reviews\ Mar 29, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires - PS2 - Review

Back in the 90s, I used to dream of games that merged the fighting genre with any other existing gameplay style. In particular I wanted an RPG with a fighting game engine. Long, arduous battles could then be replaced by 2-minute bouts. I felt the same way about adventure games. Whereas a punch here and a kick there could go a long way in most titles, I wanted a game that made hand-to-hand combat more significant.

It took a while, but my dreams eventually came true. RPGs started to dabble in fighting games. Adventure titles and action/RPGs are slowly growing their hand-to-hand and weapon combat arsenal.

KOEI, best known for making intricate strategy games, gave birth to a new series that quickly won the hearts of fighting fans everywhere: Dynasty Warriors. Originally designed as a single-player free-for-all, Dynasty Warriors was the first of its kind. It was a fighting game you could play by yourself. Opponents weren't limited to the participants of the King of the Iron Fist tournament – they were everywhere! Hundreds of them, with dozens appearing on screen at the same time. Who do you attack first when there's that many targets? 


The popularity of Dynasty Warriors led to four sequels and at least four spin-offs that attempted to push the series in slightly different directions. In every case the spin-offs succeeded in giving the player more of what they came for. More battles with an abundance of enemies, more warlords to command, more warlords to defeat, and more nations to rule.

Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires is another variation of an original Dynasty Warriors game. This time around you get to issue strategic commands to your comrades in battle. It's done using the now standardized directional buttons, which function slightly differently depending on the scenario. Press up and they'll attack the nearest base. It's not the most complex command, but when you're going into battle you need all the backup you can get.

If you need more protection, you can tell your officers to gather around you by pressing left. To defend the nearest base (your own, not your enemy's), press down. And lastly, if you'd like the officers to stand around and do nothing, don't press anything at all. Or if you'd like them to make decisions on their own (which could involve them standing around and doing nothing), press right.

During battle Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires feels unchanged. There seem to have been a couple of tweaks made to the graphics (sharper images) and the controls (smoother character movement), but I'd have to play through the original again to be sure. With this iteration there really isn't any need to. All the battles and action-packed, overwhelming skirmishes can be found right here. 


All the Musou powers are still intact, and acquiring the energy to unleash that power works the same. You have two options here: stand still and hold the circle button to charge the power manually. Or you can choose to attack enemies, which you have to do anyway, and watch the energy slowly rise. Charging leaves you vulnerable, though there are times when you'll be alone and have the chance to do it. This occurs more frequently early on in the game than it does toward the end, where battles get even more frantic than they were when the game started.

One notable difference is DW5: Empires' reliance on perseverance. Winning is more about the player's individual stamina than about hard-hitting combos and attack list memory. You can't merely charge your Musou powers, barge into battle, unleash one devastating blow and expect the enemy to surrender. I've taken out, on more than one occasion, 10+ enemies only to be hit by the next batch as it rushes in. It's not as intense as it used to be, but it still packs a bit of a punch.

I've been a Dynasty Warriors fan for a while, but there's one area that I've always felt needed fixing: the camera. This is at least the 10th update or variation to a DW game, yet the camera is almost identical to the way it functioned in the first game. It can't be controlled or influenced in any significant way. I suppose it's meant to follow the action, but I'm in charge of that. If the developers had to lessen the number of simultaneous characters on screen, then so be it. 


With a better camera system, Empires would have one flaw it cannot overcome: repetition. Repetition has been a part of the series since the beginning, and the fact that this is another iteration of the original concept (and not something entirely new) doesn't help much. I have a few strategic options on the battlefield, and I have the ability to manage my warriors in between battles with political decisions. I can be kind and give out money, equip my warriors with better weapons, and do a bunch of other things that don't really change the outcome of the battle. They might make things easier, but it's not as if the strategic elements are what this game is about. It's about the hack-n-slash action.

Review Scoring Details for Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires

Gameplay: 6.5
Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires is not a major departure for the series, nor does it involve any unique twists we haven’t seen in other action games. It’s a nice collection of battles, especially if you haven’t owned or haven’t heavily played the series before. Otherwise it’s just more of the same, weighing in as a one hundred pound block of repetition. Those who can’t get enough, even after the last iteration, will be kept busy for several hours – the rest of you should wait for Dynasty Warriors 6.

Graphics: 6.9
Marginally better than its predecessors.

Sound: 6.9
Solid, orchestral themes from feuding Asia. That’s the good.

The bad is the sound effects, which are repetitive and annoying. The voice-overs sound like they were recorded at an anime tryout session. You’d think that simple “ugh!” noises would be the easiest voice-over to create, yet video games are still finding a way to botch it up. Try applying a voice type to one of your homemade characters – the result will be anything but music to your ears.

Difficulty: Medium
Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires doesn’t take the series to new heights with revolutionary gameplay, but it’s still a pretty challenging button-masher.

Concept: 5
More of the same plus a couple of tactical elements.

Multiplayer: 6.5
Exciting for the first 15 minutes; entertaining for the following 20. Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires splits the screen so that two players can get in on the action. Once the initial fun factor (and the enjoyment from something unconventional) wears off, DW5 Empires begins moving toward boring territory. For diehards only – extreme diehards who will not (for any reason) get sick of this gameplay style.

Overall: 6.7
I like it, but I don't love it, and a part of me is really getting tired of it. The series needs to do something else – something new – if it wants to flourish. Diehards are likely already on board, and if you've never played the series before, this is a great place to start. Everyone else should pass.

Above Average

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