One of the most common complaints about long running franchises is the lack of innovation. This belief has led to some amazing experiences and equally disappointing ones, with it all being execution. This is a lot harder for Dynasty Warriors, since the franchise essentially created a genre. Sure, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a turn-based RPG and the series started as a fighting game but most think of it as the game where you defeat thousands of enemies effortless. Dynasty Warriors 9 understands that we expect the traditional experience, while also accepting that change is good. With new mechanics, beloved historical figures and years of practice, is Dynasty Warriors 9 a delightful reimagining or does it fail to understand why people enjoy those games?
Dynasty Warriors 9 tells a story very similar to those in the past. The yellow turbans attack, people need to die, alliances are formed and more. Considering the series is loosely based off historical events and figures this is understandable and it does a good job representing the events. Something that fans and newcomers alike can enjoy, especially if you enjoy certain characters.
Even though the story is largely set in stone, the gameplay is not and is actually quite different from previous entries. Instead of having missions that revolved around killing specific enemies or in certain locations, Dynasty Warriors 9 is similar to an open and alive world, something that works quite well in theory.
Instead of having a bunch of isolated events that you’re told have an impact on the world around you, it feels like you’re having an impact here. Events will occur in the background, there are optional quests given by locals or just appear at that point in the story and you always have the choice to progress how you want to. This has the makings to be a fantastic game, except it isn’t executed very well.
For instance, instead of having seemingly endless waves of worthless peons, most places have a couple groups of enemies, lead by someone with a name, that you can prioritize or just take them all down. This causes the fighting to feel less thrilling, as the only enemy you need to care about is the named one, along with lacking the traditional games’ charm. Instead, we’re left with a mindless adventure that takes the worst from modern games and the traditional games.
One thing I never thought I’d say is Dynasty Warriors 9 has stealth mechanics and sections. They’re not nuanced in any way, you could quite honestly ride a horse past enemies and be safe if you don’t come into their field of view, but there is no denying their presence. This holds true for a lot of the additions.
Another odd addition is a crafting system, which involves running around, collecting resources and making things like weapon mods. These can be handy for certain moves, abilities and so forth, if you ignore the fact the AI isn’t bright enough to put up much of a fight. Even certain fights have mechanics, typically involving doing something and now they’re weak, with the AI not even attempting to stop me from removing the source of their power. It’s hard to take a villain seriously when you can run around, easily weaken them and have them cry out in frustration.
Since many of the changes were made to support an open-world style of game, a lot of time is spent going from point A to B. Places you’ve already visited/taken over can be fast traveled to, with new locations requiring you to walk/ride there. When riding on your horse you can set it on auto pilot and get there, a feature that would be helpful if it worked well. For starters, the predetermined path relies on roads, many of which are slower than simply going straight. Some of these have doubled the distance between me and the objective before making the way back. The waypoints also tend to make little to no sense.
There were a few times where the waypoint said I needed to go to one location, with an icon suggesting another, with the icon typically being correct. Sometimes this is because the waypoint requires you to interact with the icon before it activates, with other times being a mystery or perhaps design flaw. This makes auto travel useful, as it will typically take you where you need to go, instead of simply following the arrows.
In a lot of ways, Dynasty Warriors 9 is like trying to build a great house on a weak foundation. What is the point of auto pilot if the AI takes longer routes, ignores crafting materials and is perfectly fine with trying to run through a barrier? Is there an advantage to having mechanics, such as stealth, if all you need to do is avoid a red circle on the mini-map? Is there anything fun about fighting tons of enemies, even though you can easily walk to the boss, use the same combo and, as long as the boss lacks unflinching, emerge victorious?
I can’t answer these questions for you, but I can say Dynasty Warriors 9 falls short in almost every regard. Sure, the story is okay and there is an absurd amount of characters, complete with customization options and more, it’s just filled with mechanics and elements that feel entirely optional or thrown in for the sake of having them feel underwhelming. Where previous games allowed players to feel powerful by defeating an absurd number of dumb enemies, Dynasty Warriors 9 cuts out the middle man, leaving a shallow game feeling completely hollow.
[Editor’s Note: Dynasty Warriors 9 was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]