Review by gaozheng

Reviewed: 05/05/09

Is it the right step forward for Koei?

The Dynasty Warriors series have come a long way since its inception in 1997 as a fighting game involving China’s Three Kingdom Era characters. However, since the “Shin” that appeared on DW2 onwards, the game has evolved into a “hack n slash” style of game, pitting you, a lone general against hundreds of enemies at one go. It was a hit with a lot of people, managing to put the Three Kingdoms era back on top with renewed interest in China’s history.

Several series on, the tried and tested method grew old with fans, as what they see is a slight update to the characters roster and graphics. The core gameplay remains the same, being ”hack n slash”. Recent efforts on revitalizing the series has being both encouraging and discouraging. The Warriors Orochi series provide a “what if” scenarios for the fans as it features both Dynasty Warriors & Samurai Warriors characters in a new story, but the gameplay remains the same without much needed updates for the aging formula. Dynasty Warrior 6 tries to give a fresh look to the series by adding a “renbu” system, which is either a “hate it” or “love it” for the fans.

With Multi Raid (Strike Force) the newest addition to the series, did it finally break the spell and hopefully to new gamers and old time fans as an improved experience to the series?

The game setting is still in Three Kingdoms, but with a twist.

First off, you are no longer bounded to the flat terrain the series has being “famous” for. Instead of staying on the ground fighting off enemies, you can also stay in the air and unleash your combos. Gone is the mandatory restriction where you travel on foot or horse, with the right equipments, you can air dash or rush across sections of maps. The downside is that there are no more horses because of this, but hey, who needs a Red Hare when you can fly across the stage?

Instead of manning a single weapon, you control the character’s main weapon while holding a sub weapon as backup, the main weapon is not changeable, but the sub can be switched to all types of weapons, provided that the character has enough weapon experience to use it. This is a neat feature where gamers are no longer restricted to just one moveset for a character and can use it to their advantage.

Weapons are also a deciding factor when facing enemies, as when you target an enemy, a lockon circle in appears in various shades of color, with light blue being the best weapon type against them, and red being the worst. This gives you info on what types of weapons to use, and forces you to use your secondary weapon as you try and take down your opponents in the fastest way possible.

Categorized into several categories, the weapons also have a set of proficiency chart the character has access to, in addition to their stats chart. The more proficient the character is at one weapon, the higher ranked weapon he/she can equip and more attack strings he/she is able to dish out.

New to the series is the “Fury” system, where characters are powered up after maxing their Musou bar, in this mode, the character’s sprite changes, which includes an aura surrounding the character and also slightly altered physical appearance. Think of it as Dragonball’s Super Saiyan mode, set in Dynasty Warriors. In this mode, characters have higher attack, speed, and even perks like double jumping, air dashing for some characters, which they do not exist in normal mode. All these at the expense of depletion of the Musou bar, at which you can choose to unleash your Musou attack only in “Fury” mode and revert back to normal or let the gauge depletes while you dishes out greater damages at opponents.

Instead of fighting off hordes of enemies, maps are divided into sections while you deal with officers, soldiers, machineries or even animals in the stage. Each sections of the map are small with a few grunts, sometimes even officers. While there are only a few grunts, they appear to be much smarter and can actually deal quite a bit of damage on later levels, when coupled with machineries or officers who are hitting you from all sides at later stages. Grunts also take advantage of the aerial freedom as the much dreaded sorceress attacks from far while staying in the air, leaving you to fend for yourself as you try to reach them quickly.

The introduction of mystical creatures such as giant tigers, dragons and phoenix as part of the bosses lineup allows gamers to take advantage of the new fighting system as they engage in dramatic battles both in air and ground with the giant creatures. Certain officers also can go into “Fury” mode, which will even out the playing grounds as characters no longer find themselves at a major advantage against the AI. Because of these reasons, several stages become too hard to complete when you are facing “Fury” generals, giant creatures and the usual grunts and machineries hitting out at you at the same time.

That’s when the Multi Raid comes in, I have no idea why there is a change in wording between the Japan and North America/Europe version, as the Multi Raid is pretty explainable. Without the sole advantage, you need to gather more warriors who will help you go through the stage, through friends who have the game and Ad Hoc mode. Up to 4 players can be together at once, cooperating with each other to bring the boss down. Without available friends, you are pretty much on your own to grind levels and win.

