Though it’s been quite a while since I played my last Dynasty Warriors game, I’m pretty familiar with the series’ formula and its inexplicably addicting hack-and-slash combat. After dabbling in the recent Warriors All-Stars from Koei Tecmo and Omega Force, which is essentially a Dynasty Warriors title with popular characters from Koei’s games, I figured I’d already had a good read on Dynasty Warriors 9 before getting any hands-on time with it.
Well, I was partially wrong.
The core gameplay of Dynasty Warriors 9 remains largely the same. You spam the square and triangle buttons to unleash crazy combos against the helpless minions of whichever kingdom you’re playing against, and you watch as the hundreds of bodies begin flying up and landing on the ground with a satisfying thud. You’ll still be able to ride horses and make your way across the map to complete various objectives. All of that hasn’t changed.
What has changed, however, is the scale of the game. Koei Tecmo announced earlier this year that Dynasty Warriors 9 was going open world, and they weren’t kidding. Before I go any further, let me temper your expectations a little. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to do fetch quests for the Wei Kingdom as Cao Cao, and it doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get Witcher-level stories in the game’s side quests either.
What ‘open world’ means here is that Dynasty Warriors 9 features an extremely large, sprawling map that you can explore during a mission. At the start of the demo, I made my way to the objective marker as I slashed up a bunch of goons and infiltrated their castle to take out their leader. After that, a new marker appeared on my map and it was about a thousand clicks away from my position. I started running there before realizing that wasn’t an efficient method of travel at all. You pretty much need a horse if you want to get anywhere quickly, and the game’s size is impressive, especially considering how beautiful it looks. This is the best-looking Dynasty Warriors game to date, and I’m impressed with its graphical fidelity, especially after slogging through Warriors All-Stars, which I thought didn’t look all that great.
Along the way, there are diamonds and other materials to collect. Though I didn’t get to experiment with these, I assume they’re for upgrading weapons and armor, as well as exchanging for cash. Surprisingly, there was also wildlife to find as I made my way to the second objective. I encountered several wild tigers that were just lounging around the fields, so of course I got off my horse and tried to attack them. The tigers ended up being tougher than they looked, though they didn’t drop any loot upon death. I’m not too sure what the purpose of the wildlife is, but it’s an interesting addition anyway.
While combat is pretty much what you’d expect from a typical Dynasty Warriors game, there’s a little more variety to things this time around. For instance, I can tap a button to make Cao Cao crouch and effectively sneak his way up to an enemy. Though I don’t think this is a function that will really get much use, since it’s just so much more fun and efficient to attack someone head-on. Players can also hold down the R1 button and press any of the face buttons to execute a special attack. Cao Cao came equipped with a magical attack that allowed him to rain down ice pellets onto the enemies in front of him. Dynasty Warriors 9 is definitely steering away from history and realism quite a bit here, but it’s still good fun.
I left the demo feeling adequately impressed with Dynasty Warriors 9. I went in expecting more of the same, but ended up getting a much more varied combat system with extra ‘open world’ elements thrown into the mix. While I’m not sure if the open world environment will really do much to benefit the game, there’s little doubt in my mind that series fans will be very excited for the new additions introduced here.