Dynasty Warriors 9 Review: Ew, That's Just Dy-Nasty

Omega Force's latest installment in their long-running series brings a lot of changes. But, are they a change for the best or the worst? Our review.

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When it comes to Dynasty Warriors, it’s safe to say that I am a dedicated fan. I’ve played just about every iteration of the game since Dynasty Warriors 2, including all the Samurai and Gundam spin-offs. I even went as far as to name it my ultimate guilty pleasure game at a PAX West panel one year. I know that its arcade-style hack-and-slash gameplay isn’t for everyone, and I’ve never thought of the titles as extremely polished, so I’ve definitely graded the series on a curve. But, Dynasty Warriors 9 has left me a bit conflicted as to how I should feel about the game's new open-world approach.

The Combo King

The core mechanics that have always made Dynasty Warriors enjoyable for me remain intact. Combat is all about taking on a ridiculously insane amount of enemies on the battlefield with a frenzy of epic combos and super “Musou” attacks. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that Dynasty Warriors 9 is the best of the series so far when it comes to its combo system thanks to the new switch attack system.

Switch Attack allows players to choose from four special moves that they can add to their regular and strong attacks. Having an added option to start off a combo with a stun move, or launching an enemy up for an air combo before slamming them into the ground adds another level to an already expansive system. Fighting is more fluid than ever. I usually end up picking one combo and sort of sticking to it throughout each level, but this time around I found myself choosing moves more intentionally in order to keep a beatdown going.

It’s great that the core arcade brawler experience was left intact even though the title has gone open-world. However, with that open world comes an odd warping of the past iterations’ objective-based levels. Since most of the main missions involve defending or attacking a castle or village located on the map, there’s not much to them.

The new grappling hook means I was able to complete many missions simply by climbing over a wall and attacking the main target. Once a main general or commander was defeated, whole castles full of enemy soldiers would simply retreat of fade away. Not every mission is so simple. Some have more complex objectives needed for completion, like taking out multiple targets or defending NPCs, but they are marred by the fact that difficulty is mediocre from mission to mission. I’d have to say if there was one shining element to the new system it would be that completing optional tasks before taking on the main objective lowers the overall power level of the final mission.

World Wide Wu

I find the new open-world approach is a mixed blessing at best. While the game now offers crafting, hunting, foraging, and NPC quests in the open world, none of these systems feel necessary. The availability of fast travel points for most main missions further disincentivizes aimless wandering.

Even if a player does want to check out everything Dynasty Warriors 9’s large world map has to offer there wouldn’t be much for them to actually see. The world itself feels sparse, dry and somewhat dead inside. Landscapes are very brown, trees look dead, and the color palette is just flat-out bland. While things like draw rates and some disappearing assets are commonplace in open-world games, having trees disappear or appear right in front of me or enemies fading in and out isn’t quite as forgivable.

The Same Old Story

Dynasty Warriors titles have always retold the tale of Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history, but sometimes it’s been a confusing story to follow, mostly because so much of it can be played in whatever order a player wants. Dynasty Warriors 9 does a good job of streamlining the plot and explaining the historical context. Even here though, everything is a double-edged sword.

For starters, the English voice acting is all over the place with drawl deliveries interspersed with some over-the-top inflection choices will probably cause more snickering than intrigue. Some of these cutscenes are just way too long and the ones that are animated with the in-game engine rather than CGI rendered do not look fantastic. I do have to give the team at Omega Force credit for creating one of the most epic Lu Bu intro videos I’ve ever seen in the series.

This Is Why I Can't Have Nice Things!

Admittedly, many of the flaws or problems I have with Dynasty Warriors 9 are nothing entirely new to the series. It’s just that now there’s a whole new layer of problems that have been put on top of them that make the original issues that much more apparent. For almost every aspect of the game's features that I felt were on par with the quality of past titles, there is a contradiction.

I’m willing to chalk this one up to the growing pains of essentially starting from scratch. But if this is the direction that the franchise is taking. a lot needs to change. If Omega Force can make the next world they build lusher, make the missions more complex to fit in that open world, and give more incentive for players to complete some of the NPC side-quests, they might stand a chance. If they keep going down their current path, they risk losing hardcore fans such as myself. I did not enter this endeavor expecting a miracle from Omega Force, but I still feel disappointed by a game that I really wanted to like


This review is based on a PS4 download code provided by Koei Tecmo. Dynasty Warriors 9 is available in retail and digital stores now.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

Review for
Dynasty Warriors 9
6
Pros
  • Core combat mechanics improved
  • Some decently animated cutscenes
  • A brave first effort
Cons
  • Open world that feels empty
  • Grappling hook makes certain missions too easy
  • Bland color schemes
  • Too many glitches
  • Stupendously bad voice acting
From The Chatty