Monday, March 4, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires (PS3) Review

As a fan of Dynasty Warriors 7, I was very eager to dive into the new Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires.  Instead of just hacking and slashing, the Empires line of games have a lot more strategy involved.  As a ruler, you must decide to research weapons, train troops, making alliances and other details to make your kingdom strong enough to unite China.  If you are a vassal, you must do what your lord commands, or even attempt to overthrow him or her.  It's definitely a fun diversion from the normal story modes from the main Dynasty Warriors games.

The graphics are pretty good, but do suffer from some odd physics, clipping and pop in with enemy soldiers.  The physics issues were also present in Ken's Rage 2, so if they didn't bother you there, they probably won't here.  The clipping is fine for me, since a chunk of it is from the created costumes.  The pop in is the most problematic, but hasn't actually hurt the gameplay at all.

Like most recent Tecmo Koei games, the only spoken language is Japanese.  It doesn't bother me as much it used to.  I don't know if it's because I got used to it, or because most battles are short so I don't need to listen to much talking.  It's likely somewhere between the two, but I don't mind the Japanese voices.  I will miss gems like Lu Meng's death scene though.  I like the music in the game, but it's pretty much the same music that has been used in the games for as long as I can remember.

The fights are also what you would expect from a Dynasty Warriors game.  You have your normal and charge attack, which changes the end of the combo.  There are basically two different types of battles in the game.  Skirmishes are quick fights that "weaken" an opposing force.  You can't pick who fights in them, other than your main character.  You don't capture bases and can't use special "strategem" cards.  Invasion fights are large scale battles to take over (or defend) one of the territories of ancient China.  Officers can be captured, "strategem" cards can alter the battlefield or give you quick advantages, and you can pick several officers to accompany you into the fray.  Although, in the Empires games, you won't enter battle as much as you normally would, since you do have a kingdom to run.

Well, if you are a ruler, that is.  If you are a vassal, your lord will give your objectives that he or she would like completed.  When you run the show, you decide how to spend your resources, from seeking out officers to hire, getting better weapons, training troops or forging alliances.  It's a fun alternative to battle, and I really liked building up resources so I could level up various parts of my character and kingdom.  I'd recommend reading the various tutorial messages that pop up, since they do help.  Also, read the instruction manual (press the home button while in the game and it's just under "quit game"), as it has lots of helpful info that isn't in the tutorials.  Making my way through the actual running of the kingdom wasn't too hard, but I felt like I wasn't taking advantage of everything offered.  There were lots of options to pick that I didn't end up using, and it took me a bit to understand what picking your fame type actually affected.  It's a nice system with lots of options, and I haven't touched a chunk of them...yet.

There's six different scenarios you can complete, each in a different time frame and containing some different characters.  These scenarios can take a long time to complete, depending on how aggressive the enemy is, or how much you want to build up your lands before unifying the country.  They also have good replay value, since after the initial set up, who fights who and which kingdoms crumble is random.  Plus, once you've completed a scenario, you can replay it with different bonuses (in exchange for bonus points) and even allow officers to die.  I'm not even taking into account the player made officers that can show up...

Which brings me to the best part of the game: create a warrior.  It's no secret that I love to create characters in games (main reason I love the WWE games and City of Heroes/Villains [rest in peace]), and it's a lot of fun here.  There's a fair amount of starting costumes, and a whole lot more you can purchase with bonus points that you get after battles.  The last time I played an Empires game, there were limited costume pieces, but thankfully not in Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires.  Besides being able to make many, many different looks for the character, you can choose their weapon, EX attack (if that weapon has multiple) and both Musou attacks.  I was very pumped for that one, so I wouldn't be stuck with a Musou attack I didn't want, and could make a "greatest hits" character.  Characters you make can be uploaded so others can download them or have them show up in their scenarios.  It's really fun to run across a random Samurai Warriors, Final Fantasy or anime character.  Unfortunately, the ability in the demo to use your created character in a sample battle to test them out is gone, so it takes longer to try out new weapons and musou attacks to find the right fit for your characters.

The trophies in the game don't seem particularly hard, save "complete an entire scenario on chaos difficulty". Most of them are from using the different fame types and their abilities.  You can also get one for getting a sworn sibling (good ol' Peach Garden Oath!) or marrying someone.  Wait, so when I married a woman for the trophy...does that make her a trophy wife?  It's funny that you can marry anyone of the opposite gender, even Lu Bu!  That's what my wife did, and she looked at me funny when I questioned her standards for marrying a big, angry, destructive monster.  Go figure.

There are some online amenities in Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires.  You can upload and download created warriors and they can show up when you play each scenario, as was mentioned previously.  You can also play battles online with 2 players, which is a nice, standard, addition.  You can also do 2 players locally, but in both circumstances, the game isn't built for 2 players, which is my biggest complaint.  Player 2 has to just sit around while not in battle, and they can't even play in skirmishes, only invasion fights.  Also make sure to set the character they want to play as as the second entrant in the fight, and they have to push start to join every time.  I'd really like it if there was either a proper 2 player mode, where they can pick a character that is in every fight, or a free mode where you could just do battles.

Despite the lackluster 2 player mode, the game is lots of fun.  The empire building sections are a nice diversion from the normal hacking and slashing, and it was made even better by running across other players' created warriors while playing.  Each scenario can be long or short, depending on your actions, and the random nature of them can make for some good replayability.  An added plus was my wife enjoyed playing it.  Well, it was an added plus for the game.  She was hogging it when I wasn't playing.  I highly recommend the game for fans of Dynasty Warriors, and if you see a daikatana wielding warrior named're welcome.

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