Admit it, you all know at least one gamer that has a cult-like affinity for Dynasty Warriors. That loyal following has propelled the franchise to iconic status and for over twenty years and has spawned several sequels and spin-offs since making its debut in 1997 on the original PlayStation. Omega Force and Koei Tecmo are set to unleash Dynasty Warriors 9, the first time the franchise has employed an open world environment that is so sprawling and huge that according to Omega Force Producer, Akihiro Suzuki, it will take about two hours to travel to opposite corners of the map by horse. Dynasty Warriors 9 tells the story of the Three Kingdoms starting with the Yellow Turban Rebellion and ending with the unification of China told in ten chapters that are based on real historical events and battles.
Despite its size, traversing the map is easy. You can travel by foot, horseback, boat, or fast travel to areas you have already visited. Free roaming around the map is useful in helping develop your character, not only will you find resources scattered around, you might run into a bandit or wild bear that will drop valuable items or materials. Along the way you can stop off for a bit of hunting or fishing which will also provide you with crafting materials. You can also buy and sell items from various characters and merchants that you will find located in most towns. Weapon crafting is a little different as you first have to find scrolls that contain blueprints, often there are more than one scroll for each weapon. Scrolls are obtained by completing missions or defeating certain enemies. Once you have all the required scrolls and materials, hit up your local blacksmith to craft the weapon. Gems can be added to weapons which will provide boosts such as elemental abilities.
The heart of any Dynasty Warriors game is that tasty hack and slash goodness and the one versus thousands mentality. Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn’t stray too far from the simple combat that made it famous but it does introduce some new moves with the State Combo System. This new system includes three new attack styles; Trigger attacks, Flow attacks, and Finish attacks which make for a fluid and fun gameplay experience. If your fingers grow tired from button mashing madness, you can use a grappling hook to climb up obstacles and stealthily take out enemies from above. However, the grappling hook itself cannot be used as a weapon.
Each character has a unique special attack or Musou attack and a preferred weapon, but can be equipped with any weapon of your choosing. All characters are also equipped with a secondary bow with various types of arrows.
The game unfolds in real-time and with changing dynamic weather conditions, which you can use to your advantage. Attacking enemies at nighttime or during a rainstorm obstructs their view of you making them easy targets. You can use bonfires that are found scattered around in the forests to advance the time of day.
Graphically the game and level design are quite good, although it doesn’t push the graphical power of my PS4 Pro (which it was optimized for) to new heights. I didn’t notice any drops in frame rates during epic battles where hordes of A.I. enemies were present. Some reports of frame rate issues on standard or slim PS4s have surfaced on the internet, but that will be cleared up at launch with the day one patch if you don’t have a PS4 Pro, or at least according to Koei Tecmo.
There are 90 characters to choose from, most are returning favorites, but there’s also a few new characters exclusive to Dynasty Warriors 9. Each one of their stories will play out differently, so, in theory, if you wanted to cover all story aspects, it would take you over one hundred hours. Each officer can be upgraded with points you earn from levelling up. You may also level up your trusty horse companions; different horses develop differently and once a horse has become legendary, you may sell it for a nice profit. I did encounter a bug that prevented me from progressing the story to the final battle, but fear not, a day one patch is set to go live when the game launches February 13, 2018, and you should not encounter any issues like I did.
There’s plenty to do and see in Dynasty Warriors 9 and given the variation of characters, the replay value will be high. Hideaways can be purchased and customized with furniture that will prove useful to character development, changing costumes, and writing letters to other characters that will eventually stop by for visits. These visits will endear you to other officers and your affinity level with these characters will be raised, and you will receive gifts from them. By placing furniture in the hideaways several functions become available to you. A pot allows you to craft, a stove allows you to cook, and a bed not only let’s you change the time of day, it restores your health. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of variation in quests and I could see the gameplay becoming monotonous to some gamers. I highly recommend you bump up the difficulty level from that of your usual comfort zone to really challenge yourself.
Often the dialogue is super cheesy and some of the voice actors are painfully bad or seem poorly suited for the characters they are voicing, but it also adds to the quirky charm Dynasty Warriors fans have come to expect. If we have learned anything from Mystery Science Theater 3000 it should be that it is ok to enjoy things that are unintentionally comical and imperfect. Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t reinventing the wheel but I had a ton of fun playing it.
Dynasty Warriors 9 PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.0/10
Dynasty Warriors 9 is good old fashioned hack and slash fun. Gameplay is fluid and addictive even if it is a bit repetitive. Some questionable dialogue and voice acting only slightly detract from the overall experience.
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Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.