So, it’s been forever since I’ve posted (my bad). But, look, here I am, posting again (hence, the name of this post).
But I’m not the only one who’s come back after a long absence. A few weeks ago marked the release of Dynasty Warriors 8. Since I’m pretty much the only non-Japanese person who actually likes Dynasty Warriors, this was kind of a big deal for me. I was sufficiently impressed by the game to consider that Dynasty Warriors also made a triumphant return (so, you see, the title of this post refers to two things – I’m ever so brilliant).
That being said, long story short, I think Dynasty Warriors 7 was actually better than 8. Well, not better, so much as more meaningful. Even among the people who like Dynasty Warriors, 6 was a low point in the series. It wasn’t necessarily bad, it just made a bunch of changes that didn’t really make sense and weren’t well received – most characters that the same cloned movesets and a lot of the ones that didn’t got new and often less cool weapons, only a handful of characters had full story modes, the character designs were changed pretty significantly, and the way your attacks worked was different.
Part of the reason that 7 was so impressive was because it undid or fixed a lot of the problems people had with 6. 8 doesn’t really do anything like that. It feels more like Dynasty Warriors 7.5 than anything. It does add a few things and those things add depth to the game (particularly the elemental rock-paper-scissors … element that all weapons have). The characters are also more individual and distinct in gameplay than in 7, but, technically, that got fixed in the DLC and expansions of 7, rather than in 8. There are also less reused battlefields in 8 than 7, which borrowed more than a few from 6 – so it’s got that going for it.
One thing that 8 does that I liked is continuing the use of kingdom-based, rather than character-specific story modes. It provides a better sense of the progression of history (even though everyone still looks like a sexy twenty-something even after they’ve been alive for 80 years of said history) and a more cohesive story-mode. The changes it made from 7 in the story modes is probably the biggest and most meaningful change to the game as a whole. You have the option of choosing from several characters (always at least two and up to, I think, five) at the start of each level. Depending on who you choose, you’ll have different responsibilities in each battle, which doesn’t really change how the battle progresses, but does change your exact role in it – defending a strategic position, or protecting someone important, or launching an ambush, etc, etc.
The other big change is the fact that certain battles allow the opportunity to change the course of history, which affects how later stages of the story mode will unfold – if you save a character from their historical death, they’ll be able to fight in a decisive battle and turn what was historically a crushing defeat into resounding victory (this happens at least once in all four story modes). Ultimately this culminate in an entirely new, ahistorical storyline that ends with a better outcome for your chosen kingdom than mandated by history. This is undeniably a good thing, as every Dynasty Warriors game has been confined to the same period of history and has never diverged for it, this allows for the opportunity to fight battles that we haven’t fought 8 times already.
Incidentally, this is why I think Koei’s best franchise is Warriors Orochi, which, being a purely fantastical story, is allowed to kick history to the curb and go nuts with what happens – like, for example, having Achilles get beat up by Joan of Arc in a modern Japanese metropolis.
My one complaint with this whole aspect of the game is that some of the requirements for the hypothetical conditions are either really vague and impossible to figure out or ludicrously hard to actually do (partly because of the vagueness). Wei’s version of the Battle of Xu Province probably being the worst. On the other hand, some of them are shockingly easy (especially in comparsion to the hair-pulling-out-ly difficult ones) and will probably be accomplished without really trying and can be made even easier by picking the right character before hand – several characters can be easily saved from death just by deciding to play as them and then simply fulfilling the mission objectives.
Still, it’s a Dynasty Warriors game. It’s entirely consistent with the core of the series as has been established 6 times over already (yes, I’m aware 6 and 1 makes 7, not 8, but that’s because the first Dynasty Warriors game was a fighting game; that’s why each release in the series is one number lower in Japan, the first game isn’t considered part of the same series). If you’re adverse to the notion of button-mashing your way to victory (though, especially to fulfill the hypothetical conditions, that’s not early enough on its own), you’re not going to like Dynasty Warriors 8. If, however, you don’t mind something as straightforward as “X,X,X,X,Y, go over here, then over there, X,X,Y, repeat”, you’re probably going to like it. It’s not as much as a leap forward as 7 was, but it does everything that 7 did right and corrects a few of the things it got wrong and at the very least, is wearing a shiny new coat of paint.