Game: Dynasty Warriors 5
System: Sony Playstation 2
Genre: 3rd Person Action
Developer: Omega Force
I remember when I hooked up my first PS2. I had only four games back then: Tekken Tag Tournament, Summoner, DOA2 Hardcore?, and my favorite one, Dynasty Warriors 2. It was a type of game that I had never played before, and it was amazing for the hack ‘n slash guy hidden deep within me. Finally, I could kill hundreds of people at once!
Of course time passed, and other games came and went. I managed to miss the third and fourth installments of the Dynasty Warriors series, but felt I wasn’t missing too much. I mean sure, there must have been some various gameplay enhancements, but considering the locked timeframe the games take place in, there’s bound to be quite a bit of repetitiveness between versions. I mean, how many times can you beat up the Yellow Turbans and call it a new experience?
Well, apparently a lot, because we are now seeing the FIFTH installment of the Dynasty Warriors series, with yet another configuration of what you can do while beating the crap out of big-ass army single-handedly. So how does it play? Read on to find out!
The three family dynasties are at war to see who will rule over ancient China. Lei VS Shu VS Wu! Who will be victorious? That’s up for YOU to decide!
And…that’s it. It’s the same damn back-story that’s occurred in each and every game. In fact, the way it’s presented is very loosely based on the “Romance of Three Kingdoms” history. However, this time around each character is given an ongoing story to play out in the game’s “Muoso Mode”. So while the back story is stale as hell, the addition of character-specific arcs breaths SOME life into it. But not much.
Considering the amount of bodies this game needs to produce on screen at one time, DW5 does a respectable job. I’ve been through scenarios where I’ve been fighting plus or minus 100 people at once, and the game doesn’t slow down at all. It rarely even skips. But what it DOES have is an above-average amount of draw-in and pop-up in regards to creating the enemy warriors. I’ve seen enemy squads appear in the middle of the field before, while other squads can be seen further back. It doesn’t happen often, but it is noticeable.
Otherwise, the character models look pretty nice. They animate fluidly, and attack realistically. Their mouths even sync up correctly while talking during the cut scenes, which is a plus. The environments they fight in, however, haven’t seemed to change very much. The forest and mountain scenes are relatively basic, and only serve as something to fight in. Nothing very aesthetically pleasing, though.
Is it just me, or does blaring rock music not fit the times of Ancient China? It seems weird that the use of hard rock far outweighs any tunes resembling the era the game represents. The songs are GOOD ones, but there’s something about them that detracts from the experience more than adds to them.
The game also features a large amount of voice-overs, including cut scenes and back-stories. A lot of the voices either range from “slightly-above-bland” to “way-over-the-top”, with very few lying in the middle ground. Yet I don’t find the odd balance an annoying factor. While the music doesn’t exactly fit, the range of voices feel like they DO. It’s very odd.
Dynasty Warriors has always been known for its gameplay, and this fifth installment is once again no slouch. This game offers several different modes where you can take it to the enemy forces the only way your generals can.
First there’s the Campaign Mode, where you can choose to play ANY battle that’s offered during the game. You can pick from any of the characters, and simply go to town in completing them. Not much else to it.
Then there’s the Muoso Mode, which I’ve touched on a bit already. This is where you pick a character, and then go through five different missions with that character, accompanied by some story arcs, which you can choose to ignore. While this may seem like an extended version of Campaign Mode, this is also how you unlock the many characters hidden within the game.
Now these two modes manage to share a common trait that I find awesome: character leveling. After each battle, your characters will gain experience points and go up in rank. The higher the rank, the better their stats will become. But the truly great thing about this? The experience gains are PERMANENT. You can take a character you powered up through Muoso Mode, and take him/her through Campaign Mode at the same level. Or you can send them through Muoso Mode again on a higher difficulty level with the same power and equipment. I LOVE the fact that once a character is powered up, they STAY powered up forever. Thanks to this, you can manage all your warriors in the “Camp”. Here you’ll be able to see the stats of all your fighters, as well as assign them bodyguards to each character, and change their weapons and equipped items. This is a perfect way to see the progress you’ve made without second-guessing yourself.
Another interesting mode is the Challenge Mode, where instead of army VS army battles, you are given four different challenges to complete: killing 100 enemies in the fastest time, killing X enemies within the time limit, killing enemies without getting hit, and knocking enemies off a bridge. You can use the powered-up characters from your camp for these tasks, and your scores are saved. An interesting diversion, but not really worth it unless you want the hidden items these challenges apparently give.
While you’re in battle, you can pick up new weapons and armor for your characters. The weapons you get are random, and there is only 3-4 per character. But the interesting thing is that no two weapons are the same. Sure you can pick up a weapon with the same name and power, but each weapon comes with random stat modifiers that will increase your HP, MP, horse-riding skills, etc. It’s up to you to pick and choose which weapons you want to keep and discard. Items work in a similar manner, as duplicate items may have slightly different stats. Equipping these items will increase various attributes of your fighters, and if you run into a duplicate item, you will automatically be upgraded to the stronger of the two. This is very interesting, as this gives you a slightly bigger incentive to collecting these items. Yes, you have one that does this, but there are still others that are better!
