Dynasty Warriors 5 (or It’s Really Not That Bad, Part 1)

I don’t think anyone has ever gone so far as to call Dynasty Warriors ‘good.’ For the sake of the Three Kingdoms, I’ll be bold and declare that “honestly, it’s really not that bad!”

For anyone who has no idea what Dynasty Warriors is, it’s a hack’n’slash series by Koei centered around the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. In this article, I’m going to be talking specifically about Dynasty Warriors 5, but the good news is that I don’t think any of the other Dynasty Warriors games are all too much different!

Dynasty Warriors 5 is available on basically every console and handheld conceivable, which makes it really easy for anyone to get into – personally, I have always played on the PlayStation 2, but that doesn’t mean you have. The game is played in stages, based on ‘historical’ Chinese battles. Your objective is simple – slay a bunch of enemies and fulfill whatever victory condition the level has. The most common condition is – as you might have expected – to kill the enemy commander. However, you may also need to defend your main camp, ensure some unit escapes, or prevent a unit from escaping. Throughout each level, some additional conditions might pop up – and their fulfillment makes the level significantly easier. One of my personal goals is to slay at least 1000 enemies per level. It usually doesn’t happen, but it’s always a pleasure when it does.

Which leads me to one reason why this game is fun – most of the characters probably did live at some point in time. They probably couldn’t shoot lasers or throw magical grenades of exploding light energy at their enemies, but they did exist. Most of the battles did take place. Remembering to destroy the floodgates in one level is relevant since that would have actually happened in some battle in ancient Chinese history. In terms of the educational value, it’s only somewhat less educational than Assassin’s Creed games. Information beyond what you see while playing is available, but you’ll have to read it if you’re curious. It’s also worth noting that the plot of Dynasty Warriors is probably more based on the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms than actual history.

Another thing that the characters in this game have going for them – once again proving that this game series does not suck – is that there is unique, constant, and permanent growth. As you play through levels, defeating enemy officers or taking down enemy bases, you’ll have the opportunity to snag various upgrade items. These items can boost a stat – Attack, Defense, or Life – by a number, and that addition is stuck with your character forever. Your character will grow in a unique way on your save file. I like this idea a lot; it’s one of the main reasons I find myself coming back to Dynasty Warriors over time.

The gameplay of Dynasty Warriors is enjoyable in a couple of ways. First and foremost is stress relief: if I’m stressed out, I know that I can go back in time and kill hundreds of fictional warriors and put myself back on top again. Furthermore, like I’ve already mentioned, as you take your character through a campaign in their story (or Musou) mode, they grow. I find this really fun. And lastly, there are lots of little quirks to the game. Nothing is really explained, there’s no tutorial. While some people may find this slightly frustrating, the learning curve makes the game all the more enjoyable. When I started playing, I only knew that the Square button was for Normal Attacks, the X button for Jump, the Triangle button for Charge Attacks, and the Circle button for Musou Attack. The moment you discover what the L1 button does (Blocking & Aerial Recovery), the game becomes more interesting. Then you might discover R1 (Bow and Arrow) and use it to knock enemies off of their horses. But the technique that took me the longest to learn was how to use Musou Rage, which also happens to be the best technique in the game. At first glance, this item, which you can pick up, seems to be a powerup but has no obvious use. However, if you press R3, you will unleash Ancient Chinese Hell Upon Thine Enemies. Pretty cool, right?

On top of that though, there are tips and tricks to success – if you can get past complaining about how some game mechanics are “bad design or implementation.” For example, if you use a powerful Charge Attack, beware that you will be vulnerable while your character pulls his weapon back to unleash it. Beginning a normal combo straight forward into a mess of enemy soldiers, will leave you vulnerable from behind. If you want to kill a mounted enemy, you have to knock them off their mount first. Typically, only boss or officer enemies pose a threat at all; you could wade through the mounds of peasant soldiers and only kill the bosses, which are worth significantly more points than the peasant soldiers, or move in a “tactical” manner and take out enemy checkpoints and bases, as well as any officers along the way. Press X in a certain way to ensure that you get on a horse instead of just jumping in place. Master when to press Square for your dash attack when running towards a pot or box. Learn to become one with the onions and restore your health back to full.

Well, I’ve said a lot about why I enjoy Dynasty Warriors – I guess I forgot the most important part of the article: why the series might be considered by some people to be bad. It’s interesting to say this, especially in light of the divided criticism that Hyrule Warriors is getting. Some of the articles I’ve read about Hyrule Warriors seem to applaud it for great sales, while others cry at its lack of being a real Zelda game. Well, news to anyone who thought it was a Zelda game: you are WRONG. This is a Dynasty Warriors game through and through. Just because Dynasty Warriors has gotten better graphics over the years does not mean it’s the Wii U’s fault for not being able to render many enemies simultaneously without lag, or for having horrible render distances in 2P mode. That’s just how Dynasty Warriors is. Though I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been much improvement since Dynasty Warriors 5; I suppose I couldn’t have expected much else. I’m sure many Hyrule Warriors reviews will say ‘if you don’t like Dynasty Warriors, then you won’t like Hyrule Warriors.’ That’s probably true.

Anyway, that’s enough negativity. I think I’ve spoiled some of the bad surprise this game has in store for anyone who thought it was perfect. Whoops! But all in all, Dynasty Warriors is one of those games that’s an acquired taste. But you can’t enjoy an acquired taste without gradually acquiring the taste first – so give it a spin and decide if it’s something you might be into.


  1. If you like Dynasty Warriors, you should own it! Though critically panned, I can see them being a lot of fun if you need to scratch the specific itch that the series offers. Heck, I still want to try 8, and Hyrule Warriors actually looks fun, if not just for the fan service and hair metal renditions of classic Zelda tunes.

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