Dynasty Warriors is a series greatly carried by its fans. Crushing entire armies at the press of a single button has been what fans have enjoyed for years. But Dynasty Warriors 9 is an awkward and unrewarding experience. Hampered by an unnecessary open-world and lack of quest variation.
Exploring Open-World China
For the first time in the series, Omega Force has ditched their mission-based structure for a complete open world. At first glance, it is an exciting and promising idea, taking the large scale battles the series is known for and spreading it out to larger locations. But much of the open-world is empty, the battles few and far between. Given how the series has always excelled at its smaller mission based structure, this sandbox structure doesn’t fit at all.
While I do wish that Dynasty Warriors 9 stuck with a mission structure there are several positives to having an open-world. The war waging throughout China does feel large-scale and epic. You can actually use siege weaponry to attack major fortresses for example. Many of the locales are beautifully realized the first time you see them, but the drab and washed out color palette destroys that interest fast.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is visually inconsistent. Continuously sitting at 30 fps with constant dips, making the whole experience feel sluggish and choppy. The detail in the land is sparse and basic it would barely hold up as decent ten years ago. However the eighty different playable characters are mostly well-designed and look appropriate enough. But the nameless armies around you all blend together and never quite impress, their models vanishing into nothing, phasing through the ground or doing nothing at all.
One Versus One-Hundred
One of the biggest draws in the Dynasty Warriors series is its satisfying hack and slash combat. While it’s certainly possible to get through hundreds and hundreds of enemy soldiers by just slamming the square button repeatedly, you can change it up with stuns, aerial knocks and ultimates. This is where much of the fun comes into play, experiencing each character and grinding through their stories. It’s quite entertaining… for the first couple of hours. After that, you are more passably entranced than engaged. Slamming massive hammers or spinning floating staves around can spice up the action a bit but not enough to encourage replaying the same battle fifteen times. Especially when most of those eighty different playable characters feel like the same character with different hats on.
There are also hunting and crafting systems in Dynasty Warriors 9. Using your bow, which is otherwise useless against enemy soldiers, you can hunt wild animals and use their parts to make new weapons and armor. But much like the endless legions of enemies you cut down, the animals in this game act more like furry targets than actual enemies. Shooting several arrows into a tiger’s head while it stays in one place doing nothing is how every hunt goes, and it is boring. So boring it makes what little improvements made to your weapons not feel worth it.
Outlevelling The Competition
The world of Dynasty Warriors 9 is laid out with main quests and side quests. Every quest or battle you do in the game will affect the main story. By completing side objectives like capturing fortresses or defeating certain officers will lower the overall difficulty of the main quest’s final battle. This is a great way to get an advantage on an enemy that has been cutting you down attempt after attempt. It also encourages map exploration.
This dynamic leveling system is the most interesting thing Dynasty Warriors 9 has but it doesn’t really know what to do with it. While decreasing the levels of the enemies can benefit you in battle, the battle itself never becomes unreasonable. Combat is always manageable and never really gets out of hand. Difficulty mostly boils down to enemies having more health than normal. I would have appreciated a tougher difficulty forcing the use of the game’s more throwaway mechanics. But despite all the build up and planning, every major battle in the game can end with you just running past hundreds of soldiers, killing the boss, automatically winning. Which feels anticlimactic for a series whose claim to fame has been feeling like an utter god on the battlefield.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is a game that was once really good at one thing and threw it out the window to be mediocre at several. It has a massive map that feels like a chore to get through instead of a playground of possibility. The battles are massive but are easily undermined by poorly thought out systems. The crafting and hunting mechanics feel thrown in like an afterthought. The list goes on.
If you are a fan of Dynasty Warriors, there is some mindless fun to be had here, but the open-world design spreads the fun so thin that it is more tedious than exhilarating.