Dynasty Warriors 9 - PS4 Review

On the one hand, Dynasty Warriors 9 is exactly the breath of fresh air that the long running series has needed. On the other, its rough edges around the execution will likely leave even long standing fans at least slightly frustrated. More often than not, I enjoyed my time with Dynasty Warriors 9, which I applaud for taking some chances while recognizing that there is lots of room for improvement as well.

For several years now, the unique blend of action mixed with RPG-like progression systems has made the 'Warriors' games a favorite of mine, but the release cycles have been a bit too frequent for the good of the series. Off-shoots like Fire Emblem and Hyrule Warriors have been welcome additions to the long-gestating core Samurai and Dynasty Warriors games. I also greatly appreciated last year's Godseekers strategy game, which was a huge departure from the core games and provided me with several dozen hours of entertainment.

Still, when I first heard that Dynasty Warriors 9 was going to an open world format, I was both concerned and intrigued. Admittedly me and 'open world' are pretty hit and miss. Sometimes games like the Mordor titles or Infamous just click for me and I play the crap out of them, logging zillions of hours with the games as I happily uncover very last nook and cranny. Then there are other games like Watch Dogs or most of the Far Cry games and they just don't click for me at all and I wind up giving up on them rather quickly. Luckily in terms of structure, Dynasty Warriors 9 comes closer to the former group than the latter. It is a lot of fun to run around ancient China, and there are some really cool elements baked into the game that we are just not used to seeing in a Dynasty Warrior game.

To its credit, Dynasty Warriors 9 draws inspiration from several other games along the way. You can use a grappling hook to scale walls or climb a tall tower and survey the surrounding landscape in a very Assassin's Creed or Mordor type of way. Own a house or perform raids at night (complete with day/night and weather cycles) make the world feel more alive and connects the different pieces together in a way that the standalone missions of prior Warriors games could not properly do. There's a cohesiveness to this large world that I have played in and read about for years (I've mentioned my familiarity with the source material in prior 'Romance' games, dating back to my interest in the Han Dynasty since high school). Add to it items like fishing, hunting with a bow and non-linear quests that almost beg you to explore, and there are a lot of really fun aspects to the game that really makes Dynasty Warriors 9 different from its predecessors.

With lots of items to be found and a pretty robust crafting system to compliment the experience / leveling system and myriad different characters that can be used, there are just enough RPG elements to provide a nice sense of progression throughout the game. While these systems work pretty well, there are some problems with some of the other systems as well. While I enjoy the music (it sometimes feels a bit out of place with the setting, but it's well-done), it can become a bit repetitive. I also appreciated having English voice acting, even if the actors themselves range from okay to kind of cringeworthy at times. There are some technical issues as well. The sketchy framerate has been much-discussed in other places and is accurate. Sometimes I can clip through walls. There are times the camera just doesn't seem to want to line up with where you are pointing it unless you lock onto something. There are some odd moments with the cut scenes where the lip movements (which are probably cued to non-English but still a bit distracting) and rendering / clipping in cut scenes and the environment can be distracting.  This is a bummer, because the landscapes and the character design and variety is pretty fantastic. I understand that technical concerns should not make or break a game, and in this case they do not ruin the experience, but they certainly can diminish it. Sort of like how a badly written novel or a poorly framed shot in a movie can hinder the overall experience, and it is true that there are growing pains with the new framework used in Dynasty Warriors 9.

The story itself is tried and true, one I am quite familiar with and enjoy. The ability to experience the events in a nonlinear fashion actually was pretty refreshing. I also took a good deal of joy from simply riding around and exploring forests and rivers, hunting and fishing and gathering. The overall pacing of Dynasty Warriors 9 is really solid, even if the fighting itself could probably use a bit more depth. This is a 'Warriors' game through and through, where your primary character mows down hundreds of opponents with a handful of slices. The only real opposition comes in the form of commanders who have more life and can deal greater damage in combat. On lower levels of difficulty they require no real strategy, at the higher it helps to mix up your attacks and have certain gems equipped that can help provide an edge, but seldom is the game really all that challenging. The AI is pretty clueless, both that of your allies and your opponents. Having to stop and wait for your allies to move along pre-determined paths more often than not has me leaving them in my dust because I don't want them involved.

The good news is, these large swarms of characters continue to help convey one thing that the Warriors games have always been good at - trying to add some epic scope to combat. This helps to make battles feel like actual battles due to the large number of combatants, even if most of them are about as tough as wet tissue paper. Enemy AI really does not fare much better as most objectives can be completed by just cutting a path through them and targeting the captains and killing them. This unfortunately dings the grand battle vibe when you are reducing what should be an epic fifteen minute battle to something that is resolved in under ninety seconds.

All in all, I really enjoy Dynasty Warriors 9. I think that the series needed a fresh new direction, and this open world approach actually helps to paint a more comprehensive picture of the world in a way the series could not manage before. There are a lot of really interesting progression elements that keep me coming back to it time and again, allowing me to mostly overlook some of the technical concerns around the visuals or the AI. This is a new framework for the series, but one with loads of potential that I hope future iterations of the game manage to refine and capitalize on down the road.

Game  Information

PlayStation 4
Omega Force
Koei Tecmo Games
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Xbox One

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick
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