As a die-hard Romance of the Three Kingdoms fan, I was incredibly excited to sit down with Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires and see where the franchise has gone. It needed something special after the controversy Dynasty Warriors 9 left in its wake.
While on a personal level, I love playing Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires, I cannot ignore the glaring flaws that sit right in front of me. It feels like a step forward from DW8: Empires, but it's not enough.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is a welcome change from Dynasty Warriors 9
The “Empires” franchise is a blend of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy games and the 1 vs 1000 Dynasty Warriors gameplay rolled into one package. It’s usually an incredible, fun experience, which hasn’t changed for me.
Instead of just tackling stage after stage endlessly, the player also gets involved in the tactical side of things. Plotting against other kingdoms, training troops, recruiting officers, and building bonds with them.
That’s the part of the game I love. Unfortunately, there were some problems going into this one. I played this on the PlayStation 5. Despite that, there were still so many load screens, and they felt longer than most games on the console do.
Screen tearing occurred alongside weird visual glitches throughout the game, even after 20 or so hours of gameplay. So while I loved the game and will continue playing it for hours to come, I was a bit disappointed.
It’s not all negatives, though.
One thing I love about the game is that it is back in character creation! Players can make their characters and influence the political background of the Three Kingdoms Era. They can take on their faction or join someone else and be a loyal vassal. There aren't many cosmetic options, but I’m just glad it’s back.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires avoids many of the previous game's shortcomings
While I enjoyed DW9, it felt bland to many players. It was too serious, too generic for characters, weapons, and combat. It was just a giant, empty open-world version of the later-Han era of China.
Instead of being one lengthy story, it keeps the Empires tradition of having a variety of scenarios. They are essentially the same ones players will be familiar with, alongside one that is just pure chaos with tons of factions on the map at once.
The incredible, fantastic weapons are back, in a sense. The weapons are less historically-focused than Dynasty Warriors 9 are, but they aren’t there yet. It’s a step in the right direction for the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
The enemy units and areas have more variety than the previous game did, and while every battle does more or less involve sieging a castle, the world itself is appealing. There are more places to see, like traveling to mountains, admiring fields of bamboo, or hunting animals in wooded areas.
It’s an improvement from Dynasty Warriors 9, but it isn’t going to break the mold of the Dynasty Warriors or Empires franchises.
Combat is more or less the same, but improvements were still made
The “Flow” system from Dynasty Warriors 9 returns, which is fine. It’s still mashing Square and then Triangle for charge attacks whenever important units appear to charge at them/defeat them.
Combat is exactly what players remember, and that’s one of the draws of Dynasty Warriors as a franchise. You know what you’re getting into. However, Secret Plans adds some depth to combat.
Players will unlock a variety of Secret Plans as they complete actions, win battles, and increase power/reputation. Several officers will have Secret Plans to utilize when jumping into a battle, but you can only choose one.
They all have a success effect and can also have a failure effect. This will trigger at a certain point in the battle, and the player will have to complete a mission or two. It varies from capturing bases to defending a unit.
The reward? Pools of poison, fire, tornadoes, summoning Electric Bears, you know, pretty standard stuff. The enemy will also have a secret plan, and you get an opportunity to go and foil their plans.
Combat was fine in Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires, except with minor exceptions. It would be tough to get out of when I would fall into a moat, resulting in me losing troops when I had to redeploy. Also, horses are entirely too fast!
In a city that is in or out of battle, horses feel like they have little-to-no control. Getting near buildings makes them frustrating to control. I like that Dynasty Warriors 9’s grappling hook is back, and once a player controls the outer bases, it can be used to sneak into the enemy castle while the main force is sieging.
However, combat didn’t feel like it had the same point or purpose that previous Empires games had. The number of weapons wasn’t as significant, combat is okay, and bases were elementary to siege down, making Secret Plans easy to secure and stop.
Being a politician is the other side of the coin in Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires
Gaining notoriety is key in Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires, and you don’t necessarily have to be a hero. Players unlock a wide variety of titles that have their own special abilities tied to them. Players can pillage the peasants, bribe opponents, or be heroes and aid the people.
It’s also essential to build bonds with other officers, to create brotherhoods, and even a wedding. I enjoy that players can also wander through the cities to talk to people instead of just using the menus.
Forging relationships in Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires also unlocks more stratagems, which offer a variety of abilities. Players can equip four at once in battle, and they all have cooldowns and charger times. They can heal, buff, and deal elemental damage; such a wide variety of powers. That’s why unlocking them is crucial.
I love this part of the game, and it feels excellent overall. It’s satisfying to grow in rank and influence the kingdom’s policy. Or, if you are the player in charge, slowly grow in power and overcome kingdom after kingdom until hegemony is achieved.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires runs well, but is visually weak
The graphics are probably hampered by also being on consoles that are not PlayStation 5. Visually, it reminds me of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, and while I do enjoy it and think it's okay, there should be a graphic leap.
The game engine runs smoothly, but the texture pop-ins are pretty bad. It isn't well optimized. Also, I don't particularly appreciate the fact that players cannot take screenshots during a cutscene. It will ask if you want to skip the cutscene instead.
I saw some screen-tearing as well, which was a pretty big letdown. The loading screens are infuriating as well; I didn't expect there to be nearly as many as there were.
While visually it's about the same as always, the music is too - and that's not a bad thing. I always loved the Dynasty Warriors soundtrack, and it was as awesome as ever.
I adore the Dynasty Warriors: Empires franchise, so I was a bit let down by this one, to be frank. I enjoyed playing Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires, and again, I will continue to do so, but it does not feel as strong a release as it could. It was an improvement on the previous game, if only marginally.
I love that it still has character creation, and the franchise can do so much to create storylines in the later-Han era. The gameplay is still fun and satisfying, but it’s bogged down by loading times and pretty bland visuals.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 (Review code provided by Tecmo Koei)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Release Date: February 15, 2022