Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Retro Goat Reviews- Dynasty Warriors 8

Dynasty Warriors 8 is a hack-n-slash beat 'em up, the eighth main title in the Dynasty Warriors series, and the thirty second Dynasty Warriors game total (including foreign releases) It includes more characters than ever at over seventy characters, and it spans nearly of century of war over the course of the game. Needless to say, it's a huge game, and newer entries try to mix things up to keep things fresh and exciting.This installment is no different, but their success varies with the changes in this game.

Story- 7/10
The story is largely the same, with it being about the War of the Three Kingdoms. Since it's based off of a book, which is in turn based off of a legitimate war, it does have somewhat of a storyline to follow consistently. While it can be given a pass for not changing the story due to the aforementioned reason, they do attempt to include what-if stages to shake things up. Keyword being attempt. The first main issue with this is that to unlock the what-if stages, you have to do generally vague missions in set battles to unlock them. Sometimes they're simplistic, such as defeat X in say nine minutes, and other times they practically require a walk through to figure out what you're supposed to be doing. For the most part it's never too terribly difficult once you know what to do, but it feels like padding that you're forced to replay stages continuously until you figure out how to unlock more stages. It's not as bad as it sounds, but it still isn't all that enjoyable. The second main issue is that the story for the what-if line of battles simply isn't that good. It's less of an alternative interpretation on what would change in history had this character lived or this battle had been won, and more of just "fight so your kingdom can live happily ever after." It could have been a really cool concept, but it's marred by the fact that essentially all that changes is your kingdoms ending. Nothing deep or thought provoking, just what amounts to "you win." It's flawed, but it does have room to be worked on. Now back to the main story, while they can't change a huge amount and remain relatively accurate, they can flesh out their characters. With over seventy characters, not all of them have distinct personalities. It happens. The issue is that, if you're a newcomer to the franchise, NONE of them have distinct personalities. In past games there were less characters so they got individual story modes to flesh their characters out, so for the most part each character was unique. Now that the story mode had to change (before anyone complains, would you want to beat a game over seventy times?) no character gets a good bit of development. Past characters would only have noticeable personalities if you played as them in previous games, and new characters just don't have a legitimate personality past "Determined, but inexperienced" or "Caring and hates to fight, but fights for peace." Overall the story isn't as bad as it sounds, it's just not very compelling for returning players or inviting to newcomers, and the series is in need of more fans. It's flawed, but it has room to improve. 

Gameplay- 7/10
The gameplay is largely the same, and for the most part only mild things have been changed. The most noticeable change is the addition of a weapon affinity, a rock paper scissors style change, with each weapon having an affinity. Heaven, Earth, and Man. With each character being able to bring two weapons, you'll rarely be at a disadvantage (in this case, an advantage is increased attack and ability to do a special move and a disadvantage is decreased attack and defense to whoever you are fighting) but it feels added to bring a bit of a strategic element to the gameplay. It's not bad, but it is slightly unpolished and has a few annoyances. For example, every weapon category (as many different weapons as there are characters) has a special five star weapon that is meant to be the best obtainable weapon in its field. However, every single five star weapon has the same affinity: Heaven. Which means you can't have a character equip two five star weapons without ending up at a disadvantage to anyone with the opposing element, which is Man. Heaven beats Earth, Earth beats Man, Man beats Heaven. It feels like the developers did that to ensure that your character can't be overpowered, but at the point that your character is strong enough to unlock their weapon, you're already at superhuman levels of strength, so it feels like a pointless nuisance. Besides, why not let the player have fun slaughtering hundreds of peons without worry? Many people like difficulty, and the difficulty can be changed to suit your desire, but sometimes it's simply fun to dominate throughout a stage, and to limit that is disappointing. The other issue with the gameplay is that most of it is simply padding. Many of the stages feel like there is no reason to play through them, and they add a huge amount of stages that only last a few minutes. There's probably around eighty stages, and if they aren't in the story mode (which is half of the stages) they're normally around five minutes long and without any reason to complete them besides simply having them beaten. The game adds a new mode, Ambition mode, which replaces Conquest mode from the previous game. Unlike Conquest mode, Ambition mode serves little purpose, doesn't unlock characters for Free mode, and gets very boring very fast. The point of Ambition mode is, essentially, doing many many MANY skirmishes to get materials to build a palace named Tongquetai. The materials include literal materials to improve your facilities, officers to unlock more facilities, and fame to be able to acquire more officers. It gets old fast. It feels like pure padding, which is the main issue with the gameplay this time around. However, the gameplay does remain fun and true to form, and most past fans will be relatively pleased. Newcomers may not enjoy this game to it's fullest extent, however. 

