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Dynasty Warriors 9 Review: Not All Games Should Go Open-World

Dynasty Warriors 9 Review: Not All Games Should Go Open-World
From IGN - February 13, 2018
By David Jagneaux

Koei Tecmo and Omega Forces 21-year-old Dynasty Warriors series has never been a series known to step outside its comfort zone, but Dynasty Warriors 9 is not your typical Dynasty Warriors game. For the first time, the developers have retired the tried-and-true segmented mission structure in favor of a large, open-world map with missions, points of interest, and random activities scattered sparsely about. But if this is the vision of what a modern Dynasty Warriors game is, then Id prefer a flashback to the series more focused and co-op friendly past instead.

Combat in Dynasty Warriors 9 is its simplest joy, and at its height its like a ballet of beautiful, high-flying violence. Ive shot tornadoes out of swords that wrecked an entire battlefield, juggling dozens of enemies in the air. Ive rained ice and fire from the sky with the point of my finger. Ive even created a vortex of electric storms that erupted all around me during a flurry of sword slashes. The shouts of enemies in agony, my allies supporting me, and the sounds of my attacks rampaging through the battlefield meld together with the rocking soundtrack.

Basic combat is the expected simple button-mashing to cut down enemies along the path to victory, but now there are Trigger Attacks that let you stun, launch, and knock down enemies. You can then follow those moves up with Flow Attacks, which let you chain combos together and go directly into another Trigger Attack, or set them up for a Special or big Musou Attack. Flow Attacks act like the glue that connects all of the pieces of Dynasty Warriors 9s combat system together, and even though it basically just means mashing square over and over, it keeps the intensity high. Its a bit overwhelming at first, but once your thumb falls into the rhythm its all very natural.

If youve never liked how repetitive the combat is then Dynasty Warriors 9, unfortunately, wont do anything to sway that feeling. Despite the changes to the combat system it all still boils down to button mashing, but even so, it certainly does make a strong case for why mindless murder can be a ton of fun. Turning off my brain to just cut through swaths of literally hundreds of enemies on screen at any given time taps into a very special type of power-fantasy fun like few things can.

The downfall is that, from the very start, Dynasty Warriors 9 tries too hard to cater to too many types of gamers without doing any one thing particular thing well. Its open world checks a lot of boxes in terms of features, such as large open spaces to explore, tons of collectible materials to gather for crafting, and dozens of cookie-cutter missions peppered across the landscape from a variety of quest-giver NPCs without personalities. But despite all of the content there just isnt anything interesting or worthwhile within the open worlds borders. For example, you can go fishing and collect a bunch of crafting materials, but its all just a time sink since none of that is put to use in any meaningful way. The entire game is perfectly beatable without ever touching the crafting system, other than making healing items every now and then.

The open world also backfires when it comes to keeping the momentum of gameplay going. While its nice that you dont see many loading screens between missions, at least as much time is spent doing nothing of interest because you and your horse often have to gallop across vast, empty landscapes for minutes on end to get to your next waypoint. For every dramatic, flourishing step forward, Dynasty Warriors 9 takes a stumbling cascade of two or three steps backward.

Another example of that is the more serious take on storytelling. Dynasty Warriors 9 tells an intricate story from a wide variety of perspectives across various kingdoms, but there just isnt enough meat on the bones. You can bounce back and forth to see how the wars affect each empire in different ways and play out pivotal battles from different viewpoints, which is interesting, but theres little incentive to actually do that other than unlocking characters. The main story is presented in five different Kingdom-based arcs, each of which overlaps with the same 13 or so chapters. Each chapter under each Kingdom can be played through as a single character. Once completed you move on to the next chapter, and so on. After an hour or two of story missions, youll likely find yourself skipping dialogue just to speed things along a bit. Voice actors recorded thousands of lines of just standing around and talking about battles with a woeful lack of enthusiasm.

If you wanted to play through the story from each of the ridiculous 90 characters perspectives you could easily spend hundreds of hours doing so. They all share the same control schemes but vary in their speed and execution. For example, Cao Cao is a bit slower and more deliberate than average but delivers steady and targeted damage. Liu Bei, on the other hand, ravages enemies in a flurry of steel and lightning with his dual-wielded swords. Im confident in saying that there is very likely a Warrior to fit everyones playstyle in Dynasty Warriors 9it just might take a while to find them.

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