Review: Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires (PSV/PSTV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No*
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play Yes
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires
Format: Digital Code / PlayStation Network Download (3.3 GB)
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Koei Tecmo / Omega Force
Original MSRP: $39.99 (US), €39.99 (EU), £32.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

* Note: While the game is not Cross-Buy, content downloaded for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 can also be downloaded on the PlayStation Vita version free of charge.

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The first thing that springs to mind when I see a Dynasty Warriors game is button-mashing, attacking wave after wave of mindless enemy soldiers. Well I can safely say that Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is no exception to the button-mashing rule, but is it fun? I take the PS Vita version for a spin to find out.

Gameplay:
I have no idea what’s going on in the story department and have no desire to try to figure it out, suffice to say I don’t feel at a loss and can plod along regardless. It appears as if everyone is at war with each other and alliances, betrayal, marriage, and many other things all come into play during the long game.

I became sworn siblings with another officer, got married, and fought in many battles, all within the first hour. During that time, I slowly grew bored with the mindless button mashing as I faced thousands of enemy soldiers.

Pressing a combination of Square and Triangle repeatedly seemed to be enough to fend off the enemy fodder. I only pressed Circle every so often to unleash a special move that helped to relieve some of the monotony and vanquish the occasional enemy officer that joined the fray.

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It was only later that I realised I could swap characters and acquire new weapons, both of which changed the endless routine enough to keep me playing. I stumbled upon a character with Combat Blades that were essentially five throwing daggers, and rather enjoyed the efficiency at which he dispatched the lackadaisical opponents. In fact with this character I cleared entire areas within a quarter of the time.

Things were going swimmingly. I had defeated half the map and completed many of my goals, then it all went wrong. I stupidly decided to swap out my character and try out a new weapon, only because I had upgraded the other character and wanted to see how they performed. As one of my territories was under attack, I leapt in to defend the area but neglected to appoint enough officers and their armies to contain or push back the invasion.

… know your enemy …
I didn’t have enough time to turn the tide of battle and was summarily defeated, my favourite character was captured by the enemy. Yes, I had lost dagger man – his actual name escapes me – and was back to my boring original with his long sword. I will avenge you dagger man! I suppose it was my own fault, I had neglected to ascertain my opponent’s strength and assumed my one character and a couple of officers could have done the job.

At least my fatal mistake had taught me a valuable lesson: know your enemy… and probably to not wildly rush into battle. I guess this game has a little bit more depth than I assumed after all. Planning your route, timing your special moves and evening the odds whenever you can help in the later battles. I also noticed my officers need to rest and at times kick-back and relax otherwise they and their men grow too weak to fight.

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As it turns out, I captured and recruited several officers who favoured the Combat Blades a short time later and continued to sweep the land of every enemy in my path. The difficulty was never a real issue, even when fighting off several officers at once. My only struggles were the sores from continuous button-mashing.

… a little dull facing the same type of enemy …
Visuals:
The little Vita can display a decent amount of enemy soldiers on-screen along with a few friendly and enemy officers. Soldiers will randomly disappear and appear around you when mid fight. A few will lunge at your character but most just stand around waiting to be slain. New weapons and upgrades bring a variety to the countless murders you’ll perform and a certain amount of flair and showmanship becomes apparent as you dive deeper into the game.

Being able to stun, juggle, and freeze hordes of enemy soldiers is a satisfying sight but it still grows a little tiresome after a time. You have many different characters at your disposal and most have different abilities, yet it’s a little dull facing the same type of enemy. The landscape changes a bit, with forests, castles, rivers and such but all seem quite low quality.

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Nothing really impressed me in this department. With plenty of low quality textures and bland enemy soldiers, I welcomed the occasional officer on-screen that had some more detail and color. There are some nice effects when you perform a special move, but overall I don’t think the Vita is being used to its full potential. It does keep a steady frame rate, which isn’t surprising when the game simply removes an enemy or two whenever it wants.

… find more depth than expected …
Audio:
Action packed and slightly dated music frequents Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires but it still remains entertaining. The cries of charging hordes and the clash of steel and wood ring out across the battlefield. I doubt much has changed through the many iterations of this series but it all still holds up well alongside the original voice work.

Online/Multiplayer:
You can play ad-hoc or online multiplayer but I struggled to find anyone online. I must point out an excellent feature of the free ‘demo’ versions for both Vita and PS4 which allows you to play online with owners of the full retail version. You are limited to the Invasion and defensive modes but I’m very impressed with this component, especially considering you can import the save game from the free version.

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Conclusion:
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires may cause repetitive strain injury as you fend off tens of thousands of the same enemy, but even through its moments of banality you’ll find yourself sucked into the simplicity of the battle. Then after a time you begin to delve into the minutia and intricacies of the pre-battle part of the game to find more depth than expected.

Gravitating to a favourite weapon and character becomes almost a necessity to seeing this game through to the end, at least for me that is. It is fun and curiously addictive but I fear some will fall to the real life pains of strain and cramp before discovering the depth in this agonizing but enjoyable game.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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