If the reviews and forum posts are anything to go by, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is destined to be a dud. How can so many people share this opinion before the game is even out? Apparently, the open-world aspects were lacklustre, but in Empires, each skirmish takes place in a contained area.
The series has always been ‘epic’, and though there aren’t those same sandbox options of raiding a setting, it’s still hectic, exciting and satisfying. If you have high expectations, they won’t be met. With all due respect to Koei Tecmo Games, my anticipation was neutral, and that’s why I enjoyed it.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is a historical action game. Though the battles aren’t accurate (elemental and magic attacks), the characters are real, and there is the accompanying history on the generals and their territories if interested. It’s about dominating and unifying ancient China to be less of a battlefield.
Not knowing about Chinese warfare other than Sun Tzu and Mulan, it was coincidental that the leader I chose, Sun Jian, was a descendent of the former. According to the records, he would often infiltrate the enemy base, letting his army in through the front door – a tactic often replicated during siege gameplay.
The combat aspect of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is to take over an enemy base or defend your own. The Empires bit is the added strategy element where you will devise secret plans and execute them in-game to turn the tide of battle. These can be triggered from a shoulder button from a selection. While the strategy aspect is hardly Total War, it adds depth to the customary button-bashing expected in the franchise.
There are two primary attacks, with modifiers to launch enemies – notably the rival officers who block. The bastards. It can border on monotonous, but the resistance you face is satisfying if you set the difficulty appropriately. As with other titles, the Musou attacks are great for crowd control and taking down generals.
Like Nioh 2, there are many weapons up for grab. From horse-slaying swords to spikes, spears to dual-wielding daggers. Each is unique but can be bolstered by elemental buffs through levelling up and campaign progression.
Behind the scenes, you will get x number of days until an invasion occurs. Before this, you can fortify your territory, train your generals, build up your relationship by interacting, stockpiling rations, sabotage and more. Each action will improve your stats, including bravery, benevolence and more. It’ll also drop if you’re a bit of a dick, thus raising your evil stat.
My longevity as a leader was short-lived. Instead of a game over, I was free to roam and serve a new leader. Being a subordinate is great! Not only do you still get to battle it out and level up, you have minimal responsibility. Unless you accept promotions and eventually betray your leader and head a hostile takeover.
Asides from the campaign, there is an extensive customisation option on par with Nioh 2. My only quibble was the lack of previewing an item without selecting it first. I was somewhat surprised to receive a review key for Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, including the DLC. There’s a heap of extras well worth it, but I have to say that the price is steep.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires was released in December on Steam but didn’t have localisation. Well, that’s changed now. Looking at the mixed ratings on Steam, the negative comments are mostly from existing fans. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan and haven’t played any Empires editions, so nothing to compare to. Sometimes the game does feel like an extended demo. Though there are many menu options, there isn’t that much variety to the game.
I had the luxury of the DLC, so lots of extras, but that comes at a price, and in all honesty, I can’t say it’s worth £90. Then again, I don’t believe any game is worth so much. There are plenty of positives, but maybe wait for a sale? My review is geared more towards those who aren’t die-hard fans but want a no-brainer button-masher with extras. That might seem like a negative slur, but it’s not – I enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of the series, though, perhaps seek out some other reviews to see what they think. I would buy it, just not at the RRP.