crafting system, sidequests, day and night cycles, hidden treasures, randomly spawning resources, asset recycling, and a stealth system that feels slightly out of place.
Toss in a bit of running about shopping and some fishing in the mix and you have the potential for a great open world game. To tell the story of The Three Kingdoms, Omega Force broke down the game into multiple chapters, each telling their own unique portion of the story. Of course, playing a member of each faction also means you’ll be revisiting multiple battles you’ve taken part of from different perspectives, which is both fascinating and quite frustrating when said and done.
By completing each chapter, each filled with their own objectives and battles players must complete, players will unlock the next chapter for them to complete, but also more characters to play as when they so decide. Seeing as each battle does occur from different perspectives, this enthralling approach is something rather admirable, but it does come at the cost of playing across multiple missions multiple times, which to some can be both tiring and quite frustrating after multiple playthroughs of a single mission.
To help break the monotony this could cause for fans of the game, Omega Force did manage to bypass this by tossing in the ability to carry over powerful weapons, items, and even horses between each mission. While this does help mitigate some of the rising frustrations players may have, Dynasty Warriors 9 does come need a bit of polishing in more areas than one. While this latest titles open world is a massive game-changer and works to the games advantage in many ways it also somehow manages to work against it in several more.
Unlike previous titles where you select a single mission and load in, the world is always active in real time. This means your camps, bases, and villages can falk under attack from opposing forces and could very well mean you may have more trouble than expected to keep your rightful land as your own. This time around, missions are picked up from NPCs that wander about the world as well as the various cities that call China’s lands home.
Dynasty Warriors 9’s open world is the big game-changer here, and it works to the game’s advantage in many ways. This time, missions are picked up from non-player characters out in the world, and among the different cities that dot the landscape. Although the old menu-based quest option is still there if you want to merely move from mission to mission, traveling from one area to another gives you chances to find peaceful moments between each battle that ensues. But the more interesting piece to this puzzle is the fact that your actions from each individual sidequest resonate throughout the world.
Each side quest completed helps lower the recommended character level for the main quest itself. If missions do come off as too challenging, it may be worth noting that these sidequests don’t take long and are rather easy to complete. Many of those quests only taking between 5-10 minutes to complete. But the same goes for taking down squadrons as you roam the lands in an open-world battlefield, which does change the layout of the frontlines as you give your clan the numerical and moral advantage against your foes.
While this does sound quite satisfying, it didn’t feel like it was played out as an integral role of the games core experience, and even comes off as a minor side-adventure that’s almost not required to complete the game. The only time it did was when I decided to crank up the difficulty in order to have a true challenge where enemies would knock Liu Bei about and almost eliminating him as a threat.
Even while taking down squadrons one by one, it does feel as if there is something missing. It’s almost as if, in ways, the world felt empty, and almost void of life while I darted from a castle to another castle. Rarely did I see people walking the streets, villagers taking note of my characters heroic deeds nor did I feel as if my character’s interactions really mattered to the peoples that inhabit the land. For an open world game, it still feels like Dynasty Warriors 9 is closed off in many ways. The map itself feels like a gigantic battlefield from previous titles, one that has been given a central focus simply being a hack-and-slash title.
Even with the lack of life and flourishing villages, Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn’t fail to amaze in other areas. It’s not uncommon to have the want to stray off-road in order to explore the road not taken. Often times you will find a pack of dangerous creatures to hunt or a band of dangerous foes that lie in wait for some unfortunate warrior to fall into their trap. But that doesn’t go to say that these optional open-world-activities are going to keep you busy. Even with the idea of fishing, of course, there would be fishing, they don’t feel inspiring. While you certainly get ingredients to craft items, they feel like an afterthought to the games core experience.
While the resources can be traded in at Dilettante, a vendor that deals in hunted goods, or traded in for various different currencies at the Coin Collector, who will trade you scrolls that serve as blueprints for crafted weapons, they still don’t feel completely necessary. A lot of this is due to leveling up characters and raising their stats to give them an edge in combat.
The world of Dynasty Warriors 9 is large, and by large, I mean its absolutely massive. With its size does come its own unique appeal, one that’s brought on by the unique design that Omega Force settled for; sparse, quiet, and almost void of life outside of villages. In many ways, it’s serene while riding on the back of a horse while darting between tree lines and shorelines before settling down at a campfire when night quickly approaches. The team even settled for the addition of day and night cycles as well as a full weather system that doesn’t bring just visual changes.
Weather and time cycles affect the game overall. Soldiers won’t march when the sun has set and bad weather such as rainstorms slow your troops down, causing them to sometimes find a garrison to temporarily call home until the weather passes. But sadly, as stated, it feels empty, it feels plain, and it’s not exactly the eye-candy you may have been hoping for.
More often than not, I’ve found many of the game’s textures to pop in from time to time and even lead muddied textures where structural pieces of buildings should be. Unfortunately, this happened quite a bit more than anticipated. But what is a bit more dumbfounding is the fact that Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t the graphical powerhouse that the franchise has been desperately needing for quite some time. Even while character models and costume designs are absolutely breathtaking, the game is still using moderately low-resolution textures, ones that feel as if they’ve been continually recycled since the PlayStation 3 days.
Toss in a mix of absolutely horrific English voice acting does exist, players can, fortunately, opt out of using the English voice track. A track that comes off as extremely inferior to both the Chinese and Japanese tracks players can choose from the main menu. While switching to the Chinese or Japanese voice tracks does make cutscenes a bit harder to endure, it overall will enhance the experience and truly give you a reason to appreciate the voice acting talent the company hired.
Additionally, you can also choose how you want the game to run if using a PlayStation 4 Pro. For the course of the review, the games ability to prioritize frame rate was highly appreciated and allowed for smoothed out frame rates during graphics intensive moments of combat. Sadly, the resolution option shouldn’t even exist due to the lack of performance it has to offer. Even with having the game locked at 30FPS and resolutions locked at 1080p, the graphics option struggles quite noticeably and rather noticeably dipping below its 30FPS lock.
Just like past titles, Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn’t take away from itself in any way when combat starts. Just like previous titles, your chosen hero character will move through countless numbers of enemies like a flamethrower being used to a pile of snow. Even with the technical issues aside, Dynasty Warriors 9 is truly an epic title, one where what the series truly shines when combat begins and hordes of enemies are put before the player.
Dynasty Warriors 9 – PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: Available Now
Overall, it’s clear that both Koei Tecmo and Omega Force have gone back to the drawing board and decided to figure out how to improve the franchise overall. In many ways, Dynasty Warriors 9 is a massive improvement over its predecessors. The new open-world approach is fresh, it’s fun, and it allows for the flow and pacing of its story to truly shine alongside the games core mechanics. Despite the wretched English voice track and obvious outdated graphics, Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t just a must-have for fans, but it’s one that allows Omega Force to find a new way to build their franchise from the ground up.
Given another game or two and Dynasty Warriors could potentially be one of the best open-world brawlers the industry has ever seen, but until then, this is as good as it gets for the well-established franchise.
Our review is based on a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPGs, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.