Koei Tecmo has released their latest edition of the Dynasty Warriors games with the aptly named Dynasty Warriors 9. It’s been five years since the release of Dynasty Warriors 8 and Koei Tecmo has moved the franchise to an open world game style. Will this new direction be an improvement over the already great game that was Dynasty Warriors 8 or will the move to an open world style be bad for the franchise? I find out with my review of Dynasty Warriors 9.
Dynasty Warriors 9 retells the story Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, beginning with the rebellion of the Yellow Turbans and ending with the fall of Shu. This time period sits about 169 CE, which is near the end of the Han Dynasty. The story focuses on the lives of various feudal lords and their retainers, as they either strive to save the Han Dynasty from falling or try to replace the Han as the new rulers of China. The story follows the paths of the three main states that competed for power during this time: Wei, Shu, and Wu.
The story is broken up into 13 chapters, each with a different character to play. At the beginning of the story, the player can only select one of the three patriarchs; Liu Bei, Cao Cao, or Sun Jian. You will be able to play as any of the 83 playable characters that were in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, plus some new characters that have been added to the series.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms is considered one of the four greatest books in Chinese History. This story has its own series of video games by Koei, starting with Romance of the Three Kingdoms back in 1985. The last game, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII, was just released in 2016. Dynasty Warriors 9 tells the story well enough, and gives the characters good motivation to do what they need to do. If you know the story, then you know how the game will progress and what each characters goals are. If not, the game does an ok job of going through the narrative, but could benefit from some more background knowledge for those of you that are not familiar with the end of the Han Dynasty.
So, this is where it all goes bad for Dynasty Warriors 9. Let’s first address the open world mechanic. This is the first game of the Dynasty Warriors franchise to go with an open world mechanic, and it fails miserably. Instead of just jumping right into the chaos that is a Dynasty Warriors game, you must travel to various parts of China in order to access the quests and defeat your opponents. That usually means a very boring and long horse ride through an empty China. You will occasionally come across some people to fight, but the land feels empty and uninhabited. The switch to an open world format was the single worst decision made for this franchise, but it’s not the only bad thing about this game.
Koei Tecmo also changed up the combat system for Dynasty Warriors 9. Each character gets basically four attacks: Air attack, Stun attack, Knockdown attack, and a Special attack. No matter what character you use, you will have access to these same basic attacks, they will just look differently depending on who is doing them. Iconic weapons are also gone from Dynasty Warriors 9, so each character will pretty much play exactly the same with the only differences being story arcs and visual aesthetics of the characters.
Dynasty Warriors 9 also included a new grappling hook that basically breaks the game completely. Why support your army in a siege of an enemy fortress when you can simply grapple over the walls, find the fortress’s leader and kill him? The first fortress I came up to I did what I thought I was expected to do, and that was support the siege machines in breaking down the front door so my troops can invade. On the second fortress, I simply grappled over the top, found the leader and killed him to take over. The second the leader dies, the rest of the enemies flee and despawn.
To add insult to injury, there isn’t any multiplayer in Dynasty Warriors 9 at all. No co-op, no online, no local, nothing. You get a Free Mode that allows you to replay the level you just finished with any character you have unlocked. That’s it.
I really enjoyed the way Dynasty Warriors 8 played. I loved the feelings of each character, how they felt different, and how the game put you right into the action immediately. Dynasty Warriors 9 takes all of that and dumps it out, trying something new. While that is a good thing for franchises to do in order to stay fresh, these changes just made Dynasty Warriors 9 not worth playing for me.
The game has it’s typical beautiful Chinese character design, with each character looking fantastic. The world looks beautiful, if uninhabited. But once the game is running and you get into the action, that’s where it all goes wrong. The framerate is a severe issue and drops drastically whenever there are people on the screen, which is all the time. The draw distance seems to be way too close for this age of video game consoles and the screen didn’t fit my television with no way to change the size of it. I honestly felt like I was playing a Playstation 2 game on my Xbox One, Dynasty Warriors 9 just doesn’t feel or look like a game that should be on the Xbox One.
Coming from a person who played and loved Dynasty Warriors 8, Dynasty Warriors 9 is a huge disappointment. I was incredibly excited to get my hands on this game, but that excitement quickly turned to boredom due to the changes made to the franchise by Koei Tecmo. The open world element does not work for this type of game, or it could if you gave me something interesting to do or look at in between quests. The combat system has been simplified and, for me, ruined because it has now become just a repetitive button masher. Finally, the grapple hook just breaks the game, allowing players to bypass obstacles and head right for the boss. Dynasty Warriors 9 will be available March 12th from Koei Tecmo, but I would strongly advise against getting this one. Just find Dynasty Warriors 8 used and you will be good.