July 16, 2013
If you're new to the Dynasty Warriors scene, the entire franchise is based around the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It's a story which talks about a rather influential period in Chinese history, where three factions vied for power: Wei, Wu and Shu.
It's customary that you're able to play through campaigns for each of these factions, but after being introduced in recent interactions, Jin is now also a mainstay when it comes to the story campaigns. Additionally, you can now play an "Other" campaign, which opens things up a bit.
To change things up a little, you now don't control the same character throughout the story. Instead, you must pick out of a selection of 3-4 before each chapter of the story begins. It helps to keep things fresh, although it will undoubtedly annoy some people who have very specific favourite characters. The good thing about this is that elements of the story will change ever so slightly depending on which character you choose to play as.
Outside of the Story, Free Mode makes a return. This allows you to undertake any mission you've cleared throughout the campaign, but it does also open up different possibilities. For example, at Luoyang, you can choose either "Escape from Luoyang" or "Eliminate Dong Zhuo". It helps to give Free Mode a bit more spice, outside of being used to just level up your characters.
The major new mode is Ambition Mode. This merges together elements of Conquest Mode from Dynasty Warriors 7, with Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires.
Your objective in Ambition Mode is to try and build a Tongquetai, with the hopes of encouraging the Emperor to visit it. However, quite a lot of work needs to be undertaken before he'll even consider making an appearance. It builds upon previous concepts of having a little "town" where there are shops, but you'll also need to recruit officers, procure fame and gather materials.
When you choose to leave the town to undertake battles, things start to get much more interesting. You get the choice of four different battles to enter into, but they will help you to accomplish different things. First up, you can become embroiled in Skirmishes. These are often very quick, but are good for gaining materials. Next up, there are Great Battles. In this type of fight, there will be considerably more officers on the battlefield - beat them and you will gain them as allies. Last up, you have the Unconventional Battle. By taking part in these, you'll be able to obtain fame more easily.
It's worth pointing out these types just help boost these elements. For example, you can gain allies in any battle, but Great Battles allow you to gain more in one sitting.
Due to the nature of this mode, it actually has quite a through tutorial. It's appreciated and helps you to understand why you need to assign a famous officer to look after the local tearoom.
Now, how about the combat? Quite a lot of it has stayed the same, but there are some core changes which are sure to please fans.
You'll still be mashing the square button in conjunction with triangle, but that's what the franchise is famed for. And while it would have been nice to see this expanded upon, everything that we'll talk about from now on more than makes up for this.
First up, you've got the "Commander Affinity" system, which actually leads on to many of the other changes. In essense, every weapon in the game is classified as either "Heaven", "Earth" or "Man". It works as a trinity, where "Heaven" is more effective against "Man", "Man" is more effective against "Earth", etc. This means that officers can have advantages over others depending on which weapons they use.
When approaching an officer, a symbol will appear above their head if your weapon is effective of ineffective and this can make a huge difference to combat. While fighting against someone who has a superior weapon, you're able to perform a "Switch Counter". This gives the weapon-switching mechanic introduced in Dynasty Warriors 7 some real purpose, as if you time it right, you can counter a strong attack.
The other main element to the "Commander Affinity" system is the "Storm Rush". If you're fighting against someone who is weak to your weapon, a blue gauge will appear above their name. Pepper them and this will get broken and when it's gone, you will perform a Storm Rush. This allows you to perform a ton of attacks without rely.
These additions, plus the return of the "Rage" mechanic, help to make the combat feel very fresh. Sometimes Dynasty Warriors could get a little bit repetitive, but these new mechanics require you to do some micro-management. It's not a massive change and some elements have been in previous Dynasty Warriors games, but the combination just works.
On the graphical front, the PS3 version of Dynasty Warriors 8 is very smooth. Even with a huge raft of soldiers on the battlefield, and Musou attacks flying around everywhere, the framerate never drops. It's impressive.
Even more so, it's very pleasing to see that Omega Force has re-developed a lot of the stages that people had become so familiar with over the past few games. Even though the story is still the same, this new look helps to give the battles fresh purpose - they just feel more engaging now.
Perhaps the biggest and best change though, even taking into consideration everything that's already been talked about, is that you can now play huge chunks of the game co-operative online. This is a huge deal, as previously the game could only be played locally via split-screen, and anyone who's played that will tell you that the experience is quite diminished in that capacity.
You can play online co-op through each of the different campaigns, but you can also play Ambition Mode online once you get past the tutorial.
To be blunt, Dynasty Warriors 8 is the best Dynasty Warriors game in existence. It pulls together elements from previous games, while also introducing some new brand new ones to create a fantastic blend for fans. These additions also make it the most approachable for newcomers to the franchise, and it means that Dynasty Warriors has evolved from simply being a mindless button masher. The ability to now play through the Story Modes with a friend is the icing on the cake.
Dynasty Warriors 8 was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.