From a series known for its mindless button-mashing combat comes a rather well crafted strategy game that, despite the conflicting genre, surprisingly stays true to the franchise.
Like the rest of the franchise, the game takes place during the turbulent Han period in China. This time around, the game follows brave warrior Zhao Yun and his childhood friend and lore master Lei Bin. As they battle it out against the remnants of the rebels known as the yellow turbans, they stumble across a crystallized maiden and accidentally break the seal, unleashing Lixia. This evidently powerful being is intrigued by the duo and joins them on their adventures. While the story of Musou games often takes a back seat to the gameplay, Godseekers has just enough charm to keep you excited for more. And, unlike before, you slowly meet new allies and confront powerful foes, allowing anyone to enjoy the story without prior knowledge of the series.
What is offered here is amazing and doesn’t grow stale even after hours upon hours of play.
When compared to other modern tactical games, Godseekers has simplified the formula to an almost basic level. Despite how it may sound, this only further strengthens the core gameplay. It’s very accessible, but at the same time it doesn’t hold your hand for too long. Even with its limited number of systems, what is offered here is amazing and doesn’t grow stale even after hours upon hours of play.
You control up to 5 officers, each counting as a single unit. While the enemy has strength in numbers, that has never stopped the characters in Musou games before from making easy work of countless battalions of helpless foes. Combat is turn-based and ends up being unbelievably intuitive. You can stack as many attacks as you want as long as you have enough action points, with more powerful skills using up more actions. At the beginning of each turn all your officers will recharge some of their action gauge. Action points can be accumulated, so sometimes the best course of action may be not doing anything at all while you wait for an intimidating foe to draw near. Somehow everything fits into place and almost every facet of the gameplay is put into use in each battle.
Battles take place on a grid and, while there are your typical high ground bonuses and walls that force you into disadvantageous positions, the real meat in combat comes from the unbelievably useful sync mechanic. Once you mow down enough enemies, you will be able to use the so called sync command. This allows you to sync nearby officers and let them have another turn, ending in an explosive area-of-effect finisher. Whereas in other games this would only serve as a flashy special move, here it can mean the difference between a clean victory and a slow and painful defeat. The beauty here comes from how you can chain multiple syncs if you do enough damage with each one.
There is a lot of content in Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. Once you complete a story mission, that level then opens up with a plethora of side-missions. While they are not required to progress, they do offer a nice way to level up your party members, especially those that might have fallen behind. The game also incentivizes you to return to different stages at different times with its bonuses, ranging from increased enemy levels to more gold and a better chance at acquiring treasure chests.
Even if you opt not to tackle these extra missions for handy bonuses, the game isn’t too challenging. We played most of the levels on hard with our officers well under the recommended level and we still managed to complete those stages with a bit of careful planning.
Like the combat, the customization is just deep enough to keep you hooked, but at the same time it never feels too overwhelming. Each weapon can be tempered to increase its basic attack power. Reforging, on the other hand, lets you combine two weapons and transfer attributes from one to another, which can drain your slowly accumulated fortune in an instant if you are not careful. Finally, each officer can have up to 3 unique skills. These are unlocked by assigning skill points in a Final Fantasy-like grid that lets you choose the path of progress for each of your officers.
While the gameplay is gratifying enough, technically the game leaves much to be desired. We played the Vita version, which would generally be the platform of choice for such a bite-sized tactical game, however the experience was brought down by many technical problems. You can see that the interface was simply copied from the big screen, and on the Vita the incredibly tiny fonts make reading a chore, despite the screen actually having so much empty real estate. Even with the sub-par visuals and slow turn-based gameplay, the game often has a hard time keeping up with the action. The framerate frequently drops to infuriating levels – this is most noticeable when the screen is cluttered with numerous enemy of troops. It does get better as you thin the enemy’s numbers, but we couldn’t help but wonder who decided that this version was ready for release.
Just enough complexity to keep things surprisingly engaging.
Things fare much better on PlayStation 4 (and PlayStation 3 version in Japan). There are far more soldiers in groups and the visuals and frame rate hold up far better. Still, the visuals aren’t impressive. Its evident that the true power of the home console versions was held back by their portable brother.
Despite being a tactical game, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers very much has the heart of the franchise. You have your one-man-army officers, accessible and addictive gameplay and the famous groovy music. It’s far from a perfect game, since its technical flaws and simplistic nature leave a lot to be desired. However, at the same time, it offers just enough complexity to keep things surprisingly engaging while keeping the whole game accessible to both newcomers as well as long time Dynasty Warriors fans.