I’m tired of developers cramming the term “cinematic” down our throats. Cinematic has become nothing but an excuse for poor gameplay design. Instead of actual cinematic “experiences,” we are treated to, well, just cinematics. A cutscene doesn’t make a game cinematic. The Last of Us is cinematic because it blends excellent storytelling with engaging gameplay. Cutscenes in The Last of Us are the cherry topping. They tie elements together. They help with pacing and plot structure. They aren’t the entirety of the game. The Order 1886, on the other hand, is nothing but an ongoing cutscene, a stretched out tech demo. It’s everything that’s wrong with the AAA industry.
So, what do cinematic games have to do with Dynasty Warriors? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s why I get excited for every new Dynasty Warriors release. Developer Omega Force has spent their entire career crafting experiences that relish in old-school gameplay mechanics. They don’t concern themselves with extravagant cutscenes. That’s not to say their titles lack narrative. Quite the contrary. As any dedicated DW fan will tell you, the Warriors games are rich in intriguing historical references and diverse characters.
"Developer Omega Force has spent their entire career crafting experiences that relish in old-school gameplay mechanics."
Ultimately, it all boils down to gameplay. Value and gameplay. Omega Force doesn’t hide behind a curtain of uncertainty. They know what they’re good at, and they continue perfecting their formula. Omega Force should be applauded for not trying to appeal to everyone. Some gamers aren’t fond of their peculiar style, others (like myself) are diehard fans. If you don’t like their games, fine, there are a million other franchises, but there’s nothing wrong with developing for a niche audience.
Omega Force’s latest Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires has more content than most recent AAA releases combined. It puts games like Evolve to shame. Sure, DW has a lot of additional DLC content, but the core game has enough value to last a lifetime. The DLC stuff is just extra bling. If you’re not happy with the gazillion characters and costumes the base game has to offer, then go ahead and buy that $10 accessory pack if you really want a new hair style.
"When not slashing through hordes of enemies, you engage in politics and develop (or break) relationships with surrounding kingdoms."
Empires is the last stage of every Dynasty Warriors entry. It takes the arcade-style sandbox combat and adds RPG and strategy elements. When not slashing through hordes of enemies, you engage in politics and develop (or break) relationships with surrounding kingdoms. You can either start as a common soldier by creating a custom avatar with DW’s robust creation system, or you can choose a higher ranking officer from a wide selection of historical figures. Beginning with a low rank limits your decision making. You can engage in quests to prove your loyalty, you can recruit officers from neighboring lands, you can erect new buildings and form alliances, but once promoted to ruler, you become responsible for every aspect of your kingdom.
During war councils, you directly decide which policies carry the most importance: personnel, finances, diplomacy or battle. After each council, a series of specific objectives can be chosen that, if met, grants additional experience points. Will you form an alliance with a neighboring kingdom, or execute raids and invade your rivals? Will you spend resources on developing armories for your army, or build shops and academies to satisfy your people? All choices have long term effects on overall kingdom stability, as well as your social status. After defeating an opposing army, you can even recruit, release or execute enemy generals. If you execute a general, for example, you lose any future possibility of forming an alliance or receiving needed supplies. Alternately, recruiting an untrustworthy officer can lead to internal disarray amongst your army. There’s so much more to Empires’ intricate RPG system, it’s impossible to cover everything in a single review.
"One one hand, it’s about running around and effortlessly slicing through thousands of enemy soldiers, on the other hand, you’re learning how to strategically navigate and dominate the map."
On the battlefield, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires continues to offer the same kind of explosive action that series fans have come to expect. Empires isn’t a vast step forward like the recent Samurai Warriors 4, but the combat remains undeniably addictive. Before each fight, you can fortify home bases with defensive and offensive upgrades, you can equip your officer with combat enhancing stratagems and you can select the most suitable fighters to accompany you in battle. Dynasty Warriors has always been, and still is, a button masher with strategy. One one hand, it’s about running around and effortlessly slicing through thousands of enemy soldiers, on the other hand, you’re learning how to strategically navigate and dominate the map.
Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires disappoints the most when it comes to its visuals. Samurai Warriors 4 was a massive improvement over past Warriors titles. The game was gorgeous and ran buttery smooth. Unfortunately, Empires is a technical step backwards. Environments are bland, textures are low and most disappointingly, the frame rate drops when too many characters fill the screen. Character designs still impress, and the fps hiccups aren’t game breaking, but it’s a shame that more effort wasn’t put towards aesthetics.
Like with every Dynasty Warriors title, fans will love it and haters will hate it. Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires does nothing new to diversify the series, but it also doesn’t take away from its sound foundation. The lackluster visuals are disappointing, but the strategic depth combined with classic DW action justifies the asking price.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4