“Dynasty Warriors 7” by Co-op Jaken

The Dynasty Warriors franchise has been around for a decade or more, and I, myself, have been playing it adamantly since I was first introduced to it’s third installment by my close friend who lived down the street.  We would spend entire weekends, literally hours on end, staying up far past our youth’s bedtime beating the snot out of literally thousands of ancient Chinese soldiers.  When the fourth installment was released, it was on.  We attacked that game like our freedom depended on it, and it is one of the few games that I can say with confidence that I had completed 100% of the game’s content.  Even after all had been done, we still played it.  The stream of insolent peons that the rival generals would throw at us only fed our need for carnage.  And the only thing that could stop us was Dynasty Warriors 5.

DW7 - Wei Yan

KO Count 79? We're just getting started!

The core of the Dynasty Warriors series is you, and in my case a split-screen buddy, picked one general (each) from a large assortment of characters.  Each character had a unique weapon (some more unique than others) and style of combat.  The goal is to complete the scenario objective so that your team is victorious.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, it was “kill the leader of the enemy forces.”  It was simplistic, you hacked, slashed, and Musou’d through hundreds of foes, only stopped to rest after a tense bout of combat against an enraged enemy commander.  The gameplay at its core never changed from title to title, but why would it?  But, Koei, it all it’s wisdom, tried to up the ante with each installment.  As a hardcore fan of this franchise, even I must say that every new addition attempted by Koei was ultimately stupid and disappointing.

It has been so, so long since I’ve played the older titles, but I remember a few additions to the game that made it, well, annoying.  I believe it was the fourth installment that introduced Dueling.  When you encountered a playable general from the opposing team, the game would stop for a cut scene of him mocking you and gave you the option to accept his duel.  If you did, the battle would stop, and if you were playing co-op, the other player could only root for you.  You would appear in a confided ring, with only the other general to do battle with.  The fight was to the death, which in theory sounds fun, but after hours of experiencing this, we found a flaw.  If either player dies, the mission ends in failure.  One failed duel and you’d have to start completely over.  After a while –  until we were so powerful, no mere mortal to stop us – we just skipped duels.  But Koei learned from that mistake and duels were removed in later titles.

Skipping ahead to the most recent title, excluding the brand new release of Dynasty Warriors 7, we see what to me, as a fan, was heartbreaking.  Earlier, I mentioned that each character had a unique weapon and fighting style, which made each one different to play.  In Dynasty Warriors 6, Koei decided to adopted a type of class system, where only a handful of characters were unique, and the rest were copy-paste from another character, just with a different look and color scheme.  I felt like Koei, which had already put the neck of this game in the noose, just kicked the chair from underneath it.  There was a glimmer of hope, though, with the new Renbu system – which allowed you to increase in power as you achieved combo kills, but it wasn’t enough to outshine the lack of flavor left in the game.  Then, they released a portable game which was so stupid I don’t even want to look up what it was called.  I called it Dynasty Balls Z, because the whole point was to go super saiyan and whatever – I stopped caring.

Then, my good friend told me that the seventh installment was to be released.  With a sad abandonment in my heart, I told him I wasn’t going to buy it.  Dynasty Warriors 6 did more than just ruin the feel of the game, but had turned my favorite character into a photo-copy of my LEAST favorite character.  That was the true stab to my heart.  But, regardless of my hurt feelings, he bought it and with solemn devotion to days past, we decided to kick this game’s ass – for old time’s sake.

What I Expected:

Doing some research, as I do with any game I decide to play, I learned that they (the game designers) have tossed out unique weapons all together, and have instead made your weapon-at-hand modular to your discretion.  To me, that sounds only slightly better than making copy-paste characters, as there seems no real reason to switch characters, except from faction to faction.  I expect to wade through hordes of Chinese warriors, fight officers and commanders in the exact way I have before.  Did I say expect?  I HOPE that is what is to come.  One more wrong turn by Koei, and my heart is finished!  So, disk in my Xbox 360, my good bud beside me, controllers in hand, it was time to test the ancient waters in an effort to find new life.  I can only assume that we will do what we always do – he’ll select Zhao Yun, and I Zhang Fei until we unlock my greatest weapon to be deployed against the sea of feudal warfare: the barbarian Wei Yan.  Then, Zhao Yun and Wei Yan shall fight side-by-side against, well, everyone and everything.  And so help me, if Koei fails me once more, I might sigh a bunch (that’s how I roll), and bitch like a grumpy gamer (that’s how we all roll).

What We Got:

Opening Cinematic Snapshot

Zhao Yun will teach your horse not to mess with him.

