The Dynasty Warriors, Warriors, or Musuo, franchise, depending on what you want to call it, may be one of the most iterated properties in gaming. We’re up to the ninth numbered entry and you can add to that the Warriors: Orochi games and countless licensed titles that have followed a similar vein. Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a bit different from what you might expect, though, as it brings us 1 v 1000 action in the form of an isometric, turn-based strategy game. The game is now available for PS4 and PS Vita and our reviewer has been going hands on through the past week to bring you his thoughts on Omega Force’s effort at strategic conquest, below. We’ve also gone and included a lovely gameplay clip for you above. Because we’re nice like that.
Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers asks an interesting question, ‘What if you combined the larger-than-life heroes and flashy moves of a Warriors game with turn-based, strategic gameplay and gave it an original narrative thread that intertwines with the standard ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ storyline?’ Unfortunately, the answer to that question is that you get a fairly average game that satisfies neither the deep strategy fan in me nor the part of me that relishes destroying hordes of enemies in typical Dynasty Warriors fashion. That’s not to say it’s entirely without merit. Taken on the go and enjoyed in small doses, the game could provide some fun for gamers looking for a light strategy experience. Join me below as I discuss just why Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers didn’t quite hit my sweet spot.
The core of ‘Godseekers’ is the gameplay, an endless string of grid-based, strategic battles in which you’ll utilise any of a huge number of the familiar characters of the Dynasty Warriors series (five or fewer at a time). Each of your ‘hero’ units is as seemingly indestructible as their regular series counterparts and you’ll use a combination of clever positioning and carefully selected attacks and combos to devastate waves of enemies at a time. Lesser enemy units are like wheat before the scythe of your heroes’ attacks and enemy officers are the only adversaries that have a hope of even standing for more than a single turn. You’ll take turns moving each of your heroes across the squared-off maps, based on the character’s mobility stat, before selecting attacks and attempting to wipe as many enemy units off the map as possible. As such, most of the strategy in the game comes from making the most of your character’s movement to out-position enemies. Selecting the correct attacks for a situation is also important, balancing this with the limited action points you have per turn to do the most damage possible.
As I mentioned, there really isn’t much threat from the enemies themselves throughout the campaign. Instead, strategy fans will find that the challenge comes from pulling off the biggest and best attacks. As you defeat units in Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers you’ll get a score based on the attack, damage done, and units defeated. This score goes toward building up your ‘synchro gauge,’ a combo system that can be activated with nearby allies and allows you to set up movement and attacks with each character and a devastating finisher before unleashing them all at once. It’s powerful, fun to watch, and clever use of the system will let you steamroll even the later campaign missions on normal difficulty. This brings me to my main issue with the game, there’s very little challenge to be found in the strategic decisions. ‘Move where you can, attack big enough to kill units without wasting points’ is the only tactic you’ll need to use for the most part. Terrain bonuses and flanking are the only things that add any nuance to your choices.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t attempt to vary the challenge. Campaign missions and side missions will have you criss-crossing the maps trying to balance defending key units, taking out enemy targets, even pulling off battle changing elemental attacks courtesy of your companion Lixia. The method of achieving these objectives, however, will remain the same from the first battle to the last. Eliminating enemy units as fast as possible is usually the key and even the aforementioned supernatural assistance of the elements is usually just a case of reaching a certain location to trigger a cutscene. An extensive character progression system makes up for some of this lack of depth. Each of your ever-growing roster of officers has a skill board where you can purchase stat upgrades and passive abilities with points earned in battle. They will also learn new attacks through levelling up with experience gained from kills and there is a tiered loot system for weapons that provides an often compelling reason to achieve bonus objectives in battle and come away with more treasure chests for more opportunities at snagging a rare implement of death. Again though, the light challenge level means you can tackle the game without focusing too much on these aspects if you wish.
If collecting characters and loot really isn’t your thing, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers offers another carrot to draw you through its lengthy campaign (I spent roughly 40 hours completing the game, with some side bits, you could probably tackle just the story in about 20-30). The game centers on the story of friends Zhou Yun and Lei Bin and their meeting with a strange being who has re-awoken after being sealed away in the ancient past. This incredibly old lady/young girl/not really a human at all tells you that her power has been scattered after defeating a great evil in this distant past and the story soon turns to helping her recover these powers in order to return home. This quest takes you across the whole of China, the powers are in the hands of the various warlords of the three kingdoms and most aren’t too keen to part with them. The story adds a different and entertaining spin to some of the stories, battles, and relationships that the main series has explored in the past and the cutscenes themselves are nicely presented. This is slightly let down by the ending, which decides to go for a weak ‘they all lived happily ever after’ before conveniently erasing everything that happened from the canon with a loud cry of ‘Deus ex machina!’ (not literally).
