Dynasty Warriors Empires will no doubt be the first in a number of Dynasty Warriors titles that appear on next generation consoles. The premise behind any Dynasty Warriors game thus far has been to enter large scale battlefields armed with swords and many other period weapons from Chinese history and maim and kill as many enemies as possible whilst ultimately battling the leader to win the fight. For some people, the game play could be described as mindless yet for those who delve deeper into the game will find something a little more rewarding.
Well it looks like the developers have decided to branch out a little by still offering the much loved hack and slash game play but have also included some basic managerial and strategic elements to the overall package. Is this a good thing and ultimately does it work, lets find out?
Dynasty Warriors Empires offers two main modes of play which are Empires mode this allows you to follow a story line of a one of several generals or Free mode which allows you to pick any character and play a single battle on a number of battle grounds. Empire mode is probably the best place to start and also offers the fullest gaming experience from the offset and is key to unlocking more characters.
As mentioned earlier the key gameplay remains as with previous titles whereby you choose a General, some Lieutenants and then battle it out against numerous enemies and their own Generals and Lieutenants. However this time players can now capture bases which enables you to take control of an area on the map. Capturing bases is a rather simple process whereby once the guarding captains are slain the base becomes yours. However the enemy won’t take it lying down and will try and defend their bases as you would expect. Capturing bases and ultimately areas on the map allows players the chance to capture defeated Generals and henchmen. If a Lieutenant is defeated in an area under your control then after the battle is won you are able to recruit them into your forces.
During battles players can control their General and give orders to Lieutenants to either attack, defend or use their own intuition. When things get up close and personal then players can perform some limited but effective moves on their victims. Players are also able to perform powerful special moves which inflict major damage. What is a satisfying visual effect is seeing lots of enemies get slashed and thrown through the air in one fell sweep. The battlegrounds are fairly large and for some moments players will be left doing a lot of running to get to hot spots on the map or bases. To counter this players can either upgrade their character so that they move a little faster or grab a horse either at the start or on the battle field. Being on horseback also allows you to perform specific horseback attack moves although you are more vulnerable to jumping attacks so careful use of horses is a must.
I think most gamers will be able to get to grips with the simple but effective gameplay Dynasty Warriors Empires offers however there is another side to the game which in my opinion makes the game a little more tactical between battles. Players are presented with a map of the region which shows various provinces that are colour coded and represent a number of other Generals and their lands. The basic aim here is for the player to take over the entire Kingdom by defeating the other Generals and taking their land. What makes this interesting is the fact that the other Generals are trying to do the same thing which means some furious battles lie ahead.
At first this portion of the game felt a little daunting as there seemed to be a wealth of options which I didn’t really understand. However after an hour or two of playing I began to get to grips with the whole system. Players can perform various actions between battles which range from adding more defence to regions, hiring more officers, forming alliances, producing upgrades for weapons, making battle items as well as a number of special actions which can be performed during battle. Players are offered the choice to make their own decisions here but can also seek the advice from any officers. Its really is quite a simple process based on how much money you earn for capturing various lands and for fighting. Obviously the more land you control the more revenue you get and ultimately the better force you should have. The management side of the game is welcome, I like it and it certainly does add a little more depth to the game as opposed to simply fighting your way through the game. Unfortunately this portion of the game does not allow you to auto invade other regions which would have been nice especially as the regions auto defend if you choose to not participate in the battle.
This is a fairly tough one to judge because when compared to other Xbox 360 games the graphics aren’t that great and do in fact look pretty basic. However I think players have to understand that with the large amounts of troops battling it out regardless of your input means there has to be a lot of processing going on. So for things to work out and also to remain steady when there are 50 odd characters on screen at once, something has to give and in this case it’s the graphics, especially for the environments. The main character models look pretty solid and animate fairly well as do the repeating enemies who look fairly decent, so things aren’t so bad. There are some pretty neat shadows on most characters and certain surfaces have a realistic looking sheen on them. I think for most players, when you are in the thick of it gamers will be more impressed with how smooth things run rather than graphical effects during these moments.
I ran a test and loaded on my Xbox 360 the recent Samurai Warriors which was the last game in the Dynasty Warriors series on Xbox. Immediately you can see the graphical differences especially with regards to the terrain which look so much better in Dynasty Warriors Empires.
Sound is an area which comes in two halves, music and voices with slashing sounds thrown in the middle. The music is a mixture of Asian sounding rock and fits the up-tempo nature of the game. There are some other flavours thrown in for good measure but mostly the tunes are pure rock inspired. Again players can simply use their own soundtrack if they don’t agree with what is on offer. The characters are voice acted reasonably, albeit a little cliché and I’m sure I’ve heard one of the female voices in Elderscrolls IV. They do a good job of giving the game some emotion as Generals and Lieutenants make comments during battle. A lot of the time players will be hearing the mass grunts and groans of groups of men being slashed, you have been warned!
Dynasty Warriors Empires offers plenty of hours of entertainment as there are simply lots of battles to take part in and an even bigger roster of characters to unlock (250 to be precise). For the brave players can also up the difficulty and play in chaos mode which is pretty tough even for experienced players. Gamers can also create their own characters and whilst the creation process is fairly simple it does offer the chance to add more characters who will randomly appear in Empire mode games, which can be played and replayed as many times as you like. Building stats on characters is fun and with the sheer number of them available means that there’s should never be a dull moment. The battles themselves can last anything up to half an hour or a little as 3 minutes depending on skill and the level of your characters. The only real negative with long term play is that the core game play is rather simple and can get repetitive when played for extensive periods.
Players can also partake in split screen versus or co-op but sadly no Xbox Live or system link play.
As a first outing on a next generation console, Dynasty Warriors Empires is a valiant effort and with its new tactical element I think it stands out from previous games and is definitely a step in the right direction. However I think graphics junkies will probably feel a little let down when presented with the game’s visuals. Yes they are a step up from Xbox graphics however they simply lack the polish that gamers will be expecting from an Xbox 360. Whether this is enough to put people of purchasing I could not say, but I would say that you’d be missing out on a fun and reasonably rewarding experience. I recommend Dynasty Warriors to anyone that simply likes a fun and armed melee combat type game. Dynasty Warriors Empires is also released at a lower price point as well which is another good reason to go pick this one up.