The controls of the game are still rather simplistic. You have a dedicated jump button (X), and one attack button (Square) that you’ll end up mashing about 80,000 times during a mission. There’s an additional attack button (Triangle), but all that does is provide you with a charge attack that you’ll hardly ever use. Circle is your “Muoso” button, allowing you to perform a super attack that will smack all enemies around you. Arrows return as well, but they are hardly used. I believe I only fired three arrows in the course of my 15-20 battles thus far, and all of them were simply testing to see how the arrows worked in battle. Even with the simplicity, the controls are very responsive, and no lag from button press to action taken.
An addition to the gameplay that I REALLY like is the “bodyguard”. During your missions, you can assign a bodyguard to your fighters that follow you around and kill things for you. The bodyguard can be commanded to fight, defend, or wait for you during battle. The body guard assigned will also gain experience points on his/her own, allowing him/her to level up along with you. But as they level up, they can learn special abilities to aid you in battle, such as healing you. And if they’re around when your Muoso Meter hits maximum, they’ll add THEIR Muoso Meter to yours and create an ultra-deadly super attack when you press the Circle button. New bodyguards will join your ranks periodically, and as you progress through the game, their initial stats will become better.
On the whole, the battling aspects of the game are very good, but much of it mirrors what has come before it in the franchise. Kill giant armies? Check. Ride horses? Check. Use only one attack button 85% of the time? Check. There’s been quite a bit of innovation here, but much of it is the same ol’ Dynasty Warriors formula.
Playing through the Muoso Mode lets you unlock a HUGE amount of stuff. Completing the mode with one character will unlock about two cut scenes, that character’s ending movie, and usually a new character to play as. Now keep in mind that you start with six characters PER DYNASTY, giving you eighteen opportunities to go through Muoso Mode and unlock stuff. And there are THIRTY MORE CHARACTERS that are hidden away for you to go through again. That’s a grand total of 48 times through Muoso Mode, and 240 separate battles you must complete. And that’s only going through the mode ONCE A CHARACTER.
Never mind that there are a slew of bodyguards that will join your ranks that you can level up, or the fact that items you collect will upgrade themselves if you’re lucky. Plus there are hidden powerful weapons you can unlock by completing various tasks as certain characters on the Hard difficulty. Oh, and the challenges in Challenge Mode. Can’t forget those.
So on the one hand, there is a LOT you can do here, with gameplay lasting you for a few weeks easily. But after a few battles, it could suddenly hit you that all you’re doing is the same thing over and over again. Kill people, kill people, cut scene, kill people, kill people, cut scene, kill people, end scene, unlock. There’s plenty to do, yes, but the repetitiveness is glaring.
Replay Value: 7/10
I must say that the curve for this game is pretty accurate. Put the game on Easy, and you’ll be wiping the floor with every body you come across. Put it on Normal, and you’ll mostly like not make it past the third battle without having a character at least halfway through their leveling. Put it on hard, and good luck getting that spear out your ass on stage one!
Luckily things get easier after you accumulate a good amount of weapons and items. Sending a first-level general out with nothing but his weakest weapon on Hard will get you killed very easily. But arming him to the teeth with items you acquired from all sorts of other battles you already fought will give him a fighting chance. So as your Camp becomes more full, the more the difficulty curve will flatten out.
There’s more story than before, and its presented in an interesting way. The bodyguard mechanic is also something rather cool. But really, it’s the same damn game that was released three times before, only with minor tweaks and tiny additions. If EA owned this franchise, John Madden would be doing the commentary.
No, wait! Forget I said that! EA, DON’T get any ideas! Do NOT purchase Koei! (Oh crap, I just f*cked up…)
I found myself REALLY liking the game upon my first play through. I was having a grand ol’ time smashing the Yellow Turbans and picking apart Cao Cao’s army one by one. I couldn’t put the game down that day, and ended up going through two campaigns without turning my PS2 off. But after my third or fourth, I began to get bored. Sure there were still 25+ characters left to unlock for my roster, but I just didn’t feel like going through the Muoso Mode too much. It would just be the same fights over and over again, with the latter ones blurring together in my mind. So I had my fill after a few days.
The initial reaction to this game is a good one, but your interest will wane if you keep at the same pace. Eventually, you’ll relegate playing this to one campaign per week. If that.
Fans of the series will gravitate towards this first, followed by those who may not played this game in a while. I know some fans that have been burned by the similar gameplay mechanics in all four PS2 games, while other fans can’t get enough of it. Its fun, but certainly not worth the $50 Koei keeps charging for it. I’m sure fans will snap it up, but those who have been burned before, or those who never played, might be a bit cautious.
Appeal Factor: 5.5/10
As I stated earlier, the last Dynasty Warriors game I played was the second game, and that’s when the PS2 came out over four years ago. With so much time passing between the release of DW2 and DW5, I was strongly expecting a VASTLY different experience than from years past. Alas, I couldn’t say that the experience was all that different. The graphics are better, and the options are larger, but the core gameplay has remained largely the same.
It kind of makes me think how I would have accepted the third and fourth installments. If DW5 followed DW2, I would have called it a major step up. But since its a full THREE SEQUELS away, it just looks like its another baby step rather than a massive update.
Replay Value: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 5.5/10
Overall Score: 58/100
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (SLIGHTLY ABOVE AVERAGE)