Augmenting the story is a feature called the ‘path of destinies.’ These are essentially time lines for each character that give a little insight into their interactions with other characters across the extensive lore behind the series. Each time line has various punctuations in the form of conversations with other characters that are unlocked as you complete milestones and progress the story. Listening to these conversations nets you tangible rewards in the form of items, currency, and can even unlock new battle scenarios and characters. Some conversations are mildly interesting but to be honest I found myself skipping through most to collect the rewards. This will probably appeal more to wider series fans who are invested in certain characters as they maintain consistent personalities. For anyone new to the experience you’ll likely find it difficult to care about characters you can barely remember encountering and their thoughts on justice, honor, or whatever it is they’re talking about at the time.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is available for PS4 and Vita and as a result it’s no graphical powerhouse, as I’m sure you’d expect. Close up, character models look good enough even if environments don’t match up in quality. You can see why this trade-off is present as well, a big part of the battle’s presentation comes from the attack animations of your heroes. Execute your orders and you’ll be treated to close-up scenes of your characters performing the corresponding attacks with animations taken straight from the main Dynasty Warriors series. Many of the heroes’ combos and Musou (special) attacks are accounted for and it adds a bit of a visual highlight to the slow, turn-based gameplay. There’s even a menu option to switch the attack animations from the grid based, isometric view to a more dynamic camera that gives a more ‘Warriors’ feel to the attacks and I highly recommend using it. In fact, I’m not sure why it isn’t the default option. I have to say though, as much as I was a fan of these attacks, later in the campaign I skipped animations altogether more often than not in favour of resolving turns more quickly.
This strategic interpretation of Dynasty Warriors feels to me like it would be best taken on the go any concerns I have over its repetitious nature could be solved by taking it a few battles at a time. It’s strange then that the options for speeding up your experience in battle are limited. You can skip the animations of individual units but you still have to wait for each ally and enemy unit to act in between your turns. This doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that later campaign missions can start with fifty enemy units on the board. It drags out some of these later missions into lengthy affairs. If you play this on your Vita, family and friends may start wondering why your bowel movements are suddenly taking half an hour. I found myself wishing, at least a few times, that there was a way to skip to the resolution of an enemy turn.
I rarely criticise the music in games but on this occasion I just feel like there isn’t enough of it. As I said before, there’s at least forty hours of gameplay here and I remember three tunes. It’s possible that there are many battle themes that are subtle variations on each other and I just didn’t notice but this really felt like I was listening to the same themes over and over again. It’s the same competent combo of eastern flavoured menu music and guitar-riff laden battle music you might expect but I imagine many will be muting these tracks before long. On the plus side, the voice acted cutscenes and main storyline vignettes are well performed (In Japanese only, no English voice track) and add some interest to proceedings as you go through the campaign.
It would be unfair to call Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers a bad game, what’s there works. There are no technical issues and the only oddities occur when attack animations infrequently execute against blank squares, though damage always calculates correctly in these instances. It would be more accurate to compare it to an experiment with inconclusive results. Dynasty Warriors attacks add flair to what is otherwise a slow strategy game but the depth of that strategy is lacking. One thing it does do successfully is recreate the slightly smirking feeling of wiping out swathes of enemies in a single blow that the Warriors franchise is famous for. For me, that just wasn’t enough to sustain my interest for the full game largely due to the fairly hum-drum downtime between these moments. Play it if you’re a die-hard Warriors fan, someone looking for a strategy game that doesn’t make you think too hard, or if you want something that will help you while away boring commutes on your Vita. Look elsewhere if you want a deep strategic experience.
Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers PS4/PS Vita Review
Overall - Good - 6.0/10
Not really one for strategy fans but if you want a game to play in short bursts on the PS Vita then the sheer amount of missions and characters will keep you going for quite some time. Some flair here and there in the animations and storyline pushes Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers just to the ‘play this if any of the above sounds appealing’ side of mediocre.
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*Reviewed on base PS4.
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Dom is a gaming orphan; after his surrogate father SEGA was killed in the console wars, he was adopted by Sony and raised by various PlayStation consoles. He swears he’s not biased in any way though, so that’s good enough for us.