Review: Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires

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I can remember when Dynasty Warriors was a 3D fighter for the PS1. Who would have known that the franchise would last so long. In taking DW from a fighter to a massive mob bash fest, Koei has ultimately created their own genre. Several other games like Samurai Warriors and DW Gundam keep the genre alive. Once must ask the simple question though, does DW6 take the genre to next gen heights?

Graphically DW6E suffers from what I call the CCE (Cash Cow Engine). It seems that Koei really hasn’t updated their DW engine at all since the game was first released. Character models in the menus look great but are filled with aliasing or in layman’s terms, jaggies. That’s a symptom of last generation and considering the 360 can handle 2x AA, this is ridiculous. The models themselves DO look good but they are lacking that next gen touch. Again, this is just the menus I’m talking about. The game itself looks just like a PS2 game. I’m not exaggerating one bit. As you are running through the land, little piles of grass actually disappear when you run over them and reappear after you pass them. The ground has VERY low textures and the level design is substandard. Again, it looks just like DW2 on PS2. I think they are utilizing some of the 360’s power buy putting hundreds of characters on the screen at the same time. I had no slow down at all during play. The character animations are good, but nothing to write home about. Now if you think about it, this CCE has been making Koei profits for years. They don’t have to put much development time into these DW games and are probably operating in the green. I’m hoping with the next gen or even at the end of this gen they can turn out a LOTR style DW game. I’m hoping.

Enough with the bad. There’s tons of good in DW6. I’ll start with the character creation mode. This mode allows you to create your own DW character, though not quite from scratch. I decided to create one of my favorite Chinese heroes, Wong Fei Hung. They have several hairdos, body types and faces to choose from. You are limited on clothing until you can unlock some more in Empire Mode. The problem with the character creator is that while you can change your character after you start the Empire campaign, those changes won’t take effect in the campaign itself. My characters voice sounds really flamboyant so I changed it. Of course this didn’t get updated in my campaign so I have to deal with it. It’s not like the campaign is short either. It’s best to finish the campaign once, unlock everything you can and then make the character you want and play through it again.

Like most fighting games with character creation, you are limited to choosing move sets that are already in game. Since DW6E has a ton of characters, you’ll have a ton of move sets to choose from. Every move set comes with a different weapon. You can’t add a move set from one character and a different weapon from another character. The game is just not made that way. They have multiple skin tones so you can create a character that looks like yourself. Again, it’s limited so don’t expect anything like the features in MLB09’s character creation tool.

DW6E has a few different modes to play. Empire mode is your standard marathon campaign mode. Take over the entire country and become the ruler of China. They have an Encyclopedia that gives you historical information on the Three Kingdoms and the characters in the game. The Archives allow you to check out game assets like movies, graphics, unlocks and outfits. Edit mode allows you to create a character and Options allows for display, sound and controller configuration.

You can be a Vagrant, Ruler or Officer in DW6E. Vagrants have no ruler and make money off of Mercenary missions. It’s good to play a Vagrant for awhile and build up your level. This game is NOT forgiving whatsoever. Lu Bu will kick your ass if you go up against him too early in the game. When you decide to join a Ruler, you’ll get Assignments to complete, join raids of other territories and also help protect your rulers territories. You’ll earn experience, gold and gems to help imbue your weapons. Lastly in Ruler mode, if you so choose to over throw a Ruler, you can command all of your forces and even recruit officers from other territories you’ve conquered. The cool thing about Empires is that it requires some strategy. It’s like they’ve merged the best features from their turn based games with their DW games. Empires has been done before but this is the first time I’ve actually played it and I’m having a blast.

Gaining experience and leveling your character, weapons and skills is fun. It’s one of the things that keeps me interested in the flow of the game. I want to max out my weapon skills and buy some cool upgrades. In order to be able to do this you need gold and gems. You receive gold and gems upon completing assignments and missions. Once I max out my level, I’ll become a ruler and my whole game will change.

The ability to use other characters you’ve befriended or hired is great. Lu Bu left my ruler but I befriended him so I’m able to use him to complete missions. I can also update his level and weapons. Having the power of “Lu Bu!” is a major benefit in Empire mode.

The sound is good but nothing to write home about. The music is wonderful. I love the classical Chinese music in the menus. The English voice acting is substandard and I wish they had the option to turn on the Japanese/Chinese voices with English subtitles.

So I’ve said a lot of bad and a few good things about DW6E. As uninspiring as the graphics are, DW6E is a blast to play. There’s something about storming 1000’s of troops and cutting them down that keeps me coming back to this game. It may also have to do with the fact that I haven’t played a DW game since DW2. I don’t know, but I love it. I’ve always said gameplay is king and this game has it. Maybe it’s also because I love Chinese films and every time I storm the field I feel like one of the Mountain Brothers from The Water Margin. DW6E is not a bad game. DW fans will LOVE it. If you are a graphics whore, stay away. DW6E is for gamers who have enjoyed the DW franchise for years. Hopefully Koei will spend some money and make an engine that this game deserves to run on. If my review isn’t enough to get the fans into playing this game, remember that it has “Lu Bu!”.

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