My Guilty Pleasure: Dynasty Warriors

I’m going to stray a little off course with this one. Having spent most of my time playing games I’ve either already spoken about or have no intention of doing so, I was struggling for a new topic to write about. That was until Sony was nice enough to give me £10 to spend in store because I’ve been a PSPlus member for so long. With pocket change in tow I decided to buy Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends. As I waited for the game to download I reflected on the series as a whole and why it

I remember back in the year 2000, a time when Tamagotchis and Pokemon cards dominated the school playground, Britney Spears dominated the charts but more relevant to this story, a time when video game magazines came with demo disks. I remember on one of these said disks was a demo for a game my brother and I had never heard of called Dynasty Warriors 2, upon first playing it we both we were hooked and played that same demo on repeat for hours on end. So imagine our faces when my little brother with birthday money in hand and I walk into Woolworth’s and see Dynasty Warriors 3 on the shelf. It was like Christmas in July. I remember how excited we were getting home to play it, It was also one of few occasions where I didn’t mind being player 2 (this was a rarity, but I didn’t put up the money for it so it was only fair). Little did I know that 20 years later I would still be bashing square like my life depended on it.

I think a lot of my fondness for the series comes from this story and the enjoyment I got from playing video games with another person physically next to me. Much like when we would link our 2 PlayStations together, bring down the TV in the bedroom to the living room and play Command & Conquer Red Alert Skirmishes together. It truly wasn’t because the Dynasty Warriors games were very good. They are terribly written/translated, graphically poor and repetitive. The thing they do manage very well however is that they are fun. Each of the characters, especially in the later games have very varied fighting styles and as such it’s easy to have favourites.

For anyone who hasn’t played a Dynasty Warriors game, the game is loosely based on the historical period in ancient China between the years 220–280 AD known as “The Three Kingdoms Period”. During this period the 3 main states of Wei, Wu & Shu fought for rule over the whole of China. You play as one of 50+ officers with varying different arrays of weapons some historically accurate, others not so much and play in various battles and skirmishes, during which you have to complete various objectives depending on the battle in question. The gameplay is straight forward, run around the map pressing square until things die, sometimes pressing triangle to shake your combos up and repeat until the battle is over. It’s simple, it’s fun and a great way to work off excess stress.

As the series went on each game started feeling quite different from the one that came before it. Each new title tended to add more characters to play as well as different weapon systems, enhanced graphics, new battles and re-imagined battles. They also tend to bring out new game modes but in all honesty I rarely ever play them more than a handful of times compared to the story mode (which is the bread and butter of the series).

If asked between Dynasty Warriors 3-8 to give a favourite I’d have to say DW4. I was originally going to say DW3 but in the end changed my mind because although I did prefer the weapon system from DW3 (people with similar weapon styles shared Lvl 1-2 weapons then got their own unique weapons from Lvl3 onward, while DW4 each character has one weapon that levels up with them) and that each character had their own story mode as opposed to each faction in DW4, as far as game-play and story telling goes DW4 took everything good about DW3 then tweaked and polished it making it a superior experience. Sadly since then it’s just been constant changing, “fixing” and arbitrary padding. The series has had it’s ups and downs since then but has never quite reach the heights of DW4.

A final thought. Where does the future hold for the Dynasty Warriors Series? I’ve yet to play DW9 and given the first reviews I was very reluctant to do so. I saw the poor scores come in for it and they put me off, however reading some of the reviews I found that some of the main problems were not with the core game itself but the way it runs (mainly in dreadful low frame rate and severe graphical issues). I might try it out sooner rather than later and set the record straight (or become another voice in the crowd, only time will tell). Then again the series didn’t get everything right the first time when it changed from the beat-em-up style of the first game to the hack-n-slash it’s become since then. Let’s hope a few more instalment will bring in a few more improvements and bring us back to the series back to the dizzying heights I remember.

EDIT: Upon completion of this article I downloaded the trial version of DW9 and I must agree that it plays awfully. The voice acting is dreadful (even for a Dynasty Warriors game), once you start combat with any more than a dozen enemies then the frame rate drops to an almost unplayable level. The open world aspect is missing a huge asterisks after it as it’s separated into 4/5 open worlds depending on the point in the story. Overall I do think if the aforementioned details can be fixed then it could be a step in the right direction for a series that has gone past stale and started to grow green spots of mould.

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