It’d be fair to say that Dynasty Warriors is a franchise that gets mainly overlooked in western countries but shifts units in Japan like free chocolate at a primary school disco.
But for there to have been seven world-wide releases, there must be a loyal following out there somewhere.
I’ve played most of them, often because I have to rather than want to, and I’ve found the repetitive, historically indulgent hack 'n' slash action difficult to get enthusiastic about.
But Dynasty Warriors 7 has changed things considerably and the traditional gameplay experience has been altered to accommodate a more story-driven narrative that is both cohesive and historically accurate.
Whereas previously you got to choose your playable character, you are now placed in control of several generals, all with differing strengths and abilities, across four kingdoms – Shu, Wei, Wu and the brand new Jin. It makes for a more captivating experience and helps you get a genuine understanding for the history and the characters that made a difference. .
Each of the four kingdoms’ stories takes six to eight hours depending on which difficulty level you choose to play. That’s pretty good value for money if you’re determined enough to go the distance.
The four stories are actually worth following and give anyone (especially anyone with an interest in ancient China) an idea of how the events of legend unfolded, who was involved and where. That’s in contrast to the hack 'n' slash focused games of the past. Even the multi-combo Renbu system has been dropped for a charging style where you can insert stronger power attacks into strings of normal attacks. The combat system reminded me more of the likes of Bayonetta than any previous Dynasty Warriors release.
Rather than just having to defeat the enemy commander to complete a level, you are now given other objectives to meet that are essential to success. Disregard these objectives and you’re sashimi. For the most part it’s a formula that works very well, but there are some sub-missions – such as chaperoning idiots who have little clue as to how to protect themselves – that can grate on the nerves a bit.
Although you can equip any weapon (but only use two at any one time), each character specialises in a certain type. Equip clubs on an axe specialist and you’ll perform slowly and clumsily, resulting in a quick death. The characters also have an ‘EX’ weapon which allows them to deliver a special move. Weapons can also be equipped with a ‘Seal’ that can make the player run faster, jump higher, or utilise other handy abilities.
Despite the variety of weaponry, which is shared amongst the playable characters, the attacks still don’t change, no matter what you’re wielding. It gives the impression that corners were cut and the characters were cloned. The action is fast paced enough to fight off the greater sense of monotony although using the sword-wielding grunts gets old pretty quickly.
Free Mode, where generals can replay any level, has been dropped in favour of Conquest Mode. In here you are taken to a honeycomb map where you can complete historic battles and special missions, visit cities and forge friendships that carry over into Story Mode. The online co-op is also available in the Conquest Mode menu - although it’s not easy to find. For obvious reasons I couldn’t trial the multiplayer but a little research reveals that finding a co-op partner is almost impossible outside of your direct friends list.
Trainspotting fans of the series will notice that some of the maps have been recycled from Dynasty Warriors 6, although refurbished enough so that they don’t harbour any serious deja vous.
Graphically, Dynasty Warriors 7 takes a step-up from its immediate predecessor. Dynasty Warriors 6 noticeably chugged at times when there were 150+ characters on screen at once. Now the game barely bats an eyelid during the intense battles but is often helped by the game designer’s best friend – the ‘fog of war’, which sees many things suddenly popping up on the immediate horizon.
For fans of the Dynasty Warriors series – and I know you’re out there – this is easily the best release to date. Almost every aspect of gameplay is improved upon and despite obvious corners being cut, there are no major issues that are game ruiners.
For casual hack 'n' slash fans then Dynasty Warriors 7 could be a bit too labour intensive and time consuming for your liking. You really need to have a genuine interest in the subject matter on display to get the most out of the game.