Do video games age like fine wine? Does the same recipe yield better results after years of aging and careful care? Maybe, but if there is one game to test this theory it would be Dynasty Warriors 8. After years of recycling the same recipe, the Dynasty Warriors franchise has had more than enough aging and it is time to pop the cork to figure out whether it has done the latest game any good. Does Dynasty Warriors 8 provide a savory gaming experience that will leave your head euphoric, or has it simply turned to vinegar?
As with any Dynasty Warriors game, it can be reviewed in a few simple words: “Guitar squeal, guitar squeal, flaming horse barrel roll, explosion, magic, Three Kingdoms, power metal guitar squeal.” Dynasty Warriors 8 doesn’t deviate much from its predecessors, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By now, at the end of a console generation, Dynasty Warriors 8 can finally take full advantage of the hardware that is on display. Dynasty Warriors 8 is the most polished game in the series.
The story is pretty much the same rehash of the history of the Three Kingdoms. There are tyrannical warlords, civil unrest, and rebellion. It is all really an excuse to toss thousands of puny little warriors at historical figures that have been canonized as combat gods.
The graphics look much better than any previous iteration. They’re sharp and your character won’t get lost amongst the sea of minions hurling themselves onto your weapon. The levels look detailed but generic. This isn’t really a bad thing since it won’t steal your focus away from the task of laying the smackdown on a rival’s entire infantry single handedly.
The gameplay remains as simple as before. You have a regular attack and stronger attacks that can be initiated that get more powerful after a long combo. You also have a steed you can call at any point to make your way around the vast levels more quickly. The horse is also helpful in taking on large groups. As usual, you can also build up Musou and unleash devastating attacks decimating your enemies.
While the gameplay is simple and incredibly repetitive, there is a sort of zen-like calm that comes with playing a Dynasty Warriors game. This eighth installment is no different. Maybe it is the repetitive motion of your fingers on the controller, or the thousands of enemies being knocked back as you slog through a battle. It has a strange calming effect that is perfect for blowing off steam at the end of the day. In a time when video games like The Last of Us are an emotionally draining experience, and Dark Souls tests our concentration and skill, it is nice to play something that is simple and fun.
A new factor in combat are the weapon affinities. You have Earth, Man, and Heaven affinities each providing an edge over one another in combat. The game encourages you swap between weapons to make taking down difficult enemies easier. It works really well and doesn't get in between you and the main purpose of the game, which is kicking the asses of thousands of army grunts.
Besides the Story Mode which features characters posturing their way around cutscenes espousing the virtues of battle, power, and courage, there are a number of different game modes to explore. Of course there is a mode for a quick one-off battle if you’re short on time. The most interesting mode though is Ambition Mode. Here you are tasked with building up a town and castle in order to attract the favors of the emperor. It is little more than an excuse to get into more fights, but it is a bit different. You get supplies and allies from the battles you win, and you can help build up your status in feudal China. It is an interesting game mode that is definitely worth exploring.
Dynasty Warriors 8 is still plagued by some of the problems that previous games had. There are occasional glitches like people clipping through one another, but nothing game breaking. There are also those characteristics of gameplay that are annoying, but you just have to live with in a Dynasty Warriors game. Sometimes groups of enemies appear out of thin air and the AI IQ is well below triple digits. And you’ll occasionally find a few of them wandering around in circles.
A Dynasty Warriors game is difficult to review. It is one of those titles that people either love or hate. The faults with Dynasty Warriors 8 fall within the scope of the entire series. If you want an engaging story with substance and character, then you’ll want to pass on Dynasty Warriors 8. But, if you’re looking for some mindless gaming fun where you get to single handedly take down thousands of enemies and pretend to be a warlord god, then you can’t do much better.
The answer to our first question in our opener is "Yes." A video game with the same recipe can get better with age. Dynasty Warriors 8 proves it. The refinements to the series have been subtle, but the culmination of it in this generation is a whole lot of fun and has not turned bitter or sour.
This review is based on a retail copy of Dynasty Warriors 8 for the PlayStation 3.