I don’t think anyone has ever gone so far as to call Dynasty Warriors ‘good.’ For the sake of the Three Kingdoms, I will make the bold statement: “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. Specifically in this article, I’m going to be talking about Dynasty Warriors 5, but the good news is that I don’t think any of the prequels or sequels are all too much different!
I have always played Dynasty Warriors on the PlayStation 2, but that doesn’t mean you have to – they come out on basically every console and handheld conceivable. The gameplay is simple – slay a bunch of enemies and fulfill whatever victory condition the level has. The game is played in stages, based on ‘historical’ Chinese battles. Sometimes the victory condition is to kill the enemy commander – this is the most common condition. But sometimes, it involves defending your main camp, ensuring some unit escapes, or preventing 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.
Leading me into my point about one reason 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. That’s part one. To evaluate the educational value for you all, it’s only somewhat less educational than Assassin’s Creed games. Information beyond what you see while playing is available, but you have to read it if you want it. 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.
The next point about characters I’d like to make – a point in defense that this game series does not suck – is that there is unique, persistent, character growth. As you play through levels, defeating enemy officers or taking down enemy bases, you’ll have the opportunity to snag various upgrade items. When an item gives you “Stat +x”, where Stat is Attack, Defense, or Life, and x is a number, that value 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, for 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. Next, as you take your character through a campaign, 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. When I started playing, I only knew about Square (Normal Attacks), X (Jump), Triangle (Charge Attacks), and Circle (Musou Attack). The moment you discover L1 (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. Knocking people off of their mounts is always annoying. But the best technique that took me the longest to learn, was how to use Musou Rage. This is an item you can pick up, which seems to be a powerup but has no obvious use. If you press R3, you will unleash Ancient Chinese Hell Upon Thine Enemies. And that is the basic tutorial that anyone deserves before beginning to play Dynasty Warriors.
On top of that though, in the layers of “This is just bad design or implementation,” there are tips and tricks to success. If you use a powerful Charge Attack, you’re vulnerable while your character pulls his weapon back to unleash it. If you begin a normal combo straight foward into a mess of enemy soldiers, beware that you will be 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, and 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. Become one with the onions and restore your health back to full.
I guess I forgot the most important part of the article, that’s to say, why the series might be considered by some people to be bad. It’s interesting to say this, especially in light of what I can only imagine is all the criticism 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 DW game through and through. Just because DW 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 horrible render distances in 2P mode. That’s just how Dynasty Warriors is. Though I’m a bit surprised nothing has changed since DW5, I suppose I couldn’t have expected much else. I’m sure many HW reviews will say ‘if you don’t like DW, then you won’t like HW.’ That’s probably true.
Anyways, that’s enough negativity. I think I spoiled some of the bad surprise this game had in store for anyone who thought it was good. Whoops! Dynasty Warriors is one of those games that’s an acquired taste. But variety is the spice of life, so give it a spin and decide if it’s something you might be into.