At this point, we should all know what to expect from Dynasty Warriors: Chinese history, the video game interpretation of the deification of said history’s most famous warriors and more cheesy guitar riffs than in Dragonforce’s entire discography. Tearing through thousands of grunts like butter isn’t for everyone, but the fan base is there, and with each entry Koei has gone to great lengths to deliver the goods. This time around, we have one of the most complete, robust entries in the series, with enough interesting content and meaningful mechanical tweaks to keep fans happy for a long time.
Dynasty Warriors 8 is built on a new engine. All of the characters had to be rebuilt from the ground up. In the process, Koei went absolutely insane and made sure that every single officer in the roster of over 70 has a unique set of animations. This adds untold variety to a series that has always had problems with recycled movesets and cloned weapons. Each character not only feels unique, but the attack animations are so over-the-top and tremendously powerful that you really do get the sense of being a god on the battlefield.
The combat is as smooth and refined as usual. You can chain attacks using a combination of the square and triangle buttons, and unleash super moves with the circle button. You can easily shift the direction you’re facing during a combo, and each combo finisher has a use for whatever situation you may find yourself in.
A few additions to the mechanics have made the experience much smoother, including the ability to not only call a mount on the fly, but to also be able to automatically climb atop it as it reaches you. Characters now have four super moves in total, really letting you tear up the battlefield. There is always room for improvement, but this is the best a traditional Dynasty Warriors has felt since the beginning.
A new affinity system has been added to the weapons, which adds extra challenge and new ways to fight when facing officers. Each weapon has a rock-paper-scissors affinity, and if you attack an enemy with a weak weapon type, you can unleash a unique auto-combo once you break their defenses. The catch is that you can only hold two weapons, and you’ll often find yourself facing multiple officers at once wielding weapons with different affinities.
This is offset by making the act of switching weapons a counter maneuver, which ultimately adds extra layers to the combat without making things overcomplicated. It keeps you on your toes, especially since enemies that beat your paper with their scissors get bonuses that put you at a severe disadvantage.
Free mode has returned, and a new Ambition Mode is present, along with the usual story mode. You can also play co-op online in addition to locally. There is enough content here to keep even the most rabid of die-hard Warriors fans busy. Ambition Mode is especially loaded, and is structured in a way that rewards the player with an ample sense of progression, as well as condensing the battles into bite-sized skirmishes instead of several huge bouts that grind away at your attention span.
With more stuff to do, more physics-defying attacks and more on-screen enemies than ever, Dynasty Warriors 8 has a lot going for it. It’s explosive yet elegant, and deliberate in the ways it allows you to dominate the warzone. It even presents new challenges when appropriate. This is easily the best Dynasty Warriors yet.
Pros: Tons of content with clear progression, no clones, great new mechanics
Cons: Some slowdown and low-grade visual tech, the usual concessions for the amount of onscreen chaos