Dynasty Warriors Next review
Delicious Button Mashing Goodness
- Satisfying hack-n'-slash gameplay the Warriors series is known for
- Quicker battles suited for portable, on the go gameplay
- Strategy elements are present
- Dozens of weapons and fighting styles to choose from
- Great character models and graphics for a Vita game
- Excellent CG cutscenes
- Stays true to the original story of the Three Kingdoms
- Frantic rock themes liven up the experience
- Create-a-character modes
- Tons of unlockables
- Gimmicky mini-games are forced into campaign modes
- Repetitive nature of battles (that the series is known for)
- Not a lot of modes
- Conquest mode is unfair
- Ad-hoc play was focused on much more than infrastructure modes
- Characters with the same voice actor are present
- Clone characters are present
- Frame-rate issues every now and then
You might be thinking; why such an optimistic review title for a game that earned only a 6.5? 6.5 is, by no means, a bad score. A 5.0 indicates an average game, and a 6.5 indicates a game that surpasses the said margin, so just work with me here and you'll see. This game has A LOT of flaws.
Now, let me just set one thing straight; I love Dynasty Warriors NEXT. Heck, I love all of Koei's Warriors games, almost to the point of obsession. I've wasted countless hours mowing down countless peanut-brain AI soldiers simply because of how hilariously fun it is. So why would I give the game a 6.5? I'm not going to let my love for the series bias the score for the game.
Now that my little preface is over, let's begin.
The story of the Dynasty Warriors games as a whole is based off of another story entirely... Which was based off of a real, historical event. This story is referred to as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms which was set in the years following the Han Dynasty. Basically, there are three kingdoms, Shu, Wu, and Wei, and they're fighting over China for their own reasons.
Now, this poses as a problem. All Dynasty Warriors games cover the exact same story; that of the Three Kingdoms era. If you've played all the other Dynasty Warriors games (especially 7) you really won't be seeing anything new here. Of course, if you're a newcomer the story is fairly streamlined for your experience as it's divided into several campaigns that take place in chronological order, unlike the separate story modes of each character. I'll get more into the campaign later.
Gameplay consists of... Well, senseless button mashing to some extent. You can easily mash square and add a few triangles into the mix and there you have it, you're set. There is a bit of a thinking process beforehand, so it's not all mindless. If you're surrounded you might want to go for your character's AoE attacks and if you're fighting a lone officer you'll want to use juggle attacks. Mixing up your attacks every now and then essentially aids your survivability. Spamming the same combo string over and over may work, but not for long, as the hordes of enemies that the game throws at you will find a way to counter against it. As an example, spamming the same AoE attack over and over again is sure to get you hit into a combo string by a Lieutenant, who is smart enough to block it and attack you while you're in the recovery animations (unlike the nameless grunts).
Now, you might ask, what's so fun about mindless button mashing? The gratification of your enemies succumbing to a horrible death, that's what. No, really. There's a reason why the Warriors series are so addicting; it's the sheer satisfaction your sword clashing into your opponents and the sound effects that accompany it. It's the same reason why other beat-em-up games are so popular; the mindless escapism of it all, and the Dynasty Warriors franchise excels at this. If you're a fan of beat-em-ups in general, then I can wholeheartedly assure that this game is for you. If you're looking to get into beat-em-ups in general Dynasty Warriors NEXT proves to be a great contender for a entrance game seeing as how accessible it is.
YES, KILL, KILL, KILL!!! MUAHAHAHAH!
Just how accessible, you may ask? For one, the game offers a Beginner mode (which is just a glorified easy mode) and, as a portable game, each battle proves to be a lot shorter than the console counter-parts, which makes it a game that you don't have to invest much time on. This is mainly due to the fact that the maps are smaller and the winning conditions are fairly easy to follow up with. Basically, the enemy has a bunch of outposts on the map. Each serves their own function; some protect nearby bases, while some send out long-range arrow attacks. Capturing these will weaken the enemy's main base and capturing the main base will win the battle for you. Capturing an outpost is simple; KILL EVERYONE IN IT UNTIL IT'S YOURS! One other thing to take note of is that health regenerates in this game.
This may irk fans of the console-sized iterations seeing as how it's such a large change, but it never bothered me. This adds a little bit of a real-time strategy aspect into the game and, in turn, adds a fresh new take to the series. You can also send your back-up units to defend and attack friendly or hostile bases, which is done by holding down on your units (indicated by a blue diamond) and then dragging to where you want them to go. I found this to be useful on some occasions but I found that most of the time I just captured all the bases myself without the need for my personal army. However, on harder difficulties, you WILL need to use strategy as you're no longer a one-man army; you'll die just as fast as any of your infantry if you're not careful. The regenerating health never bothered me either; It was no fun running across the map for a stray meat bun after a furious critical strike from Lu Bu before going back and then having to do it again.
