Dynasty Warriors may have started off as simply of offshoot of the RPG series Romance of the Three Kingdoms back in 1997, but it has far outgrown that series tenfold in the just over 20 years since. Koei Tecmo and Omega Force are the masters of their own musou genre and now they are looking to elevate the genre to new heights with the open world Dynasty Warriors 9.
Now nine entries deep into the mainline series, with many other spinoffs along the way, Dynasty Warriors 9 dives back into the story of the Three Kingdoms era that has been the basis of the story throughout most of the series. Rather than be a continuation of past entries, Dynasty Warriors is pretty unique in how it usually is retellings of the same types of stories from ancient China, with Dynasty Warriors 9 starting off with the Yellow Turban Rebellion. This game dives pretty deeply into that story across 10 chapters, making it very easy for newcomers to jump right in with this entry. While it may not have a very new story for veterans, the gameplay system and new game mechanics are the real reasons that will entice them to play.
The Dynasty Warriors series in the past has had players play through a series of various missions that placed you in different locations, with no connection between them on the map itself. Dynasty Warriors 9 removes that barrier from the past and goes with a completely open world approach, giving you a massive world to explore as you take on various missions. The game does look really good with this open world, though the level of detail and varying environments is nowhere near something like Assassin’s Creed Origins. Either way, this is new territory for the series and it is handled very well here for their first time.
Dynasty Warriors 9 takes a combat system that people have been familiar with over the years and builds upon it with the new State Combo system. As usual, players have both a regular and strong attack to use, which are done by pressing the X and Y buttons respectively. However, there is a little more to these attacks, as they are now situational. Depending on whether your player is in various states like on the ground or mid-air, pressing X will as part of a combo will result in different attacks, which are known as Flow Attacks. There are also Trigger Attacks available that let you launch, stun, or knock down enemies, which help you lead into the specific Flow Attack that you would like.
The more intriguing and different move though is pressing Y, called a Reactive Attack, as it relies more on your enemy and your positioning with them. If you are a little distance away, you can press Y to close the gap and attack, though if you are up close pressing Y can be most useful to break the guard of your enemy. Counters can also be done this way, which lets you know just when to press Y to counter attack the enemy. My personal favorite though is the finishing move that can be done almost randomly after dealing a certain amount of damage to that enemy, which instantly kills them, regardless of how much health they had left.
When you have a barrage of enemies coming at you at once, you can also press B to activate what is known as your Musou Attack. This is a limited move that you can only do once your Musou Gauge is full on the bottom left, so it must be used wisely. In addition, each officer has their own specific Special Attack that you can activate in battle. I love trying these out with different characters, of which you will unlock pretty early in the game. These are also limited, so it’s best to save them for dire situations in which you really need them.
Being set back in this time period, the bow and arrow has been part of the series for awhile now. That is no different in Dynasty Warriors 9, but now there is a new mechanic that makes them even more useful. You still have the ability to pull your bow out at anytime and fire away, with multiple arrow types as well. However, now you have more of a reason to use this tactic thanks to the grappling hook. The grappling hook lets you climb up walls and buildings rather quickly, giving you a tactical advantage in battle by being high up and being able to shoot enemies at will. Using a bow is always one of my favorite weapons in almost any game, so I found myself doing this all the time.
While the combat is as enjoyable as ever and flows very smoothly, the one aspect that really plagues the gameplay at times is the camera. While it can get annoying out in the open areas by having the camera move around, though you can lock onto the captains and such to help, this becomes a bigger problem when inside bases and areas that the camera can get stuck on. You will be twisting and turning as you hack and slash, and it just sometimes feels like the camera gets left behind and you have no idea what you are slashing at. You can move the camera at will with the right analog stick, but it feels like more could have been done with it to have it better follow your character in battle without having to always move it manually.
On the plus side, Dynasty Warriors 9 performs quite well most of the time, which is pretty impressive with their first implementation of a full open world. There were definitely still some moments of slowdown in the large crowds of enemies, though it wasn’t gamebreaking in any way. I did come across a few bugs that forced me to reset the game to continue, one being a freezing on an in-game menu and the other had a character that was required for the mission just not showing up. After reset it worked fine, so it wasn’t gamebreaking in anyway, more just a minor annoyance.
