Dynasty Warriors 8 may very well be the first media supplement to put hair on your chest. Apparently, during the Heroic Age of China, the men are men, the women are sexy men, and the soldiers are running scared.
Dynasty Warriors 8 is the latest in Tecmo Koei’s series of brawlers. The goal of the game is to run around a large map and beat the stuffing out of anyone who gets in your way. This map is often made up of strategic points for the player to take and objectives to fulfill. Once all of the objectives are fulfilled, there is a brief interlude and the next fight takes place. Enemies range from varieties of foot soldiers, their unnamed commanders, their named commanders, and finally other playable characters. On the surface, gameplay is dead simple.
Gameplay is where Dynasty Warriors 8 shines. Combat is the result of refining the series over several previous iterations. There are over 70 playable characters. There are tons of weapons to choose from, each character is proficient with different types of weapons and can choose two weapons to take with them on the battlefield. And then there’s weapon affinity, weapon effects, companion animals, combo attacks, attack chains – combat may be repetitive, but all the different characters and weapons keeps it alive more than long enough for a single play of the game. It doesn’t hurt character response in combat is next to perfect.
The only possible downside to combat is how easy it is to demolish anyone. The Musou Gauge – a power attack – charges at a decent rate and characters can store up to three of these attacks. There’s a super-powered state called Rage, and that meter charges at a decent rate. Combine the two and characters can wipe out hundreds of enemies and even other playable characters in one move. The rock-paper-scissors weapon affinity can be fantastically abused; as being on the top of the affinity grants another area attack once the players smacks the enemy around a bit, and being on the bottom gives players the chance for a timed attack against the enemy. The AI is fairly weak as well. Playing on harder difficulties is recommended to spice up the game a little more.
There are three types of ways players can battle through Dynasty Warriors 8. Story mode is broken up by kingdom and has players fighting across the stage of history. And then Story mode mixes it up by giving players the opportunity to work towards a different, hypothetical ending. Just to be informative, that’s four kingdoms (since one of the three suffers a hostile takeover) and additional scenarios for playable characters not affiliated with one of the major powers. Then there’s Free mode, where players can use any character they want to rock face across different missions. Story and Free modes can be played online as well. Finally, there’s Ambition mode, where players fight battle to increase the presence of a community and ultimately attract a fleeing emperor to their ranks.
That’s a lot of stuff to do. Players will find Dynasty Warriors 8 to be perfect in replay value.
Dynasty Warriors 8 has a story: fight, fight, and then fight again. While each playable character has a motivation to fight – which will be stated as they join the cast or are faced in battle – there’s really little-to-no characterization. Instead of characterization, the main cast of characters is flagrantly dramatic. Speeches are given about ambition and honor a lot, and almost all of the characters represent the heroic or villainous ideals found during this era to the Nth degree. Many characters are “brothers” in the sense they have often battled together and watch each other’s backs. And everyone knows the time of their death and dramatizes accordingly. At one point, knowing he was about to die, someone actually ascended to heaven as a beam of light. There’s also a lot of male unity here without much of the homoeroticism one would think. However, even with playable female characters the game is definitely a huge bromance.
Another thing to keep in mind is the historical part of the game. The original draft of this review compared the characters of Dynasty Warriors 8 to the Justice League. This isn’t accurate – the Justice League needs to be compared to the characters of Dynasty Warriors 8. The characters are Ur-examples. If you are a fan of anime, manga, or comics; this is where the attributes and attitudes those heroes and villains take most of their cues from. The clashes, team-ups, story scenes and dialogue are hammy and dramatic; but are ultimately what a player should be expecting from the game. The game is a historical drama utilizing historical individuals. While some characterization would have helped; to complain about story would be like complaining the Titanic movie had a downer ending.
In addition to a ton of stuff to do, there is quite a bit to unlock and find – completing chapters unlocks characters, movies and cutscenes; defeating named characters adds weapons and animals for the characters to use in battle; using characters unlocks wallpapers; Dynasty Warriors 8 also possesses a monstrous encyclopedia.
The presentation of Dynasty Warriors 8 is a little jarring. The opening scene has people literally flying around Wushu style and generally being amazing. Some of the attacks in the game are amazing, but for the most part combat is fairly down to earth. Sound is quite good, and the rock ‘n’ roll battle tracks really push the action forward. The voices are passable, though the lack of a Japanese track is baffling. Actually, this is one game which should be dubbed in Chinese. Why the heck wasn’t it?
Graphics are a mixed bag. Playable characters look great and have at least a couple of well-detailed costumes to choose. However, the game can’t seem to decide on what its draw distance should be, often causing several objects to reappear and disappear haphazardly. The stages are large but bland, and it’s easy to get confused about the proper route to objectives without bringing up the full map and looking closely. On the other hand, there is no slowdown even when juggling a hundred soldiers at once. And then throwing them at their commander.
Also, this game has Lu Bu. Lu Bu is a prick. You would be reading this review one full day earlier if not solely for Lu Bu.
Trophies will take a long time to unlock. Many of the game’s trophies are only given when players completely unlock all characters, animals, weapons, etc. This will take time and patience, but many trophies will unlock as players try to experience all of the story and drama the game has to offer.
Outside of a rough start early on in the game thanks to Lu Bu during the Hulao Gate battles; the game plays very well. The combat is refined and easy to get into, and the amount of things to do and stuff to unlock will keep players coming back. Dynasty Warriors 8 has its drawbacks graphically. Some actual characterization would be nice to see. Dynasty Warriors 8 may not be the type of game a player will solely devote time. Instead, it’s best to accomplish a goal and come back in-between other games to savor some of that sweet replay value Dynasty Warriors 8 offers.