I always found it interesting that this section of the review is called “What WE Got” when only one person is reviewing.  Well, in this case, it is “we,” because I would never trend the hills of feudal China without my partner-at-arms, who shall remain anonymous.  Now, on to what we came for!

My first impression was “what the hell is this?” as I started up the first option on the menu labeled “Story Mode.”  After completing the first mission while my bud watched, we realized that Story Mode was not co-op.  In every previous title, just about everything was co-op, with jump-in and jump-out ability.  The only mode not co-op were the challenge modes, where you were just try to achieve some goal and compete for a position on the online leaderboards.  The fact that one of the two playable options, which in theory could amount to half the game, was only one player made this edition of Dynasty Warriors look bleak.  But, there were some things to consider.

Aside from minor changes, the gameplay was what we had come to know.  You still had your basic attack button for dishing out death to a horde of red-dots-on-the-mini-map bad guys, who followed their officers around until their officers die.  You still had your special attack button which could be used for different effect after a certain number of basic attacks.  Lastly, you still had your Musou, the corner stone of Dynasty Warriors.  For those of you new to the franchise, the Musou was a cinematic-like super attack that was unique to each character, where your character entered a canned animation and dished out serious pain on anyone caught in the wake of the attack.  You have a Musou gauge, which fills as you hit opponents, or find a Full Musou power-up.  Oh, and the power-ups were still the same.  There were a few beneficial aspects that appeared to be removed.  In previous titles, if your Musou gauge was not full, you could hold down your Musou button to charge it, and while charging you were unable to move or defend yourself, but it was handy where you were alone and preparing to face a big boss.  Other than that, I can’t seem to perform aerial recoveries, which were instrumental in not getting pounded by an officer.  Any attack that sends you in to the air is sure to leave you stunned on the ground a few moments after, and it was nice to be able to hit a button and recover mid-flight so you land on your feet.

The loss of these two things make the difficulty curve spin out of control.  You can wade through hundreds of soldiers, and a dozen officers, when suddenly you get caught in a combo that is extraordinarily hard to free yourself from.  These combos can even take you all the way down to dead from full health.

Musou attacks have also changed.  Usually, unless you had what was called a True Musou, if you hit the Musou button and held it down, you would preform for Musou attack instantly for the duration based on the length of your bar.  In Dynasty Warriors 7, you hit the button and your character, and everyone around him, slows down so you can preform an animation before dishing out your attack.  In co-op, which we found in Conquest Mode, it is very easy to ruin your partner’s Musou by knocking their target out of their range while they’re in the middle of their silly animation.  Even more troublesome is that some Musou attacks are limited to single-targets, meaning you have to hit them basically dead on.  But, one great new addition is the ability to unlock a second Musou attack for every character.  This allowed you to choose the best Musou for the situation, and most are either single-target, or area-of-effect, and some even healed your character!

The weapon system is awesome.  Each player can carry two sets of weapons (I say set because twin swords is one weapon while an axe can be the other, etc) that you can switch out at ease, and even change mid-battle.  We learned quickly that to optimize your choice for a pair to use, you need one weapon that has good crowd control, and another that packs a punch against one or only a few at a time.  Once you gain access to ranged weapons, you can also go the melee/ranged combo.  But the best part is, they kept characters unique.  Each character, regardless of weapon equipped, has a unique (so far) Musou.  On top of that, each character has different proficiency with a given weapon.  Higher proficiencies grant faster attack speed, and ultimately a unique attack the weapon provides for those characters attuned to its use.

Now, getting back to my friend and I with our disappointment at the lose of co-op in Story Mode, we turned to Conquest Mode.  He hit start and was queued to join me in battle.  At first, we were horrified at the lack of characters you begin with – mainly this means no Zhang Fei or Zhao Yun!  At the beginning, you have only access to two characters from each faction, Shu, Wu, Wei, and a new one, and a single character from the “Other” characters.  Our first impression was disappointed, but as I thought back on it, each faction before got three starting characters each, with just the three factions.  This totaled to nine characters.  With four factions and a freebie from the Others, you still got nine characters.  So, he hit up Conquest, me as the Shu leader Liu Bei, and my friend as the other character for Shu, and new female character.

The loading screen changed to a town, and I was alone with Liu Bei in a full screen.  We were disoriented at first, but we soon realized that this was how the game managed its new weapon system – with the ability to buy from vendors, and added a new way to play the same game of Dynasty Warriors.  I left the town and was then given a hex-based map.  Each hex was a stage of combat, and each hex completed unlocked the hexes around it.  We played through the first series fairly quickly, finding and buying weapons along the way until we had a serious arsenal.  We then found out the certain hexes were called Legendary Battles, and each one had a character assigned to it.  Once all the battles in the Legendary Battle hex were completed for a character, that character became playable.  After acquiring Zhao Yun, we made a bee-line for Wei Yan – we had to get the band back together.

