Wow, that’s a lot of enemies. Rarely have I had to fight that many foes at once, my screen was a blur of blades and carnage as I cut my way through the latest instalment of Dynasty Warriors on the Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo Switch seems to be getting a lot of older games at the moment, giving fans a chance to revisit old favourites or experience some classic games for the first time. It was one of the WiiU’s failings, the lack of third party support that seems to have been fixed with Nintendo’s latest console and the games just keep coming on the excellent home console portable hybrid.
I will state now that I have never played a Dynasty Warriors title before but I had known of them and had seen them in action. I don’t know why I had never tried one, maybe I could never find a decent point to jump into the series or maybe they just slipped on by without really drawing my attention. They always appeared to be niche titles in the west and they were rarely advertised over here, they have a strong fan base but rarely hit the highs of mainstream titles. I was really looking forward to jumping in and finding out what all the intricacies of the gameplay were about and how the games played. I really enjoy combat systems in games and from what I have seen, I should enjoy Dynasty Warriors and what it has to offer me.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition, which in itself is a title and a half, is quite an old game. Dynasty Warriors 8, which was this titles starting point was originally released in 2013 and has had various re-releases, add-ons and dlc over the years touching nearly every format, console and generation of hardware since. The Xtreme Legends version of the game was first released in 2013 for various formats and was a launch title for the PlayStation 4 when it launched in Japan in 2014. So hopefully after so many versions and re-releases the game should be in perfect condition, should play fantastic and be the ultimate version of the game, right?
Having not played previous instalments of the series, I felt a bit lost at first. I was thrown a lot of information and characters at the start of the game and I had to take a little time to get used to everything that was happening. The story is based on the Historic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and its narrative which is in equal parts, historical, legend and mythology. It romanticises and dramatises the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who tried to replace the dwindling Han dynasty or return it to its former glory. The novel follows hundreds of characters, the focus is mainly on the three power blocs that emerged from the remnants of the Han dynasty, and would ultimately form the three states of Cao Wei, Shu Han, and Eastern Wu. The game in itself has a lot of characters, as does the book. Not quite the same amount but a lot, it has many storylines to play through with branching story arcs and a lot of content to experience.
The game has multiple modes to play through from Story mode, which is your standard fare to challenge mode which is a more arcade version of the game with stock, unmodified characters and has you playing various mini-games. The game has a split-screen multiplayer mode too, allowing you and a friend to play co-op locally and slice and dice through enemies as a team. The various modes play very well on the Switch, especially with the pickup and play style of the console and being able to be put into sleep mode in between sessions breaks up the gameplay nicely, I could fit missions in between my Christmas tasks and could play it anywhere at any time. Free mode is another addition to the game, not seen since Dynasty Warriors 6 and allows you to play the opposing faction for the storylines making them more malleable and not set in stone like Dynasty Warriors 7. There are other things to look through and experience too, like a gallery to browse and an encyclopedia to read through. It’s a nice package with a lot of content but with it being quite an old title and being released so many times, I was expecting this to be the case.
The game follows your chosen character through their battles and in between mission shows what the ramifications of your gameplay choices were, who was taking which region, who was attacking who and what the results of your previous mission meant for the overall story and battle for power. The artwork is nicely detailed and I liked to style to it but I did feel the high number of characters and heavy lore was a bit lost on me at the start, after a few hours though I settled into it and started to really enjoy the tales unfolding before me. It felt like a grand, large-scale tale battle and it felt like I was a part of a larger story that was being told over a long period of time and my actions had weight and the stakes were high. Your missions mainly put you on a map full to the brim with enemies to defeat, allies to protect and quests to complete. You manoeuvred your character around these basic maps, deciding what you thought needed your attention at the time and fighting which battles you feel needed fighting. One thing was always a constant though, the swarms of enemies that were constantly trying to kill you. The action was always high, it was fast, smooth and constantly needing your attention.
The combat system was not overly complicated but had enough depth to get yourself stuck into, it contains hundreds of weapons to try, skills to unlock and combos to master. After playing the tutorial mission I felt I was able to tackle the game’s enemies, it did a great job for someone like me who has never played an entry in the series that I knew was heavy on its combat systems. It went over the combat affinity elements, which were Heaven, Earth and Man and each one worked better against another element in a paper, scissors, rock style of gameplay. It also took you through how to perform the combos and it was essentially a light attack and a heavy attack and a special set of moves that charged up over time, you were also shown your rage meter which enabled you to go into rage mode after it had charged up. Your character wields two weapons at once that can be switched between at any time and even mid-combo, this varied the combat a bit and did add some strategy to the battles. The combat system also included counter attacks, flurries, charged attacks and other nuances that varied the battles slightly here and there. I did feel that the combat could get repetitive over time though, and reading through material for the series, this does seem to be a complaint from players throughout the lifespan of the Dynasty Warriors games. I found a lot of the time I was just wading through hoards of enemies and my vast efforts were not being rewarded enough for it to feel worthwhile. I killed thousands of enemies, over and over again and after a while, it started to get repetitive and I had to have a rest from the game and play something else for a while.
The game performed amazingly, but again, as I stated above it should do. It’s an old game that’s been tweaked and re-released so many times that it should have zero issues in the performance department. I am glad to report that this is definitely the case here and even with hundreds of foes onscreen at once and combat happening at a breakneck speed, the framerate and performance are flawless. The graphics look nice for an old game, the colours pop in the screen and its characters are nicely detailed. It won’t win any awards for its graphics, but it’s an old game and it looks nice on the Switch’s portable screen. The voice acting is nicely done and the sound effects equally good, the clashing and clanging of swords on the battlefield are believable and help ground you in the world your fighting in.
After getting over the initial torrent of story, information and characters I did enjoy what I played of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition, I just started to burn out and get a bit bored of its gameplay loop over time. I think it’s due to it feeling unrewarding and repetitive. I would battle my way through hundreds of enemies over the course of the mission and not get much for doing so, I would then repeat this over and over. The missions do a good job of varying things and have multiple objectives but ultimately it rarely boils down to anything more than just slicing your way through hoards of enemies over and over again. The stories are nice if not a little overwhelming, it’s characters are good and it performs amazingly well on the Switch. If you’re a fan of the series I think you will really enjoy it a lot, you will be able to tell more than me whether its an improvement over previous entries in the series or not. This title has a lot of content, I completed one of the storylines in about 5 hours so to complete all the storylines and additional content will take you some time. You just have to decide on whether the gameplay is to your liking and if it is then this game is definitely worth your time and money just for the amount of content alone. I just think it’s not the style of game for me, I felt like the time I was putting into it was not fun enough and not being rewarded adequately. Games for me should be fun and rewarding, and unfortunately, this game had less and less of these two qualities the longer I played it.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*