Now you can become the ruler of the Three Kingdoms with your army of midgets, the devil, and quirky illegitimate children. It’s like Game of Thrones – historical China edition!
This here’s my Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires Review!
We haven’t reviewed a Warriors Empires game on Rice yet so I’ll start with a brief introduction. The Empires ‘spin-offs’ take a different approach to the standard Warriors format by removing the narrative campaign mode and instead placing emphasis on player-made decisions. This eponymous game mode takes place on a map of China split into different regions, with the overall objective being to control all of the regions.
Players first must choose which historical campaign to start their Empire Mode in. This is really just choosing the starting rulers of each of the territories: Zhang Jiao won’t be a ruler if you choose a campaign later than the Yellow Turban Rebellion; there will only be the four major factions (Shu, Wei, Wu, Jin) if you choose a later campaign, etc.
There are a whole host of characters to choose from. Not only do all characters from DW8 Xtreme Legends return (plus the all new Xun Yu model) but players have the option of playing ‘bit part’ characters from the entire universe. These characters don’t have unique voice acting, appearances, or weapons, but there are an absolute ton of them. It took me 28.63 seconds to scroll down the entire character roster. I was going to count them but I probably would have destroyed my controller pressing the down button so much.
I chose to play as my custom character – ‘Brotagonist’ – and started as a vagabond unit, able to travel to any region and undertake quests, raids, and invasions, on behalf of the rulers there. A vagabond unit can choose to join any ruler and, assuming they let you, will then serve under them and their ‘War Council Strategy’ for however long you wish.
You can choose one action per month, with the campaign ending after 50 years have passed, or one ruler unites the land under their banner. As a vagabond, I spent most of my time building relationships with those I was serving and their immediate officers. Having high relationships with officers means that they sometimes bring you gifts and are more likely to promote you in their ranks.
As you work your way up the chain of command more options become available to you each month. You can choose to recruit officers from surrounding regions, construct and upgrade buildings in each territory (blacksmith, item shop, mine etc.), forge alliances with regions to stop them attacking you, and choose the plan of attack for your territory. By Raiding a territory you can weaken their resources so that when you come to Invade they are easier to take over. You also have to defend your territory from invaders; the larger your kingdom, the more defending you will be doing.
These battles take place just like a regular Warriors installment where you take your character to the battlefield to decimate entire battalions of enemy
punchbags soldiers. Anyone familiar with Hyrule Warriors (which PoshAlligator has kindly reviewed here) will know the score: The battlefield is populated with outposts, each housing a number of soldiers. Reducing this number of soldiers allows you to capture the outpost for your own. Owning adjacent outposts provides buffs for your whole force, making it easier to cut down subsequent adversaries.
Outside of battle, each kingdom has three resources. Troops increase your entire forces attack power in battle. Money allows you to buy items and weapons, and is required for monthly troop salary. Merits are sort of like karma and is used to recruit soldiers and improve relationships. Balancing these resources is key to maintaining a strong kingdom, and you can never know when officers are going to defect or you are going to lose a lot of troops in a particularly tough battle.
Speaking of defection, having a higher rank allows you to betray your kingdom to another ruler, giving all the territory you control to them after winning a battle against your former ruler. This puts you high in the ranks of the kingdom you are joining, but destroys any relationships you had in your former kingdom. You also have the option of succeeding territory from your ruler, effectively taking their land and breaking off as your own kingdom. Any officers that have a high relationship score with you will most likely come and join your cause, even the old ruler if you are sworn brothers (AA+ relationship rank), leaving their second in command in charge of the old territory.
Having relationships with officers of the opposite sex can eventually lead to marriage and possibly a child. After a short time your child will grow up and become a playable officer with an amalgamation of stats and skills from both parents. Interestingly though, the child character seems to come from the Edit Character mode with incredibly random results. My child looked like me but was twice my age, and had the voice pitch slider all the way up which made him sound like an anime girl. They also only exist for your campaign, which was disappointing because I would have liked to start another campaign playing as my child.
I can see that for anyone unfamiliar with Dynasty Warriors (or Romance of the Three Kingdoms) being presented with literally hundreds of Chinese names for people and places is going to be rather overwhelming, and to some extent, will remove some of the fun. Telling you that I wooed, married, and had a child with Zhurong while serving underneath Meng Huo who later became my sworn brother isn’t going to make much sense if you don’t know who these characters are, but it’s rather funny.
The new and improved Edit Mode is a welcome addition. Players are now free to create their own Officers, Soldiers (the fodder you usually cut down mercilessly), warhorses, and banners. Bringing this all together is the Unit: a collection of ten custom Officers with their own banner, warhorses, and soldiers. Me and a friend had a lot of fun creating our own Unit, complete with the devil and a whole host of other characters :-
Anything that you create in Edit Mode can be brought into the Empire campaign. Once I became my own ruler, I could set my troops to be custom soldiers which, for me, was always going to an army of midgets.
I tried to play the whole game with a friend but unfortunately only large scale invasions and defend battles allow you to play couch coop. Raids and quests must be undertaken alone. I have to point out that it looks like you are able to play online for any battle but I was unable to test this, having played the game prior to release. You can also play all the Free Mode battles couch coop.
Unfortunately, the coop mode still isn’t very optimised. It follows the tradition of limiting the number of enemies on screen but this doesn’t detract from the fun of cutting down hordes of soldiers with a buddy. Why we still have two identical maps and soldier moral bars cluttering the screen is beyond me. The coop interface could do with some refining tweaks.
In addition to Empire Mode, players can experience an advanced version of Free Mode that allows them to play Invasions, Defensive Battles, Event Battles, and Quests once completed in the main campaign. This mode is more detailed than previous Free Modes and allows tweaking of allied and enemy levels, the overall difficulty, and the placement of up to 16 officers per force.
I’ll be blunt: the graphics aren’t great. Even playing the PlayStation 4 version it never reaches the level of presentation that made me say ‘Wow, this is next gen!’ but I suppose this is because it looks to be using the Dynasty Warriors 8 models instead of the polished Samurai Warriors 4 ones.
And guess what? It really doesn’t matter. There are a ton of soldiers present on the battlefields and the battles are generally large scale. I would rather take this over dumbed-down battles with fewer soldiers.
The signature Gallery and Encyclopedia modes are also present. Interestingly, the Gallery features ‘Your Timeline’, which documents your custom officers changes in their Way of Life after playing an Empire Mode campaign.
In summary, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is a great addition to the Warriors franchise, and takes all of the best features from Dynasty Warriors 8 and packages them into a unique campaign mode featuring subterfuge, betrayal, and love affairs, in which the player is in control of the narrative direction. While a daunting first step into the Warriors series for newcomers, it is inevitably a great title featuring old-school coop which is sure to delight newbies and long-standing fans alike.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end: well done. Consider promoting yourself from Ordinary Man to Raging Commander. Below is your certificate.
The game comes out on Friday, but you can still pre-order the game from our online store right here!
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