Review: Dynasty Warriors 8 [PS4]

Dynasty Warriors 8. What is there to say really. You will once again take control of Cao Cao, Liu Bei and a host of other Chinese legends all vying for control of the 3 kingdoms. Little has changed. Still, sometimes that can be a blessing. As the old adage goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

You can however tweak it and that’s what Tecmo Koei have chosen to do in this Dynasty Warriors outing. Dubbed “Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends” the game adds some new mechanics that will come as a blessing to fans of the series, as well as a new campaign type called “Ambition mode” which truly improves on the established Dynasty Warriors formula.

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Special moves are still ridiculously over the top in DW8:XL!

For the uninitiated, the Dynasty Warriors games are large scale action titles, that focus on open warfare, button mashing and military strategy. It’s an odd combination but it’s been working pretty well since 2000’s Dynasty Warriors 2 (the first game was a beat ’em up) and has only gotten better over time. Sure, it’s easy to say that you are still playing the same ol’ story, but it’s the incremental changes that mount up to make this feel somewhat new.

The romance of the 3 kingdoms is a well known tale that recounts a certain portion of Chinese history. It tells the story of the military general Cao Cao’s prominent rise to power and the ensuing warfare that followed. There are a number of factions to choose from each with their own campaign and selection of heroes. My personal favourite is the Wei Dynasty – the group led by the infamous Cao Cao himself.

Some of the additions in Dynasty Warriors 8 move it away from being a straight up button masher and more into strategical territory. Enemy commanders are much more fierce than they have been in previous outings, meaning you will need to use many of the new moves at your disposal when facing them. When commanders are blocking you will need to break their block by switching up your weapons – using the R1 button.

This performs a “weapon switch”  which breaks the enemies block and also ties into additional combos. The games “Musou Meter” (or special move bar) has returned but can now be  strengthened with “rage attacks”, performed by building energy through fighting and then clicking the right thumb stick. The way each map plays out also puts a greater emphasis on strategy, highlighting important objectives dynamically, as they appear.

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Man, Ancient China looks like a pretty awesome place… for a warlord.

Ambition mode is a nice new game type which plays out more like an RPG. You choose your character and must build a tower to gain the favour of the emperor. You do this by jumping into battles, gaining new followers, building your town and amassing fame. The thing I loved most about ambition mode, was that the fights are typically a lot shorter than those found in the main story mode, often coming in at 5 to 10 minutes, making this mode perfect for drop in/drop out sessions.

Visually the game looks … well, more or less the same as Dynasty Warriors 7, with some improvements to the general aesthetic – such as the costume designs. However, the resolution outputs at 1080p and I never received a single framerate drop – an important element in a game is vicious and intense as Dynasty Warriors. The game is also available on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PS Vita but I cannot tell you how they hold up to the PS4 version, unfortunately. The PC version releases later this month.

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The always awesome Lu Bu returns in Dynasty Warriors 8

The music is still as hilariously unfitting as ever, blaring Dragonforce-esque tunes over ancient Chinese battles. It’s really off, but in a funny, cheesy sort of way. Same goes for the voice acting, which has improved from previous outings but still feels as if it’s been performed by non-native English speakers. These are not derisions mind you. It’s these little quirks that made me fall in love with this series, and I’m glad they are still present.

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends does nothing to convert the Dynasty Warriors haters of the world. Instead it’s a love letter to the fans, adding more content than any previous version while also improving the combat substantially. If this series has always seemed overblown and button-mashy to you, then this entry will not change your mind. Though, fans of the series will find a lot to love in their return to the 3 kingdoms.

Now, Tecmo-Koei get to work on licensing a Game of Thrones/Dynasty Warriors spin off!!!

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