Each officer's moveset consists of at least one EX attack and two Musou attacks. EX attacks are done by pressing triangle another time after a specific move in your character's moveset. These attacks are typically enemy officer killers, as they add a little bit of 'oomph' needed to drain their lifebar. Musou attacks are essentially your officer's super move, and you need to fill up your Musou gauge before using it. This is done by simply attacking your enemy, or getting hit. A normal Musou attack can be performed by pushing the circle button, but if you press two fingers on the touch screen you can use your character's Speed Musou (no idea why it's called that) which is basically your normal Musou attack that utilizes the either the Vita's gyroscope or touchscreen. These can be more effective than your normal Musou attacks if you excel at the action of the Speed Musou attack. There are also Break attacks, which are performed by tapping the screen with one finger. Break attacks use a seperate guage than Musou attacks, and take a bit longer to fill up. These can capture any base (except main camps) in an instant. Depending on what type of unit is following your officer, it'll be a different break attack. Sorcerers rain down lightning and Spearmen charge the enemy down.
Never forget your EXTREME close-up when you use your super-moves. It's mandatory nowadays!
Almost every officer fights differently, in that they use different weapons from each other. There are some clone characters (ones that use the same weapons and movesets as each other) but they still have their own Musou attack and EX attacks. Most of the officers (80+ in total) have their own unique fighting style. Only about 8 or so have clone-styles, so this can easily be forgiven.
You can also find equipment lying around on the battlefield after killing enemy officers or capturing bases. These are basically stat amps or better weapons.
I'm really making the game sound like a godsend now, am I? Now it's time to bash on it.
For one, they went overboard with the Vita's gyroscope and touchscreens. There are a lot of gimmicky mini-games they try to put into battles but they just distract you from the experience. For example, you can get ambushed by enemy units and you have to swipe at the screen to slash away their projectiles and it just gets old after the nth time you do it. You can turn off motion sensor capabilities but it's just that; you can't take away the touchscreen capabilities. This leads to the next problem...
Duels. Oh my dear god duels. Koei saw potential in Infinity Blade and tried to do something like it with the game but they got it ALL WRONG. Essentially, when there's a big fight, you and the opponent officer go to a cyberspace of sorts and duke it off, one-on-one. Now, I thought this was a cool feature at first, but much like the ambushes, it just gets really old. Duels are done in a rock-paper-scissors fashion; you can attack or charge attack (you can't block). If you're enemy is blocking (which you can't do) you can charge attack them. If they try to charge attack you attack them normally and if they try to attack you, you have to swipe the screen in the correct direction. You may say "That doesn't sound too bad. Stop whining!" but it really is worse than it sounds... Some officers can kill you in one shot. One shot. These officers have a HUGE healthpool too so it'll take ages to wear them down before you make a mistake, and trust me, you will make mistakes. The touchscreen can get irresponsive sometimes and when this happens you can basically write your own deathwish at this point seeing as how you can't do anything about it. As an example, an arrow appeared and told me to swipe my finger in the direction it was pointing to counter the enemy's attack, but it just didn't follow through, he hit me, and then I died and had to start over again. This is a horrible feature. HORRIBLE.
I can't flick! Your horrible game mechanics won't let me!
There are a lot of frame-rate issues as well. Typically the games runs at about 40FPS, but when there are a lot of tanks and/or particle effects the game goes down to like 10 FPS. This really detracts from the overall experience as a whole, and it really bothered me.
There are a more minor annoyances that I can simply go on and on about, but that will take me ages. I already mentioned the horrible eldritch abomination-cthulhu hellspawn that IS the duels in this game so that should be enough to exemplify my point. I've already said a paragraphs worth just on the gameplay for that matter!
Onto the modes. This game is a bit lacking in the modes department... Previous iterations (if I do recall) had survival modes, a free mode, etc. but this game only has the series-standard campaign mode, a weird psuedo-strategy game mode and an ad-hoc mode. There is no online multiplayer, no free mode of the sort, nothing.
The Campaign mode is a bit more streamlined than previous games, in that each character no longer has their own story. Some characters don't even get any backstory told; you need to go into the Encyclopedia to look it up (which sucks). The story is told from each kingdom's perspective, and as the story goes on, you'll switch from kingdom to kingdom. It's a good medium of storytelling, but it would be nice if we got another mode in which we could choose a character to go through with. Each story takes place on a map of China, and you progress by conquering each city. It's fairly free-form and some battles you can take before another for better spoils.
