The Art of War
Throughout history, people from different tribes and countries have fought and revolted for different reasons: to protect their loved ones, to gain political power, or to bring peace and end wars in the world. The reasons differ, and the idea remains the same. Whoever wants to achieve his dream in this world must have sufficient strength, and as we have learned from the lessons of history, an individual cannot achieve victory alone. This is the main concept of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires.
Even dictators and warmongers need vessels. They need a vessel to identify the abilities of others, believe in the power of others, and leave the future to others. That’s why Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, unlike the original Dynasty Warriors 9, have adopted a new territory stroll system. Where you are able to directly interact with our officers and take a careful look at the lands you are fighting for, with all their rich culture and beauty, and take all these newfound feelings with you to the iconic battlefields that determined the future of all of China.
Dynasty Warriors is at its core, a Musou game. Musou/Musō (無双, lit. “Unmatched”), or read as Wushuang in a Chinese context, is an umbrella term for a specific genre of games that Koei Tecmo is known for, and heavily involves fast-action based battles against a tremendous number of enemies, with the aim of making you feel, as the title implies, unmatched and unparalleled on the battlefield. It’s localized mostly as Warriors in the English release, and seeing the word “warriors” should give you enough insight on what to expect.
Most Musou games touch on historically prominent Chinese figures differently from how history went. Most of the time they give them unnatural superpowers and attacks, and sometimes they change their gender as well to give more variety to the player choices. Each of the generals and officers, from the lands of Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin and others have their own army and faction and can be employed to start a grand conquest unlike any other, which is different from the set storyline in the normal Dynasty Warriors games.
Player agency here is the main goal. Aside from the tutorial mode, you will be spending all of your time in the Conquest Mode. You will be immediately able to choose to start a playthrough from any point in history you might be interested in, like the Fall of Shu, or the alliance against Dong Zhou, and through the extensive encyclopedia of the game, you will be able to learn about the events that originally transpired in history, before attempting to change them and create your own scenario.
Sun Tzu, the artist of warfare says: “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
That’s basically what Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is all about, as it emphasizes domestic affairs and careful preparation above the battles themselves, which are for the most part, repetitive and unchanged from the main entry.
The politics aspect involves using political authority (or commands) to control various aspects related to Diplomacy, Military, and Human affairs. How you go about dictating your army depends mainly on the position of your general and the ranks/classes and their officers. The game does a poor job of explaining the deeper working of its systems, even for old veterans, but maybe that’s only a part left to the player to carry on their trial-and-error processes and learn from their loss in order to achieve hard-earned victories later.
The political commands can vary depending on the area you are invading/defending and what actions you want to undertake by doing this, such as interacting/recruiting officers, increasing rations and military forces, or upgrading the economy through acquiring merit points. Most of this happens through menu interactions where you choose what to focus on and in which amounts, from agriculture to commerce, every action is self-explanatory and occurs in pretty much the same way. Don’t expect anything deeper like Total War Three Kingdoms, but it does the job for the most part.
The most unique and enjoyable aspect (and one that has a direct influence on the battle section) are the secret plans. They are large-scale plans that can turn the tide of events and give the player an advantage in battle. You can assign four plans to each army General, with effects ranging from increasing your attack and defence parameters to influencing your army coordination and using super-powered attacks like flame and lighting, among others. You can also obtain more plans and assign them to your Generals; the more battles you win and the more titles you acquire.
Each conquest has five difficulty settings to choose from, and various parameters that can be used to fit the setting to your preference, however, the game only includes Japanese voice options, unlike the original release that had both English and Japanese. Two graphics modes are also available in the new next-gen version. Action Mode and Movie Mode, and I was very surprised by the game’s outstanding ability to keep the frame rate stable in both modes while portraying the grassy battlefields and the dry deserts as best as they can be.
Officer actions and events can change based on your reputation revel as you manage it using the political and domestic affairs menu, and this will reflect on some cut scenes mid-battle and other minor instances of characterization during the game, but the most intimacy you will have is during the strolls we have mentioned at the beginning of the article, in which you can engage in dining events and fulfil special requests for your officers, and even have children with them. The photo mode can also allow you to take breathtaking photos during these harmonious times, and some officers can only be recruited through such interactions.
All of this reflects greatly in battles and what you can do in them, from secret plans to separate Officer strengths and the momentary orders you can give them while you are close to them in battle, but for the most part, the structure of every battle will be the same. You will be hitting and chipping away at enemy forces, laying waste to their bases all across the map, foiling the secret plans of enemies when prompted, and trying to stop them from activating in the allowed time.
Each of the 94 Officers has the same functional basic move sets, that mostly focus around having your opponent in control through all times and achieving the greatest number of hits through continuous uppercuts knockdowns and special attacks. It’s very stylish and smooth with the new performance system of the next generation, and you can easily reach any corner of the map in very little time, and I didn’t feel I have to endlessly stroll to reach any required location like other Warriors games.
The battle structure can also change to an Invasion battle or a Defensive battle depending on the situation, with an explanatory tutorial on each one. They differ in the set-piece scenarios and the application of rams and sieges, among other various missions that are not present in the main missions. Each officer can also be equipped with many gem artefacts that enhance their capabilities and make them versatile for each situation according to the factors present.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: Xbox Series X|S
Summary - FantasticSummary - Fantastic
- The stroll system helps bring more intimate interactions and characterization into view
- Stylish and strong battle moves and fast-paced battle system that never stops being fun
- A variety of methods to make each general behave uniquely and implement different plans for sucecss
- Not much has changed in terms of action gameplay
- Exploring the strategic aspects through similar menus and parameters may end boring after a while
- The political aspects of the game are not explained very well.