Dynasty Warriors 9 is as the name suggests the 9th mainline game in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. The game is developed by the same team that has developed every other game in the franchise’s history, Omega Force. As a result you usually know what to expect from these games, they are hack and slash games that require you to essentially button mash your way to victory and all loosely follow the same formula. However, Dynasty Warriors 9 has taken the same formula but introduced an open-world for you to explore. Has the transition to open-world reinvented the franchise? Or should Omega Force have stuck to what they know?
The story takes place in the same universe as the previous games, whereby the cast of characters from the previous games return as well as new characters. The game starts off with a rebellion from a group known as the Yellow Turbans. Working as an officer in the Imperial Court you must fight back against the Yellow Turbans and ensure peace returns. You start off as Cao Cao but as the story further develops and you progress through the chapters, you can choose to be other characters and follow their stories through the fictional history. The uniqueness of the characters in Dynasty Warriors are a strong point. For example, Cao Cao has a very strong character which I started to like the further I progressed through the game has him. Additionally, multiple branches for each of these chapters allowed me to view these battles through the eyes of other characters. This really gave a positive lasting impression on the story for me.
The game is set in China, and considering this is the first Dynasty Warriors game to be open-world, I was immediately impressed by the scale of the map. It is massive, and I could have gone around exploring it for hours, as opposed to actually progressing through the game and completing missions. There is very little in the way of restrictions which I liked. Furthermore, the game only really needed to load once before I got to playing the game, this loading taking less than 30 seconds. The gameplay as you may expect, is like any other Musou game. Essentially it involves button mashing to defeat tons of enemies in battle. This might sound repetitive but like other Musou games it is a ton of fun to play. All the same, new features incorporated into the game add more variety to the combat rather than to simply button mash.
Features including Trigger attacks add variety to the combat that other Musou games often tend to lack. Trigger attacks can be used to trigger a variety of different combos, e.g. launching your enemies in the air mid combo. It takes a little time to get used to but once I got the mechanics down I thought that it really added variety to the combat and prevented it from becoming repetitive too quickly. It really is rewarding to land these combos that you planned on executing, rather than mashing attack buttons that many other Musou games have. Furthermore, I liked the Reactive attack feature, for example one of these Reactive attacks involves closing down onto the enemies, launching a powerful attack that causes massive damage. I found moments from the reactive attacks deeply satisfying because they cause a ton of damage. Thankfully whilst the button mashing is still here because that what makes these games fun. The refined combat from the Trigger and Reactive attacks ensures that you add a different flair to your fighting style, each time you fight.
I was also surprised by the depth that this game has despite the impressions that these games usually give you. Each character has his or her own stats which can be upgraded as you level up. Accessories can also be equipped which enhance your character in different ways. Moreover, in relation to the Trigger attacks mentioned earlier, you can assign gems which can be used to enhance that attacks characteristics. For example, I assigned an electric type gem to my launch trigger which would cause lighting damage and increase speed, whenever I would use the launch trigger to launch my enemies into the air. The visual effects that came out of the sword as well as the damage the gems caused made it well worth my while to use them.
It is worth noting that missions, as you may have feared lack variety. Most main missions would consist of defeating the lead officers in battle. Outside of battling other things you can do include fishing, hunting and even mountain climbing, though these lack any real depth. However, when the combat and exploration is so much fun, the game can become incredibly addictive. In addition, stealth is apparent in this literation, as you would probably expect though from a Musou game, it is essentially meaningless. I couldn’t get it to work as someone would almost always end up spotting me. Friendly features include fast travel which as the name suggests is very fast, transitioning to a chosen place will result in a different time of day depending on the location which gave it more realism. The fast loadings and ability to save practically anywhere gave it a pick up and play appeal that you don’t see that often in open-world games these days. Additionally, other open-world games tend to bombard you with side missions. Whilst this game is no exemption, the Recommended Mission tab as it states, recommends what missions you should do. This is a nice way to break down the slew of side quests/requests that you will receive throughout the game. I also liked how smooth the transitions from exploration to battle were in the game, considering it is an open-world Musou game. For example attacking a base results in no loading screen.
