I have my reservations whenever I turn back to my favourite nostalgic titles for fear of disappointment. So, naturally, when I turned back to DYNASTY WARRIORS, a set of games that were a guilty pleasure even when I was too young to know any better, I feared the worst. Surprisingly in this case I’m happy to inform you that…no sorry this game is far from worth playing. Despite the near-endless customisation making this a good value game in some senses, the repetitive gameplay continually lets down the promising Empires meta game.
Veterans of the series will feel right at home in DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires (seriously who is still buying these!), a beat ‘em up from Omega Force and Koei Tecmo. Recycling the same stories based on Luo Guangzhong’s historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Empires is an expansion of the main set of ‘narrative-focused’ games, allowing you to play the role of officers and soldiers in all sorts of positions and rising through the ranks to take on power and dominate your Kingdom.
The gameplay remains largely the same as you assume the form of a vast variety of super soldiers mowing down thousands of identical foes. Perhaps you’ll last an hour, maybe even two, until the impending RSI leaves you questioning whether this is a valuable way of spending your time. The age-old button mashing fare gets tiresome quickly, as repeated presses of the Dualshock 4’s square and triangle buttons will vanquish 99% of your enemies on most difficulties. There are some changes to the limited combat; stratagems have been enhanced from previous titles and the weather now affects particular special moves to add more layers of strategy, but this all feels gimmicky.
On top of the dull gameplay, the level design is atrocious and the art direction is frankly unacceptable on PS4. On countless occasions my fellow soldiers needed my assistance, only for me to reach their location and find I was on higher or lower ground with no means of getting to them. When I took the time to take stock of my surroundings — as opposed to rushing to defeat the next general and get another battle over and done with — I often realised my entire surroundings were bathed in one colour. One! The lack of diversity in many of the landscapes is also appalling, and don’t get me started on those sub-PS2 assets like the trees and foliage.
There is an online component, but I was unable to find a game and, “There are no players currently looking to join a game” was the message I received on each attempt. Take from that what you will.
It’s not all bad though, as DW8E is the most customisable entry to the series by some margin. Almost anything can be created with extensive detail; how can a game with over 40 moustache options be considered bad? Playable characters, horses, banners and even battle scenarios can be decided by the player, which provides endless gameplay opportunities.
Also, the Empires meta game is pleasingly deep (especially when you raise the difficulty level) as you seek to take power and dominate your kingdom while balancing the needs of your recently conquered populations and resources. You can choose to despotically rule with an iron fist, conscripting citizens and resources ruthlessly at every opportunity, or you can care for your kingdom as a benevolent ruler with a family and cute little soldier children.
However, the promising aspects of DW8E are undermined each time to drag your armies into battle; the limited scope of the core gameplay offsets the strategy and customisable potential of the package. You have a lot of game for your money here; it’s just unfortunate that that game is DYNASTY WARRIORS.
Online Games and Tech Editor