Review: Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires (Sony PS3)

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei
Genre: Strategy/Hack and Slash
Release Date: 06/23/2009


Since the triumphant release of Dynasty Warriors 2 on PS2, the historically based hack and slash series has established a considerable amount of fans through its many sequels, spin offs, and stand-alone expansions. That said, you wouldn’t be hard pressed to find those who believe the series has been in desperate need of an overhaul for some time now. Comparing the Dynasty Warriors franchise to something like the Madden franchise is not a very far fetched comparison, all things considered.

The Empires spin-off of the Dynasty Warriors franchise incorporates ideas and mechanics akin to developer/publisher Koei’s roots, with a significant element of strategy and simulation tossed in alongside the expected hours of hacking and slashing enemy troops. The installment that we’ll be looking at here is the Empires version of last year’s Dynasty Warriors 6. Those who’ve played Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires will be generally familiar with the formula, but there are a few surprises included in this addition to make things a little more interesting.

Story:

Like all other Dynasty Warriors games, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires sees you take on one of several possible roles, all which involve the complete domination of China and the subjugation or obliteration of your enemies. The premise is based on actual Chinese history, but unlike the non-Empires games, there is no narrative explaining the desires and motivations of the involved generals, so the game literally rolls along through history sans any descriptive context. The idea is that history revolves around whoever you choose, and the events of the game write the narrative, which isn’t a bad idea, but it leaves little room for any sort of actual storytelling. If you’re at all familiar with the series, this will most likely not surprise you. If you’re a fan, this will certainly not diminish your enjoyment of the game in question.

Story Rating: Mediocre

Graphics:

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires features more or less the same visuals as the standard version of Dynasty Warriors 6 released last year. The character models are done up with more detail than the those that were in the Xbox 360 version of Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires. This makes this version visually superior, but the characters still seem a bit dated and stiff in many of their animations. The environment visuals seem even more dated than the characters collectively, and at times suffer from some noticeable draw-in. On the plus side, the game often displays large numbers of allies and enemies on-screen at one time with little to no slowdown, which is good considering a large portion of the game is spent with large numbers of enemies and allies on-screen at one time. As with the last several Dynasty Warriors games, the visuals are ultimately neither wowing nor appalling, and fans of the series will most likely feel the same way. It would be nice to eventually play one of these games with some truly cutting edge graphics though.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sound:

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires features soundtrack selections from a number of the previous games which can be selected to prior to the actual battle sequence. While this is a novel feature and offers a good amount of choices for background music during your conquests, one has to realize that all of the present music can be heard in Dynasty Warriors games past, with few “new” tracks added to the mix. The scores for these games have always blended an appropriate amount of heavy metal, ethnic sounds, and techno beats for an interesting, though at times monotonous, musical experience.

The voice work, those familiar with these games will be unsurprised to here, is as cheesy and lame as ever. The trademark ego-filled gloats of your commanding officers have become a staple for the Dynasty Warriors games as a whole, and I do honestly believe they are part of the very soul of the series. That said, most of the voice work has been recycled from past games as well, and there’s really nothing new to hear and snicker at, which is unfortunate.

Sound Rating: Above Average

Gameplay:

As was previously mentioned, those who have played any of the other Dynasty Warriors games will be familiar with the core premise of this installment. You command a single officer character, and you run or travel via horseback around various battlefields, slaying enemy troops and officers in attempts to take over their various bases and, ultimately, their main camp. The objective may change slightly from time to time, and time is always a factor, but generally, that is how a typical Dynasty Warriors battle works. The gameplay, as many will also know, is a generous workout for your right thumb, as the Dynasty Warriors games are the undisputed champion of the straight up hack-n-slash. This element has remained virtually unchanged since Koei struck gold by introducing this formula into the series with Dynasty Warriors 2 for the PS2 some nine years ago. It’s in these spin offs, like Empires or Xtreme Legends, that we find a little more substance to go along with the copious amount of button mashing.

The Empire mode in Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is structured pretty much the same as it was in the prior two Empires titles, at least at first. When you take on the role of a ruler, you’ll operate through an alternating turn based system while attempting to take the whole of China from your enemies and their armies. Though the general flow is the same, this variation of Empires is notably more streamlined than either of the two prior Empires titles. No longer are officers required to maintain land you’ve taken over and you no longer can you perform the same actions constantly every turn. In lieu of the substantial strategy elements found in the previous Empires endeavors, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires adopts a simple card based strategy mechanic which essentially acts as the major strategy element of the game. During Council, you can issue a series of cards into play with the allotted Resources you have. These cards serve a number of different functions, with the more useful cards obviously costing more Resources to put into effect. Cards can give you anything from attack and defense boosts, to forcing an enemy officer to defect, to increasing your gold supply and beyond. It’s understandable that this “dumbed down” take on the Empires formula might disappoint certain fans of the previous installments, but the more streamlined approach makes the game more accessible overall to fans of the kind of game Dynasty Warriors really is… a generally mindless and addicting hack-n-slash. The strategy cards feature adds just enough to give the game a little more depth, and certainly doesn’t take away as much time from the inevitable battlefield adventures as the many menus and options that one had to navigate during the council sequences in the prior games.

