Koei Tecmo released a video on Monday (03/08/2020) celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the Dynasty Warriors series. A series of games I love, have played most entries in but was left bitterly disappointed by the latest game – Dynasty Warriors 9 – that was released back in 2018. They are teasing some events and have made it pretty explicit that game news is on the way. When and what that will entail is still a mystery of course, it could be DLC but given that it is 2 years down the track since DW9 I’d be expecting a new game to be announced. If I’m right, an intriguing question is whether it will be on next-gen only or whether it will be cross-gen on release. An even more intriguing question is what changes will be made. Will they stick with the formula in DW9, return to an older formula or dream up something entirely new? I’m curious to find out.
Dynasty Warriors 9 was a huge shake up for the series but one that just didn’t hit the mark for me. While going open-world isn’t a mistake in itself it just wasn’t implemented very well. It didn’t add enough interesting things to do and crucially it didn’t serve the main components of the gameplay very well. I actually think that the open-world design suits the Empires spin-off games style more, giving the open world a more systemic interaction with the actions of the player. The visual design in particular was difficult to look at. There was little colour, little contrast, stuff was difficult to see, the foreground and background merged together. It was weird and honestly it gave me a headache to look at; which is why I stopped playing. A lot of refinement and work has gone into the updates that have been released since I last played, around a month after launch, and as a result I’m sure it’s a much better experience now. Believing that open-world is better just for the sake of being open-world would definitely be a mistake.
The other big change for DW9 was the combat. They completely revamped the combat system, something they did once before in DW6 before reverting back for DW7 & 8. The crux of the system for DW9 is it is much more contextually reactive. Your flow attacks alter in nature depending on the state your enemy is in (standing, guarding, downed or in the air), giving you Trigger attacks to affect the state the enemy is in (like throwing them up in the air or knocking them down) and so on . This marks it out as completely different to the traditional system of normal and heavy attack combos, which are always the same, with some special attacks thrown in. The truth is, I didn’t spend enough time playing the game (due to the headache issue) to really get a sense of the combat. I was still adjusting to it when I stopped so I don’t really know if I like it or not. I love the simplicity of the traditional system but I’m not opposed to changing things up if it is done well.
My disappointment with DW9 and connection to the series makes it difficult for me to give a proper assessment and to articulate what I love about the series. I’m going to try though. It’s important to remember that my criticisms and thoughts come from a place of love, if/when they announce a new title in the series I want to be excited for it. More importantly, I want to enjoy it when it comes out. So, what will I be looking for when the time comes? Top of the list will, of course, be graphics that don’t hurt my eyes. A lot of improvement can be made in that area alone with some better direction giving a clearer contrast and more colour helps to make things stand out.
Next I’m going to return to my 2016 article, A New Dynasty, from before DW9 was even announced. Playing through the narrative of each kingdom, as you do in DW7 and DW8 is brilliant but there are certain characters whose stories in themselves warrant having additional focus. Perhaps highlighting these in a mode where you play through the battles, as they would have done, with more focus on the events the characters were a part of within those battles. Stand out warriors take centre stage in pivotal battles, like Zhao Yun at Chang Ban, while others switch sides or have interesting journeys to their kingdom of choice like Zhang Liao or Taishi Ci. There’s room to explore them through a series of battles just as we do so for the Kingdoms themselves. Not all characters can be the focus, no, but some of them definitely should be.
I don’t know what they’ll do about the combat. I’m sure they’ve had plenty of feedback from those with a lot more playtime than me. Whatever they do though I think it is important that they drop the loot element of things. Each character only needs one unique weapon, each with its own move set and interesting abilities. There’s no need for a thousand variations of each one. Make them special, interesting in their own right and upgradable for progression. The system of 4 weapons from Dynasty Warriors 3 worked brilliantly, the first two were basic and crossed across characters cause they were just swords or spears etc, then each character had two unique weapons that you had to unlock like the famous Green Dragon Sabre or Serpent Spear and so on. The cast of characters is ever growing so the need to make ever more weapons becomes an acute problem. A weapon each might go some way to alleviating that issue… maybe.
Whatever the future holds for the Dynasty Warriors series, I hope it finds the success it deserves.