Dynasty Warriors 9 was released in 2018 with a large number of negative reviews. It was the team’s first take on an open-world Dynasty Warriors game. Though it did not do as well as they would have liked, Omega Force should be commended that they are still trying to innovate on the franchise. Fan backlash has plagued the Dynasty Warriors series in the past, and it will probably continue to do so as more innovation continues. My hope was that they would combine the innovations with fan criticism like they did with the past when giving us Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires. This time with Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. Will it be up to my hopes that it will successfully refresh the franchise in a solid direction? Let’s find out!
Game Name: Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Platform(s): PS4, Xbox one, PC, Nintendo Switch Publisher(s): Koei-Tecmo Developer(s): Omega Force Release Date: February 15th, 2022 Price: $59.99
I had high hopes for Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires because the building blocks to something great were in the previous game. The open-world aspect had a lot to offer, especially in an Empires entry so I was excited they kept parts of it. Sadly, only the map and some of the landmarks and unlockables made it in. Fishing, crafting and resource gathering was removed for a lot less substance to this open world. However, a lot of this Empires title is very character-driven, which is what I love. Faces look a lot more expressive and thanks to the new customization of characters, have a lot of variety. Omega Force looks like they brought over Nioh’s fantastic facial designs and made it a core part of the Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires experience. Even the generic officers don’t all look the same as they did in previous titles. Character models are a lot more unique. The weapons like the whip, the flute, and even the Chakrams can fit with any model with their animations. I gave the whip to a guy model and the axe to a girl model, and due to the animations, they both looked pretty natural with them. A very solid beginning to customization.
Flow Motion is Still Here
Now, let’s dig right into things. Dynasty Warriors 9 introduced a whole new battle system to the franchise called Flow Motion. This is a simplified battle, allowing combos to be performed by pressing your normal attack button. The charge attacks were replaced with a counter and reaction attack system. If you were running in the field, pressing the reaction attack would do a running attack that could be followed up in a normal attack combo. There is a button that opens up a tray of commands alongside this battle system to add a bit more depth. If you combine it with flow motion you can launch enemies into the air from the ground, knock them down or even stun them from doing combos themselves. Every weapon has a unique signature attack meant for that weapon. Overall, this wasn’t a very positive change in my opinion since the tiered battle system of chaining normal attacks and charge attacks just felt more satisfying.
One thing I do like is they brought back the roll and dodge mechanics from Dynasty Warriors 6. When you are faced with an unblockable move or opponent, you can move out of the way by rolling back or to the side. One good change to flow motion they made in Empires was removing some of the attacks you could counter. In DW9 you could pretty much counter every attack thrown at you which made battles seem unsatisfying. There was no difficulty in being in the middle of a horde of enemies because you could literally use the counterattack button for everything and be unharmed. The only way you can counter normal flow motion attacks from enemies is to guard and hit the counterattack at the exact moment they start up a flow motion combo. That by itself made fighting officers and soldiers alike more skill-oriented.
Honestly using flow motion in Empires made me realize how much simpler they made Dynasty Warriors 9. They changed it only slightly and already improved it a great deal making you focus more on adding depth to normal attacks in general. I still prefer the tiered battle system but I appreciate the flow motion battle system a lot more than I did when I was playing through Dynasty Warriors 9 originally.
The World of China in Empires
Overall this game looks good from a distance. The mountains look beautiful far off, the rivers and water effects look great. Trees even look vibrant when you are approaching them. It is when you get closer to them do they start to affect the way you think of the textures. They look extremely blocky. Characters, animals, and bushes pop in and out quite a bit while you are running through the open world. Heck, some trees will disappear as you are running and make it look like you have a free space to run through, and then you will be stuck between three invisible trees that then turn visible as you turn the camera around. If you are lucky the trees will collapse, though that isn’t always the case.
On the other hand, character models look better than any Dynasty Warriors game before it. Even generic soldiers don’t look out of place standing next to a created character or a main character. Details can be not as intricate on the soldiers, but it isn’t bad enough that you will notice it like in Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires.
Being an Empires title means we get the famous Empires mode or in this case Conquest Mode. You can begin as a vagrant force, a normal soldier, a ruler, or a general to a ruler. Honestly, I had fun just being a normal soldier that then worked on building up my relationship with other generals and soldiers and you can then strike out as a vagrant force later on and claim land. The other time I played through Conquest mode, I chose to just be a general to a ruler and it took forever to actually get anything accomplished because they usually only do normal battles once every 4 months. Once you get high up in the ranks you can then offer advice and strategies to the ruler. Depending on if they agree with you is dependent on your companionship rank with the ruler. A very positive thing about this is how they deal with your relationship with officers. If you stroll around with that officer and fight bandits or tigers out in the open world you will gain companionship rank or even a special item from that general.
If you talk or interact with an officer you can get an increase to your companionship rank. You can levy that rank once an officer gets hired by an enemy force or if they become unaffiliated from the main army you are in. You can have them join you or defect during a battle. The easiness of them liking you from the get-go is defined by your nature. Your nature in this game changes depending on your choices. If you pillage or plunder resources from villages, you will lose benevolent nature and have an increase in your evil nature.
If you work with villages to start fundraisers or trading posts, you will increase in your benevolent or ingenious nature. There are a variety of natures that go from level 1 to level 10. They range from commanding, to benevolent, to evil. How you spend the month actually can matter if you are trying to get close to specific officers or if you want to recruit them from enemy forces. If you are aligned with a nature that is opposed to another general’s it takes a lot of effort to make them like you.
A big change to this mode is them adding a defense level modifier to each region. You can increase the defense by building fortresses in those regions. What that does is make it so the region once invaded won’t get taken over by an enemy general immediately. It will just reduce the defense of that area. You can level up your character in the mode by increasing in merit. You increase merit by training, successfully accomplishing secret plans, stopping enemy plans, and winning invasion or defense battles. The way you win battles is you have to make it inside the enemy castle with siege weapons or with a grappling hook once the catapults have removed all enemy forces from the walls. Honestly, it is a fun loop focusing on certain bases to make a siege tower or battering ram and defending it until you can reach inside the castle.
Overall this game is a leap forward with the combat and changes to the empire mode system, however, there is a decrease in quality for the open world and map itself. One thing I also want to mention is that your army even when they have an advantage will still lose pretty easy fights. You are the one who has to do everything to win at all. Your units will head face-first into battle just to die and make you lose resources.
By the end of my time playing, I would constantly choose the one-man army plan that let me take out three bases before my army even showed up making it a lot easier to get the bases I want without losing any resources. I will probably go back to play this game if nothing more than to add more officers to my custom roster and make it a fun experience. Uploading and downloading officer data though is a real hassle. You used to be able to select a database of characters to download, but now you have to scour the discord servers and Reddit to try and find officer data codes to input. This game is fun but honestly makes me want to go back to the open-world side of Dynasty Warriors 9 without the bland nothingness that lingers in the Empires open world.
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Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires improves upon the foundation of Dynasty Warriors 9 but it still has a large number of issues that come from AI, the textures, and the overall feel of the open-world being bland. Combat is tighter and the invasion maps feel satisfying.