Dynasty Warriors 9 offers players a fairly basic well structured missions system that mixes missions that are important to the story, as well as those that are simply side missions. Whenever you take on a new mission, it will pop up on your Missions/Requests screen, with them often having sub-missions as well that will help better your chances on the overall quest. This screen signifies the different mission types with varying scrolls, with normal and critical being the base types, as well as the requests you take on by talking with various NPCs in the game.
You can run typically skip past all of the smaller missions and go right for the main one that will advance the story, but that also comes at the cost of facing much higher level enemies than you would have otherwise. As you complete specific missions and allow more allies to advance, you better your chances at being successful by lowering the difficulty level for other missions.
This idea also works itself into the actual missions as well, with there being somewhat side tasks for you to complete that will make your life easier. There are often named leaders that will be using certain magic spells to make it more difficult for you to fight enemies, but taking them down means that they will stop. You can technically just power through and skip that along the way if you want, giving you a lot of choice in this game.
Choice is something that is prevalent all through Dynasty Warriors 9, as you have this giant world map to explore and can choose basically what you want to do and how you want to go about it. There are obviously some missions and tasks that has to be done to advance the story, but the majority of the game allows you to decide how you want to tackle it by yourself.
Players also get to decide just how they want to level up their different officers in the game, which occurs through the game’s upgrade system. As you gain higher levels, you will receive upgrade points that you can spend across seven different categories like health, power, and speed. On top of that, you can also switch out with new equipment and accessories to bolster that character in battle as well. Taking it a step further, you can infuse your weapons with various gems across your Trigger Attack and Reactive Attack that give various boosts that are very useful in battle.
There are many characters for you to choose from and customize in Dynasty Warriors 9 too, with 90 total to choose from. This includes the 83 that were available in the last entry, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires, as well as seven additional. You start the game off as Cao Cao, but will soon unlock plenty of other officers to switch between as well. This wide roster is pretty impressive, especially considering we’ve seen the cutting of playable character numbers between entries in the past, so it was good to see this many available from the beginning.
With the brand new open world experience found in Dynasty Warriors 9, horses are more important than ever this time around, with you getting to get even better horses as the game goes on. The giant map would take you forever to traverse on foot when traveling to areas for the first time, which means a lack of fast travel options at your disposal, but thankfully you have your horse to help. By holding down the left trigger, you can call upon your horse and ride around at will, with a limited sprint option available as well. This is incredibly satisfying when you can use this to run at enemies and pull out your sword and start slashing as well while up on your horse.
You also have an auto-run option that sounds like a great idea at first. However, it is handled very poorly as you will soon find your horse running into trees and obstacles. They will typically run into the object enough that it will cause you to move to the side enough to get by, but this is something that really takes you out of the experience and makes you avoid using auto-run. The biggest problem that causes this issue though is the game’s frustrating waypoint system that is way too reliant on specific paths.
Whenever you are trying to get to a new mission or just a specific spot on the overworld map, you will have a circle around your character that has an arrow showing which direction you should be heading. Unlike games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn however, this system is not very intuitive and will have you turning around in the wrong direction way too often. In fact, you’re better off just looking at the mini-map and seeing which is the best direction to go that will save you time and the frustration of having to deal with the waypoint.
With gameplay that is relatively what you would expect, though with a more flow based system implemented this time around, don’t expect Dynasty Warriors 9 to break the mold entirely this time around. The open world setup is definitely the biggest change this series has had in a long time, which has us even more excited about the future of the franchise.
Musou style games often struggle to stand out from the rest of the pack as a result of the similar gameplay and mission structures. Dynasty Warriors 9 goes against this trend by managing to expand on the typical musou formula with a big open world experience for the first time in the series that pairs well with the familiar gameplay and story, which all combine to make a very enjoyable game that are built for veterans and newcomers alike.
8.0 Bases Captured Out Of 10
Release Date: February 13th, 2018
Available Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PS4, PC
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Disclosure: Dynasty Warriors 9 Was Provided By The Publisher For Coverage Purposes