The Switch is now home to Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest Heroes I & II, Fire Emblem Warriors, One Piece Pirate Warriors, Attack on Titan (1 & 2) and Warriors Orochi 4, among others. And that’s just in the West. No Dynasty Warriors 9, but that’s probably for the best.
You Zhuge Been Clear About It
Now a lot of core gameplay mechanics vary little from other recent entries in the franchise. To that end, Switch owners have a decision to make; whether they’re looking to dive into a core Warriors title, or one of the many IP tie-ins. Those looking for the core, original, fast and loose use of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms literature version should look no further. If you prefer things to be a little more obtuse, take a look at Warriors Orochi 4 (which we also reviewed here).
The definitive moniker relates to the treasure trove of content provided out of the gate. Basically, the huge campaign, the hundreds of DLC packs contained within and the near lifetime’s worth of side mission content. However, whether this is the best version for you simply depends on which consoles you own. This same package is available for PS4, so it may ultimately be a question of performance versus portable.
Romance of the Freebies
Due to having save data for Warriors Orochi 4 on my Switch, the game I was immediately awarded 100,000 in in-game currency. Bonuses extend to save data for any of the available Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games, too. Can’t argue with that.
The scope of the story mode is as ambitious as it’s ever been, twisting and turning through spins on the traitorous lords and legends of the post-Han dynasty Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. Dynasty Warriors has built lore within the part-historical, part-fantasy setting over the last couple of decades and is, frankly, overwhelming. Give it time, pay attention and there’s a lot to consume between the multiple storylines available, even if it is a bit all over the place.
The paths through the story mode are determined by who you chose to kill, save or fail to save by meeting specific mission criteria. Each clan has a nine-chapter strong story, at which point you can head down the historical or hypothetical routes through to the end of the game. If you simply wish to get up to speed, the game’s ‘Encyclopedia’ (encyclopaedia) option contains all the information you could possibly need to familiarise yourself.
With the Xtreme Legends additional missions you’re talking about an insane amount of content for your money. That’s before you consider the other modes and specifically, my favourite, Ambition mode.
Wei to Go
Ambition mode is an interesting time sink. The emperor is missing and in order to attract him to your developing camp, you will have to build new facilities and a large following from scratch. Starting a small area; a meagre village with few inhabitants, you’ll need to enter battles to collect building materials and raise your profile to increase your followers. Facilities aren’t merely cosmetic. For example, the teahouse allows you to eat prior to a battle giving a chance to activate minor buffs, a system not unlike Monster Hunter’s. As your rank gains, so do the options of development. It’s nothing new, but it’s attention-holding and gives a nice make-your-own-adventure feel to it.
Customisation, a key feature of the series, even extends to uniforms. Yes, this historic Three Kingdoms battle of your making now looks like a fight between businessmen and sentai soldiers. Fun can be found by simply mixing it up. Messing with the ludicrous volume of characters, costumes, weapons and going as far as to choose your battle music from a range of series classics is a cool touch.
Free mode and challenge mode round off the gameplay modes, with both modes being self-explanatory; free mode allows you to set up a battle of your choice between any clan or characters, challenge mode contains set scenarios and parameters (such as knock a certain amount of enemies off a bridge within a defined period etc). Both are fine but with the meat of the content being elsewhere, there’s not much reason to stick around beyond completionism.
Now That We are Sworn Brothers, We Must Have the Strength of Spirit… To Kill Peasants! Or Save Peasants… or Something
In Warriors 8 combat is button mashing hack ‘n’ slash; this is the core premise and one that differs very little from mode-to-mode. Combos are formed by stringing light and heavy attacks, with powered up specials and musou attacks providing some battlefield fireworks. Skills and abilities can be chosen before battle and levelled during. Weapon types have their own flow but it’s all diluted by the tsunami-sized waves of fodder that all react in the same way, making all types of attack feel weightless and effortless.
Tactics generally boil down to kill, reach point ‘A’, kill, reach point ‘B’, kill some more. Yes, that applies to ‘defend area A’ and ‘occupy area B’. Adjust your expectations, accept how ridiculously OP your character is and there’s still a great time to be had, just mashing your way through throngs of sorry foot soldiers.
The expected presentation and performance culprits are all present here for the Switch version. Pop in is rife, there is some minor screen-tearing, frame drops in busier segments, wonky collision detection, typically sparse environments and little by way of texture detail. Character models fair the best and animation is always smooth throughout the set combos, with bigger set-pieces coming out particularly well. General performance level floats around the 60FPS target and, though not completely locked, the experience is largely fast and smooth. And that speed cannot be understated. There’s a lot to be said for using a buff nutter carrying an oversized pole, running head-first into a swarm of plain folk. Despite the shortcomings, there’s nothing quite like it in terms of satisfaction.
The harmonised lead guitar riffs sailing above the high-tempo cheeseball-rock beats are perfect for the over-the-top action sequences. It’s all it needs to be. Voicing acting is unfortunately stilted. Still, it adds an element of comedy. As a quick aside; the Japanese voice option is available, too. Wandering into Gallery option provides access to music, wallpaper, events, cutscenes and character stats.
Once again, the joy of multiplayer co-op, limitless within the scope of available content, is a big draw, though a tougher sell for table-top mode. Split-screen performance issues are as expected here too, with the framerate capped to 30 but again struggling to maintain a lock, grinding to a near-halt where the action is excessively busy.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the gameplay loop is too repetitive to recommend the game to everyone. Dynasty Warriors 8 is a no brainer if you’re a series fan and are looking to fill some hours. Truthfully, it’s hard not to point Switch owners in the direction of the Nintendo IP licenced Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors as a more accessible alternative for anyone else. Me, though? I’m heading back to nurture my ambition.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
I usually favour the Warriors Orochi series, but what can I say? There’s more romance to enjoy right here.
Format: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS3, PS Vita
Price: £34.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe Ltd
Developer: Omega Force
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 27/12/18 (UK eShop)
Review copy provided by publisher