Along the way I found a few gameplay issues.  Mainly, the jump button seemed almost useless.  There was almost nothing you could actually jump over.  Some things appeared low enough to vault over, but our characters would get stuck just above the object and slide back down to where we were.  The mechanic was there to use aerial attacks, but once you jump in the air, it’s difficult to see what your going to hit.  Ultimately, we found we never really needed it.  Some weapons seemed completely under-powered compared to the rest, but over-all they were fairly balanced, so that wasn’t a problem.

I started to realize that Conquest mode was missing something as we played.  I noticed each mission would have a mini-map that showed a large area, but the mission would only use at most half of the area.  In Story Mode, you get to play those historically in-accurate, yet totally epic battles that Dynasty Warriors fans have come to recognize, but in Conquest Mode you would just kill a few guys, grab your loot, purchase skills, then move on.  At one point we reached another town we could unlock, with new merchants and the like.  To unlock it, we had to The Battle of Ji Province.  Finally, I thought, a real battle.  To my disappointment, we literally just stood in a gateway and killed three bosses, give or take, and then we won.  We didn’t even have to travel.  What happened to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms?  How did my character affect one battle or another?  Conquest Mode just gave us a simple, fast, and story-less Dynasty Warriors.

Meanwhile, Story Mode let’s you battle general’s who command great armies of feudal China, lead peasants to freedom, and hunt down your enemies as they flee.  We see our allies deploy strategies and tactics to win the battle, and we are instrumental in the success of every course.  But, we’re all alone.  No horizontal split on our television screens that gave us a partner to help us ascend our faction to the high of their power.

The latest batch of games these days don’t really see the value of co-operative play.  Especially in Dynasty Warriors, where they keep track of how many men your killed in an ever growing count in the corner of your screen.  Without being able to compare and compete with a brother-in-arms, it’s just a body count.  And nothing brought you closer to your comrade then when your health hit the red, the final boss of the battle raising his blade to finish you, and your friend emerging from out of no where with a Musou to spare you a dismal fate, allowing you to flee, find some health, and rejoin the fight.  Dynasty Warriors 7 is just another casualty of online gaming, where co-op is so under-appreciated its hardly even included.  It’s a sad day for those that remember sitting next to your bud, with the glow of the TV being the only light in the room at four in the morning, both laughing and shouting as they massacred hordes of warriors over and over again.

I suppose it’s still there, in Conquest Mode, but it’s just not the same.  Each battle in Dynasty Warriors was unique, and back-in-the-day of Free Mode, where you can play any character in any battle on any side, it was reliving the battles that you loved, and cringing at the hard ones that killed you over and over, but challenged you to do better this time.  Conquest Mode is just a grind, a progression through missions that I hardly remember already.

But, it’s just a game, and I will probably play it with my friend until it’s completion.  After that, I don’t know if there will be any point to replaying ALL of Conquest Mode.  Maybe if the hex board randomizes each time, but even then how long can you do five minute skirmishes before you realize that not even your character is motivated.  Dynasty Warriors 7 might as well be Chinese-Era Hack and Slash Warriors.  It’ll probably still be fun when you feel like hacking through hordes of enemies, but the story can only be walked alone.

If Story Mode had co-op, or if Free Mode still exists, this would have been salvation for Dynasty Warriors.  Instead, Dynasty Warriors 7 once again fails to perfect a base gameplay style, that has been over a decade in the making, with more titles than Star Wars movies.

If you enjoy the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors, this is another installment that’s worth a play.  If you’re in to hack’n’slash gameplay, this is a good game to play.  Unfortunately, once you’ve found a character you love, get the best weapons for your play style, and unlock all the towns, there isn’t much incentive to continue playing.  The story mode will give you lots of game time, but again, is only single player – and you can’t pick your character from battle to battle, so it’s literally replaying the same mission as the same guy.  That’s why I give it a

2 Responses to ““Dynasty Warriors 7” by Co-op Jaken”
  1. Bombader says:

    Have you played Sengoku Basara? It’s like Sega’s version of Samurai Warriors with a more Devil May Cry like fighting system. It’s gameplay is awesome but the battles aren’t as epic.

  2. Anonymous says:

    for me this was the best dynasty warriors apart from 5. i liked the story mode and i missed the duels. i didnt like how lubu was too easy to beat this time round though

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