The Conquest mode is sort of like the game's free mode... But not really. You can select which kingdom you wish to play as, what character you want to be your leader and your subordinates. You can play with up to all five different factions. Each faction has about 5 pieces of land at their use, no matter how many factions are on map, so a two faction game is fairly short in comparison to others. There is a big problem with this mode, though. Each piece of land you own has a level, and at the beginning of each kingdom's turn a piece of land is randomly chosen to level up. The key word here being 'randomly.' You can only invade pieces of land that have a lower level than an adjacent piece, and this can lead to a few unlucky streaks. If all you're pieces are surrounded you cannot do anything, including leveling up your pieces. This means that if you're surrounded, you're done. Just give up. Conquest mode could have been much more fun if they fixed these flaws. This mode can be played with a custom created officer.
Once again, both Conquest and Campaign modes take place on a map of China. Each turn (after an invasion) you will earn money depending on how much pieces of land you own and how much they are worth. On this map screen, pressing square will bring up the Stratagem menu. Each officer has their own stratagem effect, whether it be 'Raise Attack' or 'Fire Element Imbued'. This adds more strategy elements to the game, in that choosing the right stratagems can lead you to victory in an otherwise losing battle. Stratagems do cost money to use, however, so spend wisely. Either of these modes can be played online, but all that does is add custom created officers into the game.
Example of the stratagem screen in conquest mode, taken from the lovely function that is the in-game snapshot function.
Then there's Coalition mode, the ad-hoc mode. Luckily I had a friend to play this mode with, and in total, it supports a maximum of four people. There are four different courses in this mode for you and your friends to play. The first being Marauder, in which you have to capture all enemy bases without getting any of yours captured, Sentinel, a horde mode (protect your base), Blitz, a speed run, and Sudden Death, which is basically what it says on the tin. Both you and your friends share lives, so try not to die! You can't use the godlike equipment you've found in offline play so you'll have to rely on both you and your friend's skills. These modes are fun, but it's unfortunate that they're local multiplayer only. These modes are also the only way to get your hands on some of the in-game items, which is a real downer seeing as how this is more of a niche appeal game.
There's one more mode, the Gala mode. This is just minigames crammed into one space. You can get some items from the minigames if you do well. There is also a function called 'Musou Snapshots,' which basically just lets you take a picture with a cut-out of a Dynasty Warrior character there. Derp.
The create-a-character mode is great. As you play, you gain EXP, and when you get enough to level up, you unlock more pieces. You have the options to change skin color, hairstyle, pretty much what you'd expect from a create-a-character mode. You can use any of the existing fighting styles in the game for your character to fight with.
Well, I had fun with it, god dammit.
On the topic of unlockables, every character in the game has an alternate outfit. These can be unlocked by fighting said alternate outfit-character in conquest mode. The alternate outfit character has different stats and a different stratagem, giving much more incentive to start collecting! This gives you some more stuff to do with your game after campaign mode, along with completion of the weapon and item index.
Voice work is very good as well. You'll see some big name voice actors like Johnny Young Bosh and Yuri Lowenthal here and there, but there's was one thing that really bugged me... Tony Oliver, who you might know as Bang Shishigami (from Continuum Shift 1 and prior at least) voices a total of three officers. THREE. It's not even that subtle, you can clearly tell it's the same voice actor. I have no idea why they did this but this just really bothered me. It is kind of funny to see two Bang Shishigamis (which is what I shall refer these characters to from now on, muahaha) spar against each other and hearing their voice quips as if they're hitting themselves or something. Of course, with this being a Dynasty Warriors game, be prepared to hear the same few grunts and one-liners over and over again.
The graphics in this game are very good for a Vita game. It's kind of hard to explain what they look like, but it's sort of like an in-between PS2 and PS3. The character models look really great (disappointed there's no model viewer... and not for the sick, perverted reason) and as do the CG cutscenes. The CG cutscenes are rendered very well and look almost like an actual movie at times.
The music in this game is great fun. It's what you'd expect out of the Warriors series; hard, blood pumping rock. There's the more relaxed music on the Conquest/Campaign map screen but it does get more intense as you move through the map further and further. The sounds are great as well; the 'SLASH' sound that comes up when you hit an enemy with your weapons is just so satisfying to hear.
All-in-all, Dynasty Warriors NEXT is a very solid package. Don't let the score turn you down, it's a very good game for a launch title. If you're interested in hack-n'-slashers and beat-em-ups then this is the game for you, but if that's not your sort of thing or if you simply despise the Warriors series, then you may want to pass. The game costs $34.99 on PSN and in retail, so give it a go!
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