reviews\ Jul 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires - 360 - Review

Another console, another two or three (or four) Dynasty Warriors games from Koei. Yes, we're only up to Dynasty Warriors 6 at this point, but if you count smaller releases like Dynasty Warriors Extreme Legends, and Dynasty Warriors Empries, there is quite a collection of games under this franchise's belt. And Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires is the latest addition to that collection. Though a follow-up to the main-release, Dynasty Warriors 6, Empires is a standalone game--you don't need to own a copy of Dynasty Warriors 6 to play. And it's certainly a different take on the series, which is somewhat refreshing, but not always good.

Empires approaches the Three Kingdoms story from a different angle than the usual Dynasty Warriors games in that it incorporates more strategy elements. That's correct, Dynasty Warriors Empires is not a straight action beat'em-up like many other entries in the series. In Empries, you'll control an officer like usual, but your goal is to take control of all of the regions of the world map and bring all of China under your rule. You'll still have your massive battles of course, but in between these battles, you'll take orders from your ruler, and strategize to make sure that your campaign is successful.

There is a new time-system in place for Empires, where every month, you can take a designated number of actions. Actions can be anything from entering a battle, to befriending a vagrant officer. Once your actions are used for that month, you'll need to advance to the next month in order to continue your campaign. The key is, as you advance the timeline, the other armies are doing their own thing, such as taking over more and more territories from you and from each other. So you do need to be efficient and make good use of your actions. Every couple of months, your ruler will also give you direct orders--things like "Protect this region from attack," or "Invade this region." These are called your assignments, and completing them will not only earn more regions for your ruler, but it will strengthen your officer and army. This is because DW6 Empires employs a pretty thorough leveling system for your officer and his associated weapon. And this is just one way that you are able to level them up.

In addition to leveling up through completing assignments, you can purchase skills and items, and even forge your weapon. Forging weapons is an interesting addition to the game, and allows for some customization of your officer. For example, you can forge your weapon to add a life-leech ability, so doing damage to enemies also heals your officer. Or add another ability to increase the range of your weapon tremendously. And there are plenty of options, not all of which are easily attainable. Certain items are required to forge certain abilities to weapons, and some of these items are much more rare than others. In addition to forging weapons, Empires allows you to map four purchased abilities to the X, A, B, and Y buttons for use in battle. These abilities have a limited time effect after you trigger them, but can make the difference in a tough battle with another officer or a large group of enemies. It's a nice addition, and offers even more customization of your chosen officer.

Unfortunately, even with the forging of weapons and special abilities, the combat in Empires is very, very lacking. In fact, it makes previous Dynasty Warriors games look like Soul Calibur. I say this because there are absolutely no different combos in Empires. On my play through, I literally would just press the X button to attack nonstop, maybe with a Y thrown in for good measure. In previous games, different combinations of X and Y would perform different combos, and were useful in certain situations. Without this, the combat is really boring and repetitive. In addition to this, the Musou attacks seem very generic. I remember back in the day when Gan Ning would run through the sea of enemies, sword outstretched and ready to kill when you triggered his Musou attack. In Empires, Gan Ning performs a generic, uninspired attack when you trigger his Musou. This really cuts back on the differentiation and personality of the characters. And it makes the combat even more boring.

What saves Empires from its repetitive gameplay is that there is so much going on between battles. I've already covered a good deal of this, but Empires has another trick up its sleeve. At some point in your campaign, you may have the option to overthrow your ruler. If you are successful in this battle, your officer will become a ruler himself. What this means is that now your officer will have his own army, consisting of befriended officers and their troops, and you will begin your own campaign to rule China. Rulers can play certain "cards" each month to provide them with special abilities in battle. This is perhaps the highlight of the strategy side of the game, as earning cards and playing them at the right point in your campaign can make the difference between success and failure.

As a fan of the Dynasty Warriors series, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with this latest entry. It has some nice ideas, but there's not enough polish on any of them to really make this game shine. And the combat has more problems than simply a lack of polish. If Koei could combine combat/gameplay elements of the main series with some of the interesting strategic ideas presented in Empires, they'd probably find themselves with a blockbuster title. And then we wouldn't have to deal with these lackluster follow-ups to the main entries in the series.

Review Scoring Details for Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires

Gameplay: 6.3
Besides the combat being boring and repetitive, the camera is entirely too sensitive and difficult to control. It can be frustrating at times when you're being attacked and you're fumbling to control the camera. Also, defending is almost useless in this game, so I suggest button-mashing to its fullest extent.

Graphics: 5.5
The graphics are actually pretty disappointing. One of the strengths of Dynasty Warriors is that there are tons and tons of enemies on-screen at once, so the graphics have always been a little subpar to account for this. But I really expected better out of this next-gen entry in the series. It doesn't look like much of an improvement over the old PS2 games.

Sound: 7.2
The voiceovers seem to be improved, and much less cheesy than usual. Hacking and slashing to heavy metal music is still odd, but has earned a place in my heart by this point.

Difficulty: Medium
There are actually five levels of difficulty in DW6 Empires, so you have a wide range of choices. That said, even playing on normal, you may encounter some very frustratingly difficult missions until your officer levels up a bit.

Concept: 7.1
A valiant attempt by Koei at breathing some new life into the Dynasty Warriors series. Unfortunately for them, and us, it's really not as fun as the original series. My suggestion is to take the combat from Empires and supplant it with the combat from the main series.

Overall: 6.4
I really can't say I recommend this title, especially when Dynasty Warriors 6 is sitting on the shelf right next to it. Unless of course, you're a Dynasty Warriors fanatic, and want to get a new take on the series. In that case, there are some interesting facets to Empires. In most other cases, stick to the main series for some straight, no-nonsense action.

Above Average

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