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires also allows players to become free-lance mercenaries or servants of a ruler in Empires mode instead of becoming rulers themselves. In this case, your time with the game basically sees you playing as a free sword working for whichever ruler will pay you the best. This mode translates into little more than a simple series of quests, making it more in line with the regular games, but is certainly enjoyable for those who might want to play through a session of Dynasty Warriors without having to worry about the most basic strategy elements offered in the traditional Empires mode. Upgrading your character has also seen something of an overhaul, as instead of finding better swords in battle and adding skills to these weapons, you will instead invest money and gems you acquire throughout the game into upgrading your weapons and your character, allowing you to add additional secondary attacks to the character, including interesting passive skills, or just upgrading the damage you can take and dish out. The other mechanics are still in play from other Empires games, fortunately. You can make a number of custom officers with various weapons and armor options, as well as strengthen created and existing officers’ weapons and abilities during council sessions.

Gameplay Rating: Good

Replayability:

Dynasty Warriors games are built to be played for a really long time, and this version of Empires is certainly no different. In addition to the already gigantic rooster of officers, as noted previously, you can also make custom characters. Leveling these characters up is the same old grind from previous games, but if you’re a fan of making yourself and taking over China, it’s still just as much fun. Like prior Empires games, there is also a two-player split screen mode, as well as the usual treasure trove of unlockable wallpapers, costumes, and movies that fans of the series always love.

Replayability Rating: Great

Balance:

So long as your army is capable of taking out the enemy, you’ll rarely run into an issue of unbalanced difficulty in Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires. The Empires mode will see your ruler and commanding officers constantly leveling up through invasions and defense battle skirmishes. At first, enemies can be a bit more challenging than they were in prior games, even on the lowest difficulty settings, but as you progress and increase your levels, you’ll find the game adjusts accordingly, which keeps things challenging and interesting from beginning to end. Excuse the rhyme, but if you’ll willing to grind, you’ll be just fine.

Balance Rating: Great

Originality:

As a fan of pretty much all of the games across the Dynasty/Samurai Warriors franchise, I have no problem indemnifying the franchise as one of the most re-hashed, beaten into the ground game series’ on the current market. Practically all the components are recycled visually from one game to the next, and the gameplay, at its core, has remained virtually the same for the nine years this specific formula has been used with the series.

That being said, this is one of the few series of games I would probably buy and enjoy regardless of whether the formula ever evolved past what it has been for close to a decade of the franchise’s existence. To many of us, the franchise acts as a sort of sports title in the sense that we’re accustomed to playing practically the same game each year, but those few extra players and features make the experience worth going through… again, and again, and again. Still, expect to see nothing new in Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires. I’ll close this section of the review with the same sentence I wrote regarding several other aspects of this installment… if you’re a fan, you’re not going to mind in the slightest.

Originality Rating: Bad

Addictivness:

Simply put, if you’re a fan of the franchise, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is ecstasy on a disc. The game offers hours upon hours of things to see and do, enemies to defeat, allies to make, and treasures to plunder, and if you enjoy rending thousands of troops asunder, you’ll love this. If you’re not a fan, then you won’t understand, but if you count yourself as a fan, well, you probably won’t be able to put this down for many, many hours.

Addictivness Rating: Classic

Appeal Factor:

The series has such a considerable fanbase as it is that I’d imagine presenting the game in any sort of fashion that would garner the attention of a wider gaming demographic is one of the last things Koei was thinking about with this particular release. Frankly, if you’re the sort of person who finds cutting through swaths of enemies for about a hundred hours to be tedious and boring, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires isn’t for you, and you won’t find much to like about the game.

If you’re a fan, on the other hand, I doubt you’d even really need this review.

Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre

Miscellaneous:

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is a good time, but as this is much the same game as many others in the series, and and as there aren’t any notable bugs to discuss, I’d like to use this section of my review to express my disappointment with Koei in their decision to NOT release Warriors Orochi Z in the US or in Europe. I admit openly that Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is a solid, enjoyable title, but out of all the Warriors games, I’ve easily clocked the most time on the Orochi games, most of which are generally more interesting than the core games. For the fans Koei, reconsider. Or face the wrath of Lu Bu.

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre

The Scores:
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Great
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is nothing new really, but fans are likely to like it that way. The strategy card function in this version of Empires streamlines the strategy element of the game, which could either be a disappointment to fans who enjoyed the more extensive simulation aspects, or a more accessible product to those who truly just play these games to lay waste to multiple thousands of enemy fodder. The ability to play as a mercenary or an officer is also interesting, to a point, but there’s nothing really compelling about these options that make them more interesting than being a lord. This game reinvents absolutely nothing outside of the strategy mechanics…but did anyone honestly expect it to? If you’re a fan of the series you know what to expect from Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires, and it’s just as good as the last.

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