Controls- 9/10
The controls remain relatively simplistic, but they included enough to where just running around pressing X won't allow you to beat the game. For the most part, it's identical to the past game, but it does add simple convenience to make the game more enjoyable. For example, holding down the "call your horse" button makes you automatically ride your horse when it arrives. It's a simple thing, but it's great to have. Really if you've played one, you know the controls, and if you haven't it isn't hard to figure out. My only complaint is that if you're trying to ride your horse or climb a ladder, you absolutely have to stop moving and press A/X to use them. But save for that one issue, the control remains simplistic and enjoyable. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. 

Graphics- 7/10
The graphics fail to impress, to put it simply. They aren't bad, but they should be better by now. The main issue with the graphics is the fact that they're the same graphics as the previous games. Yes characters get new outfits, and the new characters have unique looks, but it's very clear that the graphics engine is the same as the previous game. Another issue with the graphics, which is most apparent in cutscenes, is that character models sometimes get this weird look that makes them look like they're from a game with comic designs. Something akin to Borderlands, but this game was hoping to be as realistic as possible and that leads me to think that this is a legitimate programming error. However, with it not being addressed, it stays and it's clearly not supposed to be happening. On the bright side, the graphics are still nice, and you won't get bored with the varying maps quickly. Though thanks to the many skirmishes in Ambition mode, the maps lose interest quicker than normal. Still, the graphics aren't bad, they just aren't amazing.

Sound- 7/10
The Dynasty Warriors series has always had amazing soundtracks, and this game is no different. On that note, the low grade is for the voice acting. It's never been amazing, but this is the first game where re-using the lines from the past game is clear.The worst part is when it sounds like they hired new voice actors for certain characters, then re-use lines from the past game where they sound entirely different. The voice acting is irritating, and doesn't have the hammy amusement to excuse it, but it doesn't make the game unplayable, just slightly annoying. As for the soundtrack, it remains awesome, but it doesn't stand out that much. It sounds like a Dynasty Warriors game, and though it won't be winning any awards, it is still pretty awesome. 

Replay Value- Moderate
Though there is plenty to do and it's got a huge amount of content, that's a technicality. There is a lot to do, but will you want to do it? The game isn't as fun as previous entries in the series, and if you don't like the gameplay to the point where you can devote to it, you will probably put the game down before doing a majority of the tasks in it. On the flip side, if you love the series, there is an incredible amount of things to do. Over eighty battles to play and over seventy weapons to collect, and that's after you beat the games story modes. The replay value varies from person to person. You'll either love it or hate it, and if you don't absolutely love it you won't do a lot in the game.

Buy or Borrow?
If you haven't played a past game, borrow this one. If you have played a previous entry, I'd still say borrow unless you're confident that you'll enjoy this game. It's not for everyone, and it doesn't improve on much, but it's not a bad game. You should find a way to try it out before buying it though. If you can't, you may want to leave this at the store.

Overall, this game could have been amazing if they had improved on what they had, instead of trying to tweak the current play-style. To quote the box art, this was called "The definitive Dynasty Warriors experience" and this game is certainly not that. There was no chance they would be able to create the definitive experience while re-using so much content from the past entry, and that was too great of a boast for this game to live up to. By all means, this isn't a bad game, but it could have been so much more. It's good, but it's clearly just good. It isn't amazing or captivating or innovative, it's just a good time killer. Some people would love that, and some people would hate it. Buy it if you think you'll like it, but if it seems like a risk then play a previous entry first. With this one, you'll love it or hate it.

Final Score- 7/10