Koei Tecmo’s flagship franchise for years now has been the Omega Force developed Dynasty Warriors. It is a series of games known for singularly powerful warriors battling large hordes of enemies. The main series titles have had players perpetually playing through conflicts based loosely on the Records of the Three Kingdoms while spin-off titles have brought other franchises to the Dynasty Warriors formula—from Dynasty Warriors: Gundam to the more recently released Hyrule Warriors. Dynasty Warriors 9 had promised to take the series in a new direction, and I would like to say it had—but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Dynasty Warriors 9, like the games before it, is a hack and slash game on massive scales. Instead of fighting one versus one, or even versus small groups of combatants, you can face hundreds at once. Each character of the over 80 you can eventually control is like a superhero capable of ridiculous feats of strength and wielding magic that can kill dozens of foes at once. This doesn’t necessarily make me feel powerful as I play. Instead, I feel more like a kid who’s activated a cheat code to play through a game beyond my skill level. This isn’t unique to Dynasty Warriors 9, as every game in the franchise is based around this concept, but Dynasty Warriors 9 has really highlighted to me just how dumb and passive the AI is, making most normal enemies non-threatening.
The biggest change to the series formula introduced in Dynasty Warriors 9 was supposed to be the introduction of an open world with battles raging all around in real-time. You can choose to explore this world, participate in battles scattered about, or complete quests to finish whichever chapter you’re trying to play through. This is a concept that sounds great on paper, but it is executed horribly. Dynasty Warriors 9 is divided into 13 chapters that are incredibly densely packed with activities. I spent almost four hours in the first chapter exploring, fighting, and doing side quests just to see what it offered.
Unfortunately, there’s not much there that we haven’t seen before—it just requires more travelling to get to the mindless action. There is fast travel, which helps getting across the surprisingly large open-world, but you will have to travel on foot eventually. That’s where your handy, appears-out-of-thin-air horse comes in. You can even set him to auto-run to your next waypoint. I suggest that you avoid doing that though, as your horse will often get stuck trying to run through walls and buildings with its mostly non-existent pathfinding.
There is a story that brings together this whole affair–unfortunately it is not one of Dynasty Warriors 9’s redeeming qualities. It follows the same Romance of the Three Kingdoms formula but is ultra-simplified. The voice acting is absolutely atrocious and easily ranks among the worst I’ve ever heard. Each ham-fisted line is delivered as over-the-top as possible, with ridiculous intonations and affectations that were extremely distracting.
There are role-playing game elements, like inventory management, and the ability to assign skill points among around 9 skills—like attack, defense, stamina, etc. These elements are implemented in a serviceable way, but the UI is an ugly, convoluted mess that looks like it’s from a bygone era. In addition, the exclusion of multiplayer really hurts Dynasty Warrior 9, as at least with friends the gameplay would be bearable.
As it is right now, Dynasty Warriors 9 is a barely playable mess. Don’t misunderstand me: you can literally play it (mostly) without technical issues, but it’s so mechanically inept–so incredibly insipid and tedious as to be an absolute chore and I hated almost every moment of my time with Dynasty Warriors 9. The entire package is irredeemably flawed, from the terrible voice acting to the lack of multiplayer and awful UI. Steer clear.
Dynasty Warriors 9 is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.