By: Jeff Cater
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is a standalone continuation of Dynasty Warriors 8. Keeping up with the tactics that Empires fans have grown accustomed to, there are also a few new pieces of flair thrown in. Welcome back to China!
Well, it certainly is a Dynasty Warriors game! Tecmo Koei are big fans of not patching up what doesn’t need fixing, and the shift between playing any previous Warriors title and playing Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is a breeze.
As always, the controls are responsive, familiar and comfortable. On the battlefield, you navigate your selected warrior across the map with the left stick and leave camera orientation to the right. Face buttons still handle your basic and Musou attacks; the latter of which generally being a screen-clearing barrage of hilariously over-the-top carnage. Switch weapons and block (you can BLOCK in these games?!) with the bumpers, though simply giving an unrelenting fury of attacks is generally good enough to persevere through any situation.
Historically, Dynasty Warriors has never really pushed any given console to its technical limitations, and it’s clear they-re not going to start here. While the character models and animations are very well done and fun to look at, the environments are feeling tired and samey — as they have for the last 18 years of Warriors games.
The improvements made in the last game are still intact; better draw distance and more soldier rendering power, but no other graphical leaps can really be observed here. As mentioned above, the animations are really fun to trigger and watch, as Musou moves generally send enemies flying comically in every direction!
Also keeping with franchise history is the great voice acting (in Japanese, at least) and pumping soundtrack. Different songs throughout the countless Warriors games can be unlocked and played during battle, and it serves to enhance the already highly tailored experience with DW8: Empires.
Whereas a typical Dynasty Warriors title has you running amok on the battlefield, the Empires installments have always brought much more depth to the chaos. In Empires, you may choose a pre-existing or custom hero to fight in your conquest. Whether you want to make a kingdom for yourself or aid a favored leader of yours is completely up to you, so you may set up betrayals and bribes to your heart’s content!
After picking your character and deciding your approach, you will perform various actions on the tactical map. This is broken into various territories depending on which campaign you’ve chosen, of which there are four plus a scenario that is somewhat if a free-for-all in China.
You will play the political scene as crass or professional as you desire, but one definite objective is to ensure your population’s loyalty, be it through fear and force or benevolent kindness. Display appropriate power and officers from opposing factions will often defect to your cause.
Edit mode is a great addition as well, as it lets you customize your entire army from uniform to banner, so if you would like to have an entire army of Ronin-looking badasses or tighty-whitey clad nerds, you may.
When it really boils down to it, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is still about carving a path through groups of people by hitting them with swords, axes, and towels (yep) and it does it well. Adding the layer of politics is ideal for any fan of the series that is looking for more than just whooping a whole lotta ass.
Even though the formula hasn’t changed much, it’s good to see that the series remains as fun as ever and that the added depth of Edit mode, and the political system in general, is still full of options. As it stands right now, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is the most highly customizable experience in the series, and any fan will find much to keep them busy.