Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires Review –Dirt Empire (PS4)
Building empires, forging alliances, and slicing down thousands of enemies — these are some of the things that Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires allows players to do. It is a fun, strategic, and wacky game, building off of its prequels with ease. It also puts a bit of a new twist on things, by vamping up the character creation process and really letting players take hold of their own experience.
Forge Your Destiny
This, for me, was the most enjoyable part of Empires. Unlike some of the past Dynasty Warriors titles, Empires gives players a chance to create their own playable characters, soldiers, flags, horses, and more, proving a huge amount of clothes and accessories to do so. While building my character, who I named Ping in a reference to Disney‘s Mulan, I was blown away by the sheer number of changes I could make to him. I could change his age, his hair, his clothes — all things that modern RPGs allow players to customize. While this isn’t really a novel idea, I appreciated that Koei Tecmo was able to incorporate it into the game to the point where I was even able to choose how long I wanted my horse’s neck to be.
Of course, players who would rather just jump into the game can do so as well, as all of Dynasty Warriors‘ colorful characters are in Empires and can be used. But, it is clear that Empires doesn’t really want players to do that, at least not in its aptly named Empires mode, which is the bulk of the game. Here, players are able to take control of various territories in an attempt to rule all of China. Pre-made characters usually begin this mode with a small country to rule, allowing players to instantly start making tricky political decisions. Handmade characters, on the other hand, are sort of pushed into starting as a vagabond and must attempt to get a job working as a lowly officer in someone’s army. Over time, promotions can be had, and various political situations can lead the player into ruling over a territory. While this makes the game longer, it also makes it more personal in a way highly reminiscent of the Mount and Blade games.
Swing, Swing, Swing Your Sword
If, however, you aren’t really up for a long game, then Empires has got you covered. There are several other gameplay modes that essentially put players into an instant battle. The battles can either be quest oriented, such as “slay tigers that are terrorizing this merchant,” or can mirror one of the largest invasions that can be found in the Empire mode. To make the battles as fun as possible, Empires allows players to choose which maps to play on, which officers to fight with and fight against, and so on. Essentially, it gives players to chance to experience the massive battles that the Dynasty Warriors titles are known for without having to deal with all of that political stuff.
Unfortunately, these battles are not really as exciting as they should be. Actually, at times they can be downright boring, which might have to do with the extreme similarities in all of the different maps, all of which share a common theme — dirt. Almost every map in Empires is filled with grey dirt. There are rarely any maps with any sort of greenery, and the most exciting thing that players might find are little ponds. Sadly, these ponds are so poorly done up that they don’t actually look like bodies of water at all, but instead look like strange glitches. Poor visuals, like these is another thing really taking away from the enjoyment of the battles. Instead of seeing beautifully rendered characters, animals, and structures, everything just sort of looks like it was poorly yanked from a PlayStation 3 game and slapped onto a PS4 disc. No footprints ever grace the dirt, each character’s face has a sort of blank look about it, and the special effects, such as explosions, are laughable. This, coupled with the poor enemy AI, makes battles lose their excitement fairly quickly.
It is to be expected that the enemy AI in a Dynasty Warriors game is supposed to be poor, at least in terms of the peon soldiers. They are meant to be killed by the thousands, and their main strength comes from their large numbers and not their intelligent or strategic gameplay strategies. However, the officers, who are actual, named characters that fight in your army, are supposed to have a level of intelligence comparable to the player’s, especially since enemy officers are meant to be almost like mini-bosses. So, you can imagine my disappoint when I found three different officers in three different occasions just running around in tiny circles. They were on my own side, so I ran up to them and tried to push them out of their little running ruts. Nothing really happened, and the tiny circles continued until I eventually moved on.
I never noticed the enemy officers do this, but I also never saw them apply any real strategy, either. Mostly, they just blocked, while the larger, more brutish officers would swing their hammer or clubs around wildly. I would occasionally get brought down by an officer of a much higher level, but this was somewhat rare, even when playing on one of the harder difficulties. No, instead I usually lost because one of the enemies would take over my base. If there is one thing that really does matter in Empires, it is planning ahead.
This applies to both the battlefield and the politics in Empires mode. In battles, the player needs to always be aware of where his or her own troops are, and where the enemy’s troops are, and make decisions based on that. There are four orders to give in battle — attack, defend, escort, and delegate. They are all fairly self explanatory, with delegate meaning the troops do as they see fit, which is usually something stupid. I found that trying to figure out when to attack or defend is incredibly important, as attacking might draw away too many troops from vital defensive posts, while defending only allows the enemy to continually attack without repercussion. These choices become especially hard to make when the number of enemy troops greatly outnumbers your own, which can happen in a player isn’t careful enough with his or her political actions.
During the time in between battles, players are able to perform a number of complex and strategic political actions. More and more actions are unlocked as the player moves through the ranks, until finally, upon reaching the level of Emperor, every political move is at the player’s disposable. This means the player has the ability to make alliances, start wars, defend territories, donate money to followers, recruit troops, and more. Only one action can be taken a turn, and if a player is forced to defend a territory instead of recruiting that officer he or she wanted to get, then that is just too bad. Learning how to properly navigate this political arena while making sure there are enough troops, money, and materials to keep one’s country going is no easy task, but it adds in a certain level of strategy that is similar to games like those in the Total War series.
Without the heavy emphasis on strategy, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires would be a fairly dull game. With its poor character AI, bland environments, and underwhelming visuals, actually fighting in Empires gets repetitive and old pretty quickly. But, because of the vast number of customizations one can make to their character, and the numerous strategic and political decisions to be made, the game ends up being not bad in the end. It’s hard to say if it’s worth $50, but if you are a hardcore fan of the franchise then you might want to give it a look.
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