By Jesse Baguchinsky
Koei and Omega Force are known for their Warriors series of games, which include Dynasty, Samurai and Warriors Orochi. They are also known for putting two, and only two aspects into the game play: hack and slash. The Empires branch of the Dynasty Warriors series has made attempts to put strategy into the monotonous style of game play a couple of times before. Have they succeeded with this game, or is it just more of the same?
Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires is the 3rd installment of the Empires branch of this series. The overall story of the game is loosely based on the Three Kingdoms era of Ancient China. Basically, the country is divided and it is up to your character to unify it by any means necessary… usually by brute force.
The game is your basic hack n’ slash. Your character wields their large, over compensational weapon of choice and cuts or bashes through enemies as fast as you can hit the attack button. There are small bits of strategy thrown into the mix, but during the main part of the game they don’t seem to make much difference.
Since this is viewed as more of an expansion to Dynasty Warriors 6, there really isn’t any story to speak of. You pick from one of many characters and either start as a ruler and run everything, or start as an junior officer under someone else and work your way up. When I chose ruler my character became the Emperor halfway through my campaign, so that was incentive enough for me to choose to play as a ruler from then on. You can also choose scenarios which are set at different times in the Three Kingdoms period, but the only things that change are the rulers of the territories in China.
There is not much to talk about in the way of graphics. The look of the game is very similar to the other games in this series. That means mostly plain locations and models. They pulled many of the maps and characters directly from Dynasty Warriors 6 so there are no graphical upgrades to speak of. The only thing I noticed is they changed the main menu color and made it more streamlined. The look of the game isn’t bad, but it could be better for a next generation game.
The character roster is huge, but the only ones with unique aspects to them are the ones from the previous Dynasty Warriors games, plus one new one. The other characters are one of three or four generic officer models with the same voices, weapons and play styles. Still, there around over 40 unique characters brought from Dynasty Warriors 6 so that will keep fans of the series busy for a while.
In addition to the large cast there is a “create a character” mode. This mode is decent with a handful of faces, hairstyles and clothing to choose from. It is not nearly as expansive as the modes from Fallout 3, or Rock Band, but it is still possible to make a unique and rather badass character. The biggest downfall to this mode is you have to map your character to one of the weapon types of the already existing characters and while it is funny to see a huge character dance around with Ling Tong’s nunchaku, it is a shame Koei and Omega Force could not put in weapons unique to custom characters.
The soundtrack and voice acting are also very similar to the other Warriors games. The music is comprised mostly of heavy guitar rock with various instruments from Chinese culture in the background. It gets old. The cool thing I didn’t expect from the soundtrack is for every mission you can go to a menu and select songs from the soundtracks of all the previous Dynasty Warriors games along with new songs. As far as I could tell, all songs from the previous games are in this lengthy soundtrack.
The voice tracks are only available in English and they are awful. However, after listening to the music and mowing down thousands of random guys in almost every level, I rarely take this game seriously. Because of this, the voice acting goes from just bad, to hilariously bad. Even though the voice acting is funny to me, it gets annoying when it gets backed up. Every time you kill an enemy officer your character says a victory line such as “Discretion is the better part of valor.” When you kill a bunch of enemy officers in a short period of time, and you will, the character insists on shouting the same line over and over until every dead officer has been accounted for. By the time you’ve unified China you will come to terms with the theory that discretion is in fact the better part of valor.
The game play is mostly how Dynasty Warriors has always been. Run around a map, kill peons, kill target officer, rinse, repeat. You will kill anywhere from 700-900 peons per map and your thumb will get tired. There are bases you can take from enemies such as supply bases and armories, but the only reason to do this is to create a path from your main camp to the enemy’s main camp and the game requires you to do this before the target officer rears his head. Your character says the tides of battles turn in your favor when you capture these bases, but I never noticed any change.
One aspect of the game play I really like is the more powerful the force you’re attacking, the harder they are to kill. For example, when I attacked a ruler who only controlled one territory, that territory went down rather easily. When I chose to attack the territory of officers who owned half of China, it was a little more trouble getting that territory away from them. When you attack rulers with a lot of territory there are more officers to deal with, they have larger life bars and they do more damage. You have to think about who you attack. You can’t just mindlessly run into a battle by yourself unless you’re really good at the game.
When you’re not hacking and slashing, you’re “strategizing.” During the strategy stage you can do things like upgrade your weapons, buy horses, train your character and employ strategy cards for the upcoming battle. These cards include raising your troops’ attack, inciting a fire attack against your enemy and other minor tricks that really won’t majorly change the outcome of the actual battle. You can then choose to attack a neighboring enemy territory or defend one of your own from attack. Either way, the hacking and slashing commences once again.
All in all, this game is a fun hack n’ slash with a mediocre strategy element tacked onto it. Fans of the series will get some enjoyment out of it, but probably not enough to merit a purchase. Gamers who want something deep and mentally challenging should look elsewhere. The graphics and sound are mostly bland and the game play is extremely repetitive. I think the best course of action is to skip this one and either buy Dynasty Warriors 6 if you’re a fan, or wait and see what they do for the inevitable 7th installment.
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Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Omega Force
Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: June 23, 2009 (US)
Genre: Hack n’ slash, Strategy