However, the game doesn’t just force you to level up to be on par, as right equipments will be vital to the whole process. On times you don’t embark on a mission, you will be in town where you can access to shops for your upgrading or essential needs. There are times where you would meet officers who would give you their cards, which you can use to upgrade the city. As the shops are upgraded, you gain access to more powerful weapons and accessories, all of which requires collection of materials which you gather when you defeat enemies or break carts in stages.

Preparing yourself before you begin a mission is very important as whether you live to win or lose the battle very much depends on your equipments. Besides the aforementioned weapons and replenishing health items, you also get to customize your character through the use of Chi, where you can learn from the Academy in the City. Different Chi have different effects, some allow you to multi dash, learn to control your “Fury” gauge longer, etc.

Orbs from the previous games return in SF, which you can equip onto your weapon to boost their powers. All weapons also have 3 states, which can be cycled through as and when you like in town, each state gives a slightly altered bonus the weapons initially have, including additional orbs slots for you to equip with. Planning comes into play here as you decide to have more attack speed and area in sacrificing your base attack power or more attack power at the sacrifice of attack speed.

On later chapters, you get access to Shrines, which allows you to switch Characters without any penalties, opening up opportunities for you to switch characters to and fro to use them. A good thing is that equipments are shared and that’s including Chi, which thankfully, you do not have to gather additional materials to make another set for your new character.

Finally, there’s the Storehouse where your gathered materials and items are stored, and the Exchange shop which you can trade your unwanted materials for something better, though you are much better off making use of the Ad Hoc feature to trade materials with your friends.

Story wise, most respective Nation’s main storyline is reproduced through main missions which must be completed to advance the chapters, while the sub missions are for smaller storylines and other quests. Each nation has 6 chapters with plenty of sub missions in between.

With all these new features, does the game justify itself enough to be a worthy successor on rejuvenating an old series?

One has to take note of the Multi Raid feature, which is a very important issue here, Koei has made it such that an average player would need at least a friend or two to play together in order to achieve a win in a battle. Not everyone has a friend nearby to provide the help, which would lead to endless frustrating moments as they try to clear the stage by themselves.

With the above issue, comes another, the need to grind levels to move the main missions. Not only will it become boring after a while, it’s very draining on the player’s morale as they managed to get through the earlier stage with grinding only to discover they have to grind even more to get pass the next stage.

Another issue with the game is through the introduction of secondary weapons, come the cloned movesets which fans hate on previous series. While most of the character’s main weapon moveset are unique in their own, the secondary weapon moveset often originates from another character’s main moveset, thereby essentially making a clone moveset. This is understandable as it’s almost impossible to have unique main and secondary moveset for a character given the huge size of the roster. But it might be a minor issue with some players hoping to see unique movesets for each character.

The difficulty levels in the game can be very varying, with some stages being incredibly hard even with 4 characters or incredibly easy that you can complete in mintues for a 30 min stage. While it provides a challenge for some groups of players, an average player would be turned off by the lopsided difficulty.

One pet peeve I have with this game is the cinematics and sounds. The introduction video for each Chapter is the same, only changing the words and narration. All these are not even original as they are copied and sniped from its predecessor, Dynasty Warriors 6. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a few neat cinematic, especially like the one with Lu Bu’s awakening. Most stages are mainly silent except for the grunts and fighting sounds from you and your enemies with the background music, and the occasional character’s announcement on defeating an officer. Most dialogues in stages are just words with the corresponding character’s avatar on it. It would be interesting if we can hear the voices of other characters speaking, maybe just in main storyline, which could add to the experience during gaming.

Finally, it’s you and the world. Besides in engaging with your enemies, you would not be able to see other allies fighting alongside with you, it would be heartening if you can actually see some action besides yours. Given enough thoughts, Koei can implement AI characters that can help you out during certain boss stages, which would eliminate the need to find people for co-op and would allow average players to enjoy the game more thoroughly.

In conclusion, while SF has tried to change the old system, it has succeeded in some, and failed in some. However, it’s a very nice encouraging step forward to a new game play experience, especially with it being the first game of a new system, one can hope it would achieve even more success in future installments as it irons out the issues and introduce better concepts, which will bound to come.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (EU, 05/01/09)

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