Dynasty Warriors 9 is a hack and slash video game developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo.
I have seen credits roll multiple times in Dynasty Warriors 9 and am nowhere near finishing the Three Kingdoms story, let alone experiencing all the game has to offer. However, despite 30-odd hours with the game, the prospect that there is still so much to see and do excites me.
With Dynasty Warriors 9, Omega Force have made a bold and monumental leap forward for the series, fundamentally changing the way in which the player experiences the story and it’s many battles. Where previous entries saw battles take place on maps restricted by size and time, and players chasing singular or linear objectives, Dynasty Warriors 9 takes place in an open world version of China, offering a primary mission that will progress the story, a number of secondary missions that can be tackled in any order - or not at all - and whose successful completion affects the progression, difficulty and outcome of the primary mission.
The story unfolds over 13 chapters (of which I have completed seven), each available to a particular subset of the 90-odd strong roster of characters (given the series recent tendency to more closely follow the historic and novelised story, i.e. dead dudes can’t join battles for which they were dead, for example). Frustratingly, when selecting a character it doesn’t appear possible to tell just how far he or she will be able to progress in the story, making choosing a character something of a roulette spin if your aim is to unlock all chapters and characters in one go and don’t already intimately know the story. Fortunately, the game saves story and player progress independently, meaning your character might meet the end of his or her story, but everything acquired, unlocked and explored carries across other characters, factions and chapters.
Although I’m sure someone - and I can’t promise it won’t be me - will one day defeat every single enemy on the map before progressing the story, no longer is it a reasonable thing to try achieve in every battle. Hundreds of enemies can appear on screen at once, and I’d wager tens of thousands are across the world. In that sense, Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn’t scratch the mass-murder style completion itch it once did, instead offering a Ubisoft-esque exploration and map opening experience. Sure, I’m still hammering square a whole lot, but the way the game sees you spend your time has changed significantly due to the open world - and what a world!
The map is immense. Broadly, it resembles the entirety of mainland China - Great Wall and all. Did I spend about 6 minutes on horseback running one section of the Wall? Yes. Did I achieve anything? Absolutely not, bar eventually finding out that section was less than one tenth of the width of the map, which - quick math - means it would likely take an hour or more to ride horseback across the entire word.
Yet, as far as I have experienced, it isn’t just immense for the hell of it. Each city, castle, encampment and base are given just enough room to breath and support a system of associated ally or enemy sites, without feeling cramped or too close to one another. The rest of the world is diversely filled with bamboo forests, woods, plains, snow-topped mountains, rivers, the odd rice paddy and various other natural and man-made features. Treasure and resources - used for crafting consumables, equipables, weapons and more - litter the map, just far enough away from where you are that it’s out of the way but not a chore, and with just enough variety in resource types that each feel scarce. Watchtowers and waystones serve to reveal all of the world’s features to the player, so rarely is exploration aimless, and I appreciate that. The game understands it offers a lot and doesn’t want to waste your time while trying to give it to you.
And still, there are mechanics I haven’t yet explored - eating (either by campfire or tea shop) for temporary buffs, fishing, laying traps, and - not for lack of trying - officer relationships. I’ve bought hideouts, which let me see my level with all officers is 0/100, though evidently I haven’t yet triggered anything for getting them from zero to one so I can write them letters and invite them round...
Although perhaps a little time consuming, the trophy list is entirely achievable - nothing is missable, and perhaps is manageable relatively organically. Certainly I don’t foresee needing to play with every single character, nor do I anticipate tedious and time consuming grinding, which is a welcome relief from previous installments, which have included trophies for obtaining every weapon in the game. The platinum has been achieved - well before time of writing - although unfortunately not by yours truly (yet?).
I don’t know whether my Wifi was particularly bad when I tried, or if the Vita is struggling to receive all the information being thrown at it, but other than a pixelated screen due to one of those issues, the Remote Play experience was great. The only combination of actions I would regularly execute using a DS4 that I struggled with on Vita was calling a horse while running, given L2 is mapped to the top left of the touch screen and my thumb is neither long nor flexible enough to do that and the stick at once. Can recommend.
Does the game have issues? You bet! The voice over work isn’t the best - heck, sometimes it’s plain not good. VO isn’t synced to the character model mouths at all, and cuts short in particular cutscenes. The game crashed on me once and corrupted my save data, though fortunately I didn’t lose any progress. Something peculiar happened with the lighting after a musou’d an enemy and myself into a wall and had to fast travel out, which I had to restart the game to fix. I couldn’t complete one mission because the thing I needed to destroy didn’t exist. Missions that include fighting on boats are terrible. Just terrible. And why is there no multiplayer?!
But does any of that matter? No. No it doesn’t. The strengths of Dynasty Warriors 9 - it is fun, ambitious, exciting, equal parts fresh and familiar - far outweigh the issues I encountered or portions of the game found lacking. It is a Dynasty Warriors game for long time fans of the series and newcomers alike.
It’s a damn shame Monster Hunter: World is doing so well because, I believe, Dynasty Warriors 9 would otherwise be a worthy recipient of that mainstream boost early calendar releases - and often slightly more obscure titles - receive. Perhaps if Dynasty Warriors 10 gives us some shared world, multiplayer coop action…