Dynasty Warriors 6 Reader Review
If I were a cynical man (which I am, but bear with me), I'd simply do the usual copy-and-paste intro that every reviewer seems to do for Dynasty Warriors games. Yes, we all know the series is huge in Japan, selling new consoles like hotcakes. We already know that there are more Dynasty Warriors spinoffs than you can shake a fairly large stick at. We know that the games are always, always poorly translated into English and have massively, hilariously out-of-place techno soundtracks. That said, however, I'm now at a loss to what to say to introduce this latest iteration of the Dynasty Warriors formula. Maybe this will do - "it's surprisingly different and surprisingly fun".
At first glance, however, what's new mightn't actually sound all that exciting. A new combo system, a skill tree to shape character levelling, an improved duelling system and more realistic enemy bases have been implemented. More controversially, Dynasty Warriors 6 has introduced the previously unthinkable for a Warriors game - namely, that players can now...climb ladders. Oh, and swim through water.
However, the seemingly few changes actually make a big difference. Take the combo system, for instance. In Dynasty Warriors games past, the attack button would trigger one of a number of canned attack combos. Once that was finished, there would be a brief pause before unleashing the next. The combos, and the effectiveness of them, were dictated solely by the weapon the character was equipped with. While satisfying in itself, something always felt missing. Dynasty Warriors 6's new Renbu attack combo system goes some way towards addressing this. Now, characters must successfully chain attacks on their foes without incurring damage in order to gain access to the most powerful attacks. The more you manage to hit without being hit yourself, the longer and more damaging your combos will become. The game mechanic works very well, adding a certain depth of skill and strategy to the proceedings.
The skill tree is also interesting, allowing players the freedom to develop their characters to suit their own playstyle. Using experience points, players can unlock special abilities, boosts to health and other stats and also allow access to higher levels of Renbu combos. While advancement is still constrained to the paths laid out by the developers, even this small amount of freedom is welcome. Also welcome is the graphical overhaul that the game has benefited from. The developers have added lots of sparkly new visual treats, from improved character animations and textures to finally (properly) embracing high definition technology. It would take a hard heart to deny that the game does look very pretty running in HD, though occasionally the frame-rate does appear to suffer with the extra strain put on the PS3 by the eye-candy fluff. Worth mentioning, however, is the sheer eye-watering quality of the in-game cut scenes. Whoever is tasked with creating these deserves a pay-rise, as they are simply beautiful, with the rendered graphics looking phenomenal.
Hardened fans can relax, however - the vast majority of the game remains unchanged. Select a character and play through their story, massacring thousands of enemy foot soldiers, lieutenants and enemy generals along the way. Leading troops into battle, maintaining their morale by defeating particularly troublesome enemies on their behalf and conquering enemy strongholds is hugely satisfying. When facing off against enemy generals, the battle can occur either as part of a larger melee or as a one-on-one battle surrounded by a circle of watching soldiers. This gives these battles a great atmosphere, and makes the combat seem even more epic that it otherwise might be. Capturing enemy outposts is improved by having the player and his troops attacking and breaking down the actual gates, rather than fighting a titular "base-commander" as in previous games, something which always baffled me. Why the one soldier responsible for the defence of a position would go outside his walls to fight the enemy, rather than sit safely inside, pouring boiling oil over the sides, never really sat right in my mind. In such assaults, the all-new Ladder Technology comes into its own, allowing players to scale walls to take out defenders and heavy weapons on the turrets.
Frustratingly, however, some problems still persist. Having to run across massive battlefields is tedious, even with the help of a faithful steed, and both enemy and ally AI occasionally leaves a great deal to be desired. Also, the actual plot of the game is fairly obscure to those not well-versed in the lore of the previous Dynasty Warriors games, and the cheesy dialogue occasionally becomes too much to bear. Even more irritating, however, is the series' continued love of timed mission objectives. Perhaps it is merely my play-style, but I prefer to be able to take the time to move through game environments in my own time, enjoying what they have to offer before moving on to face new challenges when I feel ready. Dynasty Warriors 6 has a nasty habit of forcing time limits upon mission objectives, creating a feeling of constantly rushing to get across the map in time.
However, while persistent, these problems remain minor. Dynasty Warriors 6 is one of the finest Warriors games this reviewer has played, and would recommend it to dedicated fans and new players alike. This game will never be as successful in Western markets as it is in Japan, but it remains the best in the genre of open-ended crowd-control button-masher combat games. Also, it has ladders in it - clearly the deciding factor in such matters.
8 / 10