Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 8 (PS3) Review

A few months after we received Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires, the latest in the series, Dynasty Warriors 8 has arrived.  Being a "core" Dynasty Warriors game, this one will focus more on the story of the three kingdoms and the dynasty that unified China, while adding a few more characters to each kingdom for players to use.

First off, I was very pleased that the pop-in problems from the last few games is very much improved.  Troops would still just appear sometimes, but they were farther away from me so it wasn't an issue.  Gone was the annoyance of slaughtering a group of soldiers only to have another group just appear around me, unaffected by my previous attacks.  Other than that, the character models are slightly changed, they look great and the scenery is better than last game.  My only complaint is the levels are pretty dark.  It might be just my TV, but a gamma/brightness setting in the options would have been nice.

Unlike the recent DW7 Empires, Dynasty Warriors 8 is dubbed.  All of the characters have English voices, and as far as I can tell, they are the same people who have been doing them for the last few years.  I'm glad to have them back.  Although it seems the trade-off this time was losing the vocal narration for Story Mode.  I do miss that, but I'd rather have the main cast dubbed than just the narrator.  I think there's also new music.  At least, it didn't sound familiar.  It's still the kind of music you would expect from the series though.

If you are not familiar with the Dynasty Warriors games, you have two different kinds of attacks, normal and charge.  Charge attacks will differ depending on what point in the combo you use them, and they all end the current combo (example: attack-attack-charge is a different combo ender versus attack-attack-attack-attack-charge).  With enough levels, you can do up to 6 normal attacks in a row.  Enemies can be juggled and many enemies hit with the same attack, both of which lead to some high hitting combos.  You also get up to three Musou meters that when each is full can be used for a super powered Musou attack to completely decimate large groups.  And yes, I know technically decimate means reduce by a tenth, but I'm using the connotation of it, not the denotation.

New to DW8 is the Rage Meter.  This is a separate meter that when filled, can be used to enter a powered up state and will instantly fill your Musou meters.  You will do a new, even more powerful Musou if you use it during the Rage state.  Also, you can just hold down the button and do an elongated Musou attack.  Each enemy killed will drop an item to get a little extra experience.  These are really fun to do since they hit huge groups and rack up tons of hits (I've had over 2200).  Just don't use them on the final enemy of the stage, since you won't get the bonus experience from all the kills.

You can equip two different types of weapons, and each character has a particular favorite type that they can get a special EX attack with.  You aren't limited to equipping a character's preferred type, but it's generally a good idea.  You can switch these weapons at any time with the press of a button, even in the middle of a combo.  Doing so is an attack called a Switch Attack, and is different for each type of weapon.  There are now 3 different types of each weapon (Earth, Man and Heaven), with one being strong against another and weak to the third.  If an enemy with an opposing type is doing certain attacks, pressing the swap button will do a new Swap Counter, where you dodge their attack and counter with a swap attack.  They are nice but I don't usually get an opportunity to use them.

Weapons will also have several different types of skills on them, like different types of elemental damage, increasing stats or allowing you to recover health with each attack.  There's no real way to transfer them, so you might have several of each element just for the bonuses.  Selling your weapons can be annoying, since you can't organize them in the equip or sell menus.  I'd really like that so I can quickly figure out which ones to sell.  As it stands, I usually just keep tons of them since it's a hassle to sell them and I don't need the money.  Characters can equip up to 4 skills, and you can level up each skill.  I like this system, since all characters pull from the same pool, and it tells you how to acquire and level up each skill.

As in the previous Dynasty Warriors games, there is a Story Mode that follows the rise and fall of the kingdoms of ancient China.  You can choose Wei, Wu, Shu or Jin.  One nice addition is that you can pick your character from 2-4 each stage.  Previous games either picked a relevant character for you, or you just used the one you originally picked.  I prefer this method, so you are playing characters that are important to the current battle, but aren't stuck with a single one in case you don't like playing as that person.  Another nice thing is that while it does not have a proper Story Mode, the "Other" category of characters do get stages in Story Mode.  They are ones that prominently feature the character you have to use.  It's nice that they have something in the game that makes them seem more important.

The biggest change to Story Mode is the addition of bonus conditions that will unlock a new "theoretical" ending.  I'm a fan of "what if" scenarios, so this is something I am happy to see added.  You get the historical ending but can see what could have happened if things went differently.  The stages that have the bonus conditions are identified in the stage select menu, as they will have stars under their description.  Once you fulfill a condition, it will tell you what it was.  Even better, once you get the historical ending, it will tell you what all of them are for that kingdom, making it much easier to get the bonus stages and theoretical endings.

The only two complaints I have about Story Mode this time around is the lack of dates and what feels like missing battles.  Sometimes during the intermissions between stages, they will mention a battle or other important happening, and then it just moves on.  There are plenty of battles in the Story, but it was strange that it felt like some battles were just skipped over.  The missing dates is a minor complaint, but it makes it a lot harder to piece everything together.  After playing all of stories, it is harder to form the timeline in your head, which wasn't an issue in the previous games.  Also, many times during the intermissions, they will say things like "eight years after that...", but you can't always place when it took place, so eight years later doesn't mean much.  So as much as I love the theoretical endings and bonus conditions, the historical story suffers a bit for it.

In place of DW7's Conquest Mode (which I really liked), we get Ambition Mode in Dynasty Warriors 8.  You choose a character and will fight for resources, officers and fame to build a new home for the emperor.  I really like this mode.  You can choose from 4 different fights each time you go out, and they have a different focus.  One might be better at getting materials to upgrade your facilities, and another will be skewed toward gaining officers.  Fights can be chained together for bigger bonuses, and that's the easiest method to rank up the fastest.  After each third fight or so, you will have to do a Duel stage, where you will fight several playable characters.  Beating them will add them to your ranks, allowing you to switch who you play as at the camp.

It seems best to do a 1:1 ratio of gaining officers and fame, since you can only get more fame after getting enough officers and need more fame to get more officers.  I had a hard time getting the numbers to match up without basically wasting fame or recruits because I was at the cap until I got enough of the other.  Spending materials was easy, but you don't earn a whole lot from each stage.  Even though the fame and officer caps were the biggest obstacles, materials took the longest to complete the Tongquetai (the building that will house the emperor).  The mode is lots of fun though, and I like that there are lots of small, quick stages and longer ones to mix it up.  It feels like a light version of the Dynasty Warriors Empires series.  I enjoy those and Ambition mode as well.

The trophy list is pretty straightforward.  You get some for doing all of the story stages, getting all of the weapons and killing lots of guys.  Several are obtained in the Ambition mode, and the longest of those is 50 straight battles, which will take some time, but you can save in between each fight.  There's also a trophy for doing all 4 tutorial stages, which are the same per kingdom just with different characters involved.  That's probably the least fun trophy since I don't think anyone wants to do the same tutorial four times.

So while the historical Story mode isn't as good as the previous "core" entry in the series, Dynasty Warriors 8 is still fun.  The theoretical story lines are interesting and the Ambition mode is really fun.  They added a few new characters (of course) and some new features, like the Swap Counter and Rage meter, while still keeping all of the entertaining hack and slash gameplay.  If you play through all of the stories and the Ambition mode, you can easily sink 60+ hours into the game.  That's worth it if you ask me.  Plus, the couch co-op is still great, even if the minimap is pretty big and should probably just be shared between the characters.

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