Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires - PS5 Review


Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires
by developer and publisher Koei Tecmo GamesSony PlayStation 5 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes 


By now the Warriors games are pretty familiar to most gamers, even if their combat-heavy style of gameplay is not for everyone. The Empires titles are a more strategic take on the series. Thankfully the story of the Three Kingdoms is still an engaging one for me, making Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires a largely enjoyable return to the series for me.

Dynasty Warriors 9 was a divisive entry in the series. When you’re talking about nearly a dozen games where the primary narrative doesn’t change a lot, it’s hard to fault the developers for trying to come up with some new hook to keep fans coming back for more. The big play in Dynasty Warrior 9 was an open world that I liked more often than not, but probably looked better on paper than it did in its actual execution.

I have always preferred the Empires games to the mainline series. Not that I don’t enjoy the one versus many approach of the core Warriors titles, but the Empires games add a nice layer of strategy to the proceedings. Your established character can be a leader or a top officer who has to focus on a variety of different tasks outside of simply combat. There is relationships to build (primarily managed through the ‘stroll’ option – a friendly walk that enables you to find warriors and chat with commanders), war councils to plan upcoming activities, fundraising, scouting… the sort of thing you see in a lot of strategy titles where you have more options than time to do it all, so you need to prioritize against your current situation.

However, we still have the core combat that takes place as well in tried and true Warriors fashion. One of the things I was somewhat surprised by was a return to the series’ roots. While I appreciated the way Dynasty Warriors 9 tried to make the world seem more alive with its open world approach to things, it was often lacking in direction. There is something comfortable and familiar with the more structured arenas generally found in the series, and despite the ‘9’ moniker here, open world has been traded in for the more scripted, confined stages that the series is known for.

To that end, the combat is flashy and fun, but not terribly deep. Most of the time you’ll be pressing one or two buttons in rapid succession, stringing together lots of hits while sprinkling in some more powerful special attacks now and again. If you are familiar with Musou gameplay, you have a pretty good idea what to expect here as your character is considerably overpowered for about 99% of the enemies he or she will encounter. One of the cooler elements are the plans / strategy options that can be unlocked and dictate how your troops approach the battle.

They’re a nice touch when layered onto a combat system that by now, you either like or love. There is not a lot of middle ground for most people, in my experience. By nature, I’m a grinder. I grind in RPGs, sporting titles and I actually enjoy the general sense of progress that comes with items and experience and makes the combat rewarding. That being said, I know there is a segment of the population that finds the combat to be repetitive. That being said, this is one instance of the Dynasty Warriors 9 heritage working against this game, as I enjoyed the combat of Samurai Warriors 5 far more.

I enjoy the amount of control I have not just with creating my character, but how the actions taken feel as though they are carving out a unique slice of narrative that is part of a much larger, long-established story within the Three Kingdoms. While this part of the overall presentation works well, there is a second aspect of how being built upon Dynasty Warriors 9 works against Empires here. Visually this title underperforms in almost all aspects.

This is based on an engine built for a game released a couple of years ago now, before the PlayStation 5 was really a thing. I don’t feel that Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is making great use of the hardware, as textures pop in somewhat weirdly and there are times where the character animations feel far stiffer than they should. Also, it just feels like loading screens are more prevalent than I would have expected. Again, it seems like a lack of optimization.

Those are some unfortunate warts, but the addictive quality of the Warriors games – and this Empires branch – are too much for me to ignore. The gameplay loop is still very satisfying and the strategy elements add a welcome layer of depth that was missing in the last Dynasty Warriors release. I can pick at this title’s various faults, but in the end? I still played it a lot and generally enjoyed it despite its flaws.

Summary

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is an improvement on the last Dynasty Warriors game, but that has more to do with my love of strategy and management than anything else. Given the divisive reception to the last mainline game, I understand why they moved away from the open world, but it does leave this entertaining game with oodles of potential in something of an identity crisis as well.

What’s here is fun, and I am always up for some Three Kingdoms strategy and combat, but I can’t help but look forward to the next iteration that is built specifically with the PS5 hardware in mind.

Score: 7.75 / 10




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