This game makes me feel so old. Not just because it was released first time around in 2013 on PlayStation 3 and ended up on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. No it’s but because unlike other Omega Force games this one brings back nostalgia of playing Dynasty Warriors 4 back in the day. Sitting around a PS2 enjoying the absurdity of the chaotic mess on the TV. Coordinating attacks in 2 player battles and then playing single player at great length to get to grips with everything. If you ever played any of the classic Dynasty Warrior titles popping on this fully featured version of Dynasty 8 on Switch definitely brings it all back to you in a big way.
The amount of content in Dynasty Warriors 8 is absolutely staggering. I’ve been playing the game before launch at every opportunity and I’ve still only just scratched the surface. That being said, you know what Dynasty Warriors is like. Even Dynasty 9 for all its problems had a core that was the similar combat structure. You have light, heavy and magic attacks and a character from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Your main goal is to kill 1000+ soldiers, not lose sight of the objective and level up your stats which allows you to kill more soldiers quicker. Dynasty Warriors 8 is pretty nuanced in combat as far as the hack and slash goes. You build up rage, switch it on and go nuts, you switch weapons mid combo and you’ll find additional attacks. Each weapon feels surprisingly different with each attack chaining into combos differently depending on which button used.
Essentially think of Dynasty Warriors 8 less as a button mashing Dynasty and more like a buffet of Dynasty. With a staggeringly high number of unique weapons encouraging experimentation and combo chaining. The leveling system has a mechanic where you can slot in skills that work like boosters. Unlocking these skills gives an added objective to the slaughter as they work like achievements, by performing certain actions you can slot them into a character and the skills level up each time you achieve them (with a little notification in game) They also aren’t character specific so you can grind to unlock a specific skill for a different character to level them up easier next.
Don’t expect Hyrule Warriors level of mixing up the mechanics (or the fantastic lock-on system which I now miss dearly) or Gundam Dynasty levels of fast management in the standard Story mode. Dynasty Warriors 8 is most definitely more like Berserk and the Band of the Hawk with a strong focus on being in the right place at the right time. You’ll find that even on missions where you start with no horse next to you, you’ll be thankful that a quick button press and whistle later you’ll be riding to the next objective. Plenty of time is spent on horseback trying to assist yet another general whose triggered a fight bigger than they can handle. That’s not to say Dynasty Warriors 8 is bland though, there are a few interesting area based moments. One of these moments that stood out for me was dealing with giant boulder dropping Dragons and finding out Dynasty Warriors 8 has rare vehicle sections.
The majority of the fights are amazing once you get there and it’s largely just the travel back and forth each time that sucks out some of the fun. There are multiple story arcs in Story Mode which essentially tell the same story but from different perspectives and they definitely aren’t a quick undertaking. It’s an enjoyable romp that definitely grew on me more than I expected. Playing through the story does annoyingly mean you don’t get a summary for each stage as to how well you did at the end but the levels, skills and weapons carry over to all modes and it does unlock more content for free play after each completed stage.
As soon as you turn on Ambition mode you find quite a change from the Story and the standard hack and slash affair. You’re provided with a standard base area with minimal utilities and have to go out on missions to collect materials, allies and fame to improve everything. Not only is this Assassins Creed 2 feeling base management mode enjoyable with visible improvements as you progress but the battles are structured with a more Arcade feel which give the grind a refreshing feel. Each battle you have a time limit that ticks down and can be boosted with killing Unit Leaders and generals. Bonuses can be gained by attempting higher difficulties and various mixes to who you’ll be facing spice up the levels. All of the experience levels, weapons and skills carry over between modes as well so you can easily take your favourite character from Story mode. Just be prepared for a slow horse at the start.
There are multiple difficulties in every mode ranging from stupidly easy to infernally difficult. Challenge Mode is full of little mini-game like events (such as knocking as many soldiers off the bridge in a set time) and your best scores are saved as Personal Bests which is a shame as this would have been a good opportunity for online content. There’s even a local multiplayer setting baked into Story and Free modes and although it is a split screen affair, for the most part the game functions fine. The screen is fairly clustered as each player has a separate map that takes up a lot of the screen but otherwise Dynasty Warriors 8 is just as fun as it always was with a friend.
I’ve not really mentioned the graphics yet because essentially Dynasty Warriors 8 is one of those Switch ports that at times looks fantastic and at others looks very much like a PS3 title. The most important aspect with a Omega Force title is present though, the frame-rate is spot on. There are little jitters here and there but these are typically when the Switch is in handheld mode or 2 player, otherwise it’s a solid experience throughout. The cgi cutscenes do look a little dated if you see them when docked but in handheld they look right at home. Visually Dynasty Warriors 8 is nothing staggeringly amazing to look at, especially when you stand still and look at the fairly bland areas but given you’ll largely be on the move you’re unlikely to notice. The key takeaway from the game is that the story and characters are so brilliantly made and the animation fantastically created that the overall work shines through.
There is an option for English or Japanese voices here but I largely played it with Japanese. Dynasty Warriors has a long tradition of hilarious and brilliant dub and what I heard definitely seemed like it was up to that bar. The Japanese voice work is just fantastic though and half the enjoyment from the story comes from the brilliant performances by the voice actors. The weapon slashes, crashes and clashing all sounds superb and the horses (despite their ability to jump straight up) bring a touch of realism to the overall ridiculousness. The classic guitar metal tracks are here but the only one I can recall was the Victory medley that plays at the end of the stage, most of it is largely forgettable but thankfully doesn’t overplay the voices and action that are front and center.
Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition is a hell of an extra title to add to your main franchise name but given the ludicrous amount of DLC content added here I can see why. Almost all characters have 6-9 outfits, there are extra weapons, stages and that’s barely the start. The game is already full of content and this all adds into a hugely rich and experience. The more I think about Dynasty Warriors 8 as I write this the more I realise I’ve forgotten to mention. The 3 point Heaven, Earth and Man system for weapons and their own skills and stats, the ability to assign allies to your shops in Ambition mode, the huge gallery, the huge History mode with details of each timeline and character. It’s one of those games that has so much content, you need a list just to remember it all.
The game is enormous and if you missed it the first time around you deserve to give it a go, especially if your itching for another Dynasty/Omega Force style hack and slash to scratch that itch. The problems it has are largely with its age and ironically its large levels that result in frustratingly frantic travelling back and forth to get to the action. There’s plenty of polish in this version and the fact it doesn’t take an age to load is fantastic. The action is absolutely amazing and the amount to be had is just staggering, just be prepared to take some time to get there.
8/10 – Like eating an enormous pie, just be sure to pace yourself
Code provided by Koei Tecmo Europe Ltd.
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