In terms of performance however, setting the game to open world as clearly taken its effects, specifically on the Original PS4 (I was unable to test on a PS4 Pro). Firstly the pros are that, character models and their designs are very good as you would expect from an Omega Force game. In addition, the lighting is also good, for example on open fields during the night it would be pitch black (does not negatively affect gameplay in any way), only being able to see the shadows of objects such as trees through the Moon’s streams of light. Furthermore, torches light up small areas whereby the blades of the grass can only be seen clearly in these lit up areas. Additionally, the colour of these objects changing based on the colour of the lighting. The lack of lighting and its effects created an authentic historical experience that was visually appealing to look at.
That’s all I can say that is positive about the performance, from immediately playing the game I could tell it was different from previous Omega Force games. The developer usually has a good track record for games that perform relatively smoothly. However on original PS4 the game only runs at 30 FPS. This would be fine, but what makes it worse is that the game would often drop below 30 FPS which made the game visually poor and often an eyesore to look at. Moreover, this negatively effected the immersion that games like Samurai Warriors 4-II provided when that game was able to performed smoothly at 60 FPS. In addition, there were slight screen tearing issues as well as a lot of texture popping, making the graphics look very rough. It is worth noting that the game is still highly playable, it just mainly affects the visual appearance of the game. Animations are poor, and often glitchy. I was often going through objects and the horse was getting into some strange places. Furthermore, you should expect the unintelligent CPU that you get in all of these games, as well as characters popping up and disappearing from time to time. Luckily none of this effected the gameplay experience though, and if anything adds to silly charm that these games usually provide. However, considering this is supposedly Dynasty Warriors ‘Reborn’ and being a mainline title in the franchise, I was quite disappointed to see how this gave me impressions that the game felt like a budget title. Along with the menu that had heaps of empty space, making it unappealing to look at.
The sound in the game is relatively good overall and Omega Force once again did a great job of capturing the atmosphere of the Chinese lands. Dynasty Warriors fans will be glad to know that English voice acting returns. This stops you from needing to constantly read the text when someone usually says something, allowing you to remain focussed on the action. However, the English voice acting is a hit-and-miss with some characters sounding very good whilst others sounding strange. The inclusion of English voice acting, and considering the fact that there is a lot of it gave me a much more positive impression than a negative one though. Another negative of the voice acting however is that during battle it is usually repetitive, characters will often say the same lines over and over again which started to get annoying towards the end of my play through. Furthermore, I noticed a bug during the cutscenes that show the map of China and its situation, during these cutscenes there would be dialogue. However, the voice speaking would often cut-out before the entirety of the dialogue was read out which was rather unusual.
Dynasty Warriors 9, like its predecessors has a very large amount of things to do. Each character that you unlock, and there is a lot of them has their own branching story which means that it will take hours upon hours to complete every character in the game. Furthermore, outside of doing the main missions you have the option to completely experience the entire map by manually exploring it. Towers are in this game, which add things like materials used to craft gems, bases and hideouts to the map when you stand atop these towers, similar to Assassin’s Creeds viewpoints. The amount of replay value on offer here ensures that Dynasty Warrior fans as well as those who like action games have plenty to do after completing just one of the characters stories. Each character’s story on their own could take hours depending on what you do with that time. Additionally, the amount of characters you can play as adds variety to the game. Whereby each character has their own personalities to discover, leading to their own stories as well as their own favourite weapons leading to different abilities and combo variations.
Dynasty Warriors 9 has the gameplay you know and love from Musou games but with added depth and a massive China to explore and do battles in. However, the poor performance and visuals indicate that there have been some sacrifices made to get the game working on the original PS4, as a result of making the transition to an open-world environment. Yet, Dynasty Warrior fans as well as newcomers that can get past these issues are in for hack and slash treat, one that will keep you busy for months.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.