February 29, 2012
The game features the age-old story of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and in the campaign mode, once you reach a certain point in the story, you're able to then go in and choose which Kingdom you want to side with as they try to take over all of China. Each one has their own progression, but the end result is always the same.
To those who are unfamiliar with Chinese history or the Dynasty Warrior games, the story can actually become incredibly confusing with all the different character names and locations. Though, in the end, the story is only one of the reasons to play Dynasty Warriors.
Another reason is the combat. It's what people either love or hate about the franchise, so if you adore the hack-n-slash genre, you will fall in love with Dynasty Warriors Next. If you can't stand hack-n-slash, it's not going to do anything to convince you otherwise.
Each stage is a battleground where you are tasked with taking over the enemy's main base. In most cases, you can run directly into the base and claim it by defeating a certain number of enemies while inside it. However, you'll want to go take control of some of the enemy outposts first (also by killing a certain number of enemies). In doing so, you not only reduce the number of enemies in the main base, but each outpost has a certain combat boost that will aid you. Some will allow for items to drop from the mini-bosses while others will increase your attack power and defense. These bonuses are absolutely crucial when playing on the harder difficultly levels.
A new addition to this installment is how you prep for battle. Before you start a new stage, you'll be able to choose certain stratagems. A stratagem is basically a boost or a power-up while fighting in a stage. Each stratagem costs money to use, but at the higher difficulties, they are absolutely necessary. In addition, players will be able to choose a different horse (if they've collected them), a gem that will give them certain physical attack bonuses, and items that will help increase certain attributes like speed, item drops, etc.
But, the newest addition comes with the Vita's touch panels and motion control. Koei makes use of these by having you do short mini-games where you use the touch screen to slice down projectiles and enemies while using the motion controls to turn the camera and find the different directions that said enemies and projectiles might be coming from. There is also a mini-game that has you use the motion controls to steer a horse. It was incredibly cumbersome to do and really didn't work well. In all, the addition of these mini-games really didn't help and felt very contrived; it was as though Koei was just throwing it in at the last minute.
However, in the end, the game doesn't put a strong focus on strategy. More often than not, you'll charge head first into an enemy encampment and will slaughter everyone with little trouble. Dynasty Warriors 7 allowed players to use just about any weapon type with any character, whereas Dynasty Warriors Next takes it back to where it originally was and only allows a character to wield one weapon type. Some may find that annoying, but it's a minor gripe.
Outside of the campaign mode, Dynasty Warriors Next offers two additional game types. The first is the Conquest Mode. This has been in recent iterations, however, this version is executed a bit differently. Rather than fighting battle after battle, it's now a more strategic effort. You'll command one of the different clans and will try to take over another clan and their territories. However, each spot on the map has a number assigned to it and you can only take over the enemy's territory if you have a higher rating. Make the wrong move and you will quickly find yourself overrun. You can start off by only pitting yourself against one other clan, but in the end you can get up to 5 different clans all trying to come out on top. It's an interesting idea that will help get your mind off of the mindless button mashing, if only for a minute or two.
The other mode is called Coalition where you can group with up to 3 other players via ad-hoc and take on different mission types like capture all the bases, defend your base, one hit kills, etc. In theory, this mode could be a lot of fun. However, making it ONLY ad-hoc was an extremely poor choice. Finding 3 other people to play with you can be difficult, if not impossible. It is possible to try and do everything on your own, but the difficulty is ramped up significantly - getting all of the trophies also relies on playing through this mode.
Let's talk presentation for a minute. Graphically the game looks great; easily on par with Dynasty Warriors 7. However, where it fails down is the draw distance, or lack thereof. There is clearly a finite number of enemies that can be on the screen at a time. Any enemy that exceeds that will not show up. It's so bad at times that taking only one or two steps will suddenly show a ton of new enemies. It can also make it very hard to find your horse if the screen is packed with troops. However, the graphics and special effects are great.
The voice acting is fine even though the writing in the games has always been on the cheesy side. The music is also just as good, however, if you've played DW7, don't expect to hear anything new. The sound effects are great and really give you the feel that you're slashing your way through thousands of enemies.
In terms of replay value, Dynasty Warriors is a franchise which always wins here. The campaign itself will last you 12-16 hours. If you want to get all the trophies, the game can easily last you 70+ hours, so you'll certainly get your money's worth in the end.
If you're a fan of the series, you'll certainly enjoy the game, even though it doesn't offer the full experience that Dynasty Warriors 7 did. However, if you've never played a Dynasty Warriors game, this shouldn't be your starting point. It's not a terrible game at all, but it is one that new players to the franchise should put on the backburner until they know if Dynasty Warriors is their cup of tea. After all, it features some pretty poor draw distances, some stodgy motion controls and a mode called Coalition which is ad-hoc only.