T (Teen)Release Date:
February 19, 2008Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written By:
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms: the battle for ancient China waged be-tween the three kingdoms of Wu, Shu, and Wei in the wake of the Han Dynsasty. Battle your way through the greatest epic of ancient Chinese civi-- Oh, what’s the point? If you’ve ever played a Dynasty Warriors game in the past, you’ve fought this war about a dozen times by now. You’ve been through the Yellow Turban Rebellion and Battle of Hu Lao Gate so many times, the events have lost any significance both in world history and videogame history.
When Dynasty Warriors 2 was released for the PS2 (the original Dynasty War-riors was a fighting game), it was actually pretty innovative for its time. It took the basic formula of a classic beat-em-up, made it 3D, tossed in some mild strategic and RPG character-building elements, and showed us more characters on a screen than we’d ever seen before (and slowdown was exceedingly rare, to boot). Playing Dynasty War-riors 6, it occurs to me that I’m still, basically, playing Dynasty Warriors 2. Considering that this is the series’ debut on current-gen consoles, this realization was disappointing, to say the least. What’s more disappointing is that for every small step forward Dynasty Warriors 6 does take, it takes two back.
Let’s start with the basic arcade-inspired structure and mechanics that have de-fined the series since its inception. In terms of game design, the rest of the world moved on from this standard years ago. Even Japanese game development, arguably stagnate due to archaic, arcade-based design concepts, has mostly moved on. Let me paint a picture for you: the process of dying and loading in Dynasty Warriors 6. Any other game made in the past several years would kick you back to a checkpoint, or at the very least bring up a “retry”/”load game” screen. Not Dynasty Warriors, though; it shuns these basic conveniences for the convoluted journey through game menus that we were all so happy to be rid of years ago. You’ll start at the first game over screen, then go to the second game over screen, then to a loading screen, then to the title screen, then to the main menu, then to the load data screen, then to another loading screen, then to the mission description screen, then to a cutscene, then to the battle overview screen, then to yet another loading screen, then, finally, back to your most recent save. That process, in this day and age of gaming, absolutely astonishes me.
The functions of the series that made it innovative with its first proper entry wore thin a long time ago. By now, you know this process by heart. You’ll charge through the battlefield, plowing through legion after legion of anonymous soldiers. Eventually, you’ll target an enemy officer to defeat him/her in order to lower your enemy’s morale. Occasionally you’ll retreat to defend your fellow officers (none of whom are nearly as capable or pro-active on the battlefield as you). Very rarely will any of these enemies put up a fight--they’ll mostly pester you like a mosquito with their knock-down attacks--and victory is almost always assured by just hammering on the attack button.
Dynasty Warriors 6 does make some small strides in the right direction by adding a bit more strategy. Gone are the all-too mechanical and convenient reinforcement gates. Instead of killing gate captains to cut off and otherwise endless flow of enemy reinforcements, the player is now tasked with capturing specific points on the map. These strategic points come in the form of gates, camps, forts, and castles. Capturing any of these points (with the exception of castles, but more on that in a bit) consists of the same process: beat down the door and kill any corporals and guard captains you see. Castles amp things up just a tad by requiring siege weapons, which you have to protect as they bring down the gates. Posessing one of these points also serves little strategic purpose for the player; they act as spawn-points for health power-ups, impede the advancement of the enemy, and contribute a small bit to your side’s morale. What is such a shame is that it would be easy to make these points more important; capture a smith to make better arms for your warriors; capture a depot to provide more troops; capture a mill or quarry to speed up siege weapon construction and base repair; there are tons of possiblities. The series has an incredible amount of potential for more stra-tegic gameplay, without sacrificing pacing. Unfortunately, it fails to take advantage.
The main campaign mode, called Musou Mode, is where most of the content is. Koei have taken a more focused approach this time around, and only a select few cha-racters are given a campaign in Musou Mode. Unfortunately, they seem to have forced themselves into some kind of consistent standard and all characters’ Musou Modes consist of only 6 missions, which is barely enough content to get your character up to even level 20. Gone is the Yellow Turban Rebellion for every single campaign, but now Hu Lao Gate has taken its place as the first mission for every character. Notoriously powerful characters like Lu Bu and Guan Yu, who once represented tough challenges in certain missions, are now obscenely overpowered, able to kill lower level players in 2 or 3 strikes. This frustration is compounded by the lengthy resume game scenario, and the mid-battle three-save limitation. If you’re unfortunate enough to run into one of these guys, you could wind up losing a good deal of progress as part of an infuriating exercise in trial-and-error.
It goes without saying that the series has been in a rut for at least 3 iterations now (Dynasty Warriors 3 Xtreme Legends is the last time I remember this formula ever working). What’s such a shame is that it wouldn’t take a whole lot to build this franchise into something relevant. Maybe setting it during another period of Chinese history, or any period of world history, would be a start. However, if Koei apparently can’t even be bothered to fix the spastic camera, loose, overly-simplified controls, or add online play, then I suppose we can’t expect much.4/
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