Dynasty Warriors 9 Introduces a World Full of Possibilities

The next installment of the Dynasty Warriors series has been a long time coming. Fans have had to wait patiently five long years since the last entry, Dynasty Warriors 8, was initially released back in 2013. Thankfully for them, that patience will finally pay-off when Dynasty Warriors 9 releases in February. Is “pay-off” the right phrase though? Will the wait have been worth it? Dynasty Warriors 9 is introducing major changes to the series’ tried and true formula, so there’s a risk that all fans will receive for their patience is the bitter taste of disappointment. Fear not aspiring warriors; the omens for this game have proven favorable. Hardcore Gamer was recently given the opportunity to have some hands-on time with the game and it impressed.

Ever since it was announced that Dynasty Warriors 9 was shifting into an open world format, fans have been wondering how exactly it will affect the gameplay they’ve enjoyed since the series’ inception. The game’s open world is immediately noticeable, but long-time fans will be happy to hear that they’ll still be able to play as their favorite officers and engage entire armies on their own. Combat has had some changes made to it, but they aren’t the result of the open-world shift. The most noticeable change this format brings actually lies in the amount of freedom the player has. Freely roaming about the Chinese landscape and choosing objectives replaces simply progressing from mission to mission. The objectives themselves are also more optional than they were in previous games. Those who want to run right in and engage a region’s warlord can charge right on over to them and do just that. It’ll be difficult, but the option is there. On the other hand, those who like to stack the deck in their favor and enjoy winning enemy armies over to their side would do well to take on as many sub-missions as they can. The more one does, the more friendly the region will be towards them and the major engagement will thus become all the easier.

This freedom even extended into how those objectives were tackled. One notable example of this was found at a fort being besieged by allied units. The prerequisite for capturing was defeating the enemy commander inside. Now, the traditional route of defeating the gate guards to gain access and followed by taking out other points of interest on the way to the commander was still present, but there were also several other options available; Scaling the wall, taking out some of its defenders and immediately engaging the commander in single combat for example. Once that was done, it was a simple matter of watching the ensuing cut-scene, summoning a horse and galloping off to engage another army.

Combat and character customization have seen some updates as well. Combat is still based on stringing together combos of light, heavy and powerful attacks, but with the twist of Flow, Reactive and Trigger attacks introduced into the mix. Based on what was played, these seem to mostly present themselves as contextual button presses that appear after doing things like breaking an enemy’s guard, knocking them down or killing them outright. Each character also has their own set of powerful named moves that breakdown into four categories: launch, stun, knock-down and special. Except for the special moves, all three of these could be used liberally and strung together to create flashy combinations. Stunning a strong enemy, launching them into the air only to immediately knock them down and punish them quickly became a favored combo, and in true Dynasty Warriors fashion it was all the more fun when inflicted upon a whole mob of enemies. It should also be noted that each of these attacks can be charged up for more impact, a necessity when engaging a character capable of blocking attacks. Of course, all of these can be personalized and upgraded thanks to the expanded character customization options.

There are over eighty playable characters in Dynasty Warriors 9, all of which can be customized by the player. Players are no longer limited to using one type of weapon with their favorite characters. Instead, they can equip them with any type of weapon they want. Characters still retain their movement styles, but do in fact feel different depending on the weapon they’re using. Said weapons (and special moves) can also be upgraded and given new attributes with the various “gem” items the player collects over the course of their campaign. There wasn’t enough time to dig too deeply into this, but the little that was seen appeared to hint a decent amount of depth.

Dynasty Warriors 9 plays well and will likely please hardcore fans and newcomers alike. The open-world shift feels like a natural evolution for the series rather than a forced change made for the sake of innovation. Combat is still more or less what fans have come to expect, just with a few more bells and whistles added to play around with. The new level of character customization seems to have had a great deal of thought put into it as well, but it remains to be seen just how important it is to the rest of the game. The developers have worked hard to make this a worthy addition to the Dynasty Warriors legacy and it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Dynasty Warriors 9 will release for PS4, Xbox One and PC on February 8.