It’s been quite some time since we’ve felt the power of Dynasty Warriors magic, with the previous main release coming out close to 2013, with 8 and Empires in 2014/15. Fans were incredibly shocked when the new trailer was released for DW9, new graphics, new gameplay and shifting to an open-world approach to its overall design. Let’s hope this one doesn’t end up falling into a dyke.
If you’ve played any DW game before, you know how this story goes, you start off the game either instigating or pushing back the Yellow Turban Rebellion within China. From there the captains will become separated, choosing their lords to follow and pledge allegiance to. After picking sides, the 90 characters on offer will split off into 5 warring sides, Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin and Other. Saving or attacking the emperor, taking land for your own and eventually uniting or destroying China.
The story mode can be played from the beginning Chapter up to Chapter 13, as long as you have unlocked characters that act within those chapters. Completing one side of the story will take quite some time depending on how much effort you put into the character’s weapons, levels and such, but generally, a full playthrough will take 10-20 hours. If you swap to another side you do pretty much the same thing again, just from a different angle or on the opposing side. Some stories also skip chapters, so you may be jumping around at points.
There isn’t much to say about the story itself, as it’s a rehash like most of the DW games. The presentation is alright, with voice acting only a little better than the poor reputation the game already holds in that regard.
Gameplay has improved slightly with this newest release, though follows most of the same rules as previous games. You have a normal attack on X, heavy attack on Y, jumping and double jumping with A, pressing B for the Musou attack or holding it for a continual one, sprinting with RB and drawing or sheathing your weapon with the left Thumbstick. You can create combos by combining the X and Y buttons as well as use new trigger attacks by holding RB with your weapon drawn and pressing X for a stun attack, Y for launching your foes, B for a special attack and A for an attack on the ground. The new additions to combat and the overall feel of battle has been improved, smoothed and I approve of all the things they did with it.
DW9 brings with it plenty of new features to aid in its open world design, you have villages and cities to gather resources, talk to NPCs to take on quests, shops to buy or upgrade your gear and more. Each character comes with a ranged weapon to hunt animals, allowing you shoot them from afar for sneak attacks, gaining their hides and such on killing. As you gather resources, be it animals or ore on the map, you will be able to craft items and accessories.
Taking a note from DW8: Empires, DW9 brings in stealth mechanics, be it in a smaller fashion than most other stealth games. If you can approach a guard or captain without them noticing, or through crouching by pressing Y out of combat, you can use a surprise attack by pressing Y when a prompt appears. This deals major damage, sometimes killing them in one strike, demoralising nearby troops or taking out a powerful target much easier than normal. You can also sneak around units when invading castles.
The open world of DW9, while impressive, feels empty at times. The map is mostly full of plains, forests and impassable mountains, the horse being a must for any traveller. You will find camps here and there, along with packs of wolves or wildlife, but aside from that, you will be spending upwards of 10 minutes galloping around to travel from one place to another. Thankfully you will be able to climb Ubisoft towers to get a bird’s eye view of the local area, uncovering a portion of the map. If you go to important locations, like camps, villages, cities or uncover friendly units, you will be able to fast travel to them.
If you want more fast travel locations, places to store items or to send letters to the other captains you can invest in a hideout. These come in the form of small huts near cities or far off in the countryside. These little holds on the side can be a boon, though I did not find myself needing too many at all.
The music in DW9 is very fitting for the time period and the areas you find yourself within, akin to previous titles but with a higher focus on cities and calm life than always turmoil. Full of string instruments and drums to get you immersed in the setting. Once you engage in battle the music flows beautifully and smoothly into an action track, kicking it over to a rock style track with plenty of energy. After the battle has ended it again smoothly transitions back to traversing music.
If you are an older fan of the series, you will know some of the horrible voice acting of previous DW games, mainly with DW3. The quality has improved in recent years, but sadly still fails to reach the heights of other games. Plenty of conversations are monotone, with a singular overacting character, others with emotions unbefitting the situation or just plain poor acting in general. There were only 3 or 4 characters in the Wei story that I actually liked the voice acting of, with the other stories having less. But English voice acting is a welcome addition, due to the number of orders yelled out during combat, as it can be hard to read and pay attention to battle at the same time.
This move to open world is very ambitious for the series, as up till now it has constrained battles and stories to single maps for each level, now you have the entire map at your disposable to use for grander battles. Sieges are also included, which add something new to the series rather than waiting for the doors to open from defeating captains. However, this style of the game feels more suited to its Empire spinoffs and I am eager to see how they use this if and when they announce that.
Overall, Dynasty Warriors 9 gets an 8/10, the main gameplay is fun with plenty of new additions to the mechanics alongside the ever-increasing units the games are able to display at once. The voice acting is way below the bar, the story is rehashed like normal, the separate stories feel too similar to one another with some being shortened and the map feels underutilised most of the time. You will also find yourself repeating the same task over and over with their quest system telling you to kill nearby troops that spawn out of thin air or to bring a hide to a villager.