Since the franchise debuted in 1874, it has been customary to open any review of a Dynasty Warriors game by mentioning that the latest installment is either a) exactly the same as the previous titles, or b) to start the piece by mentioning that previous reviews have mentioned it's exactly the same as previous titles. If you think that's quite repetitive, or even outright lazy, well it is. But then, it suits the series perfectly.
This one is a little different. Only a touch, mind, but enough to make it stand out. There's still a whole campaign stuffed with characters wading through the Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga. And by that, we don't mean meditations on the art of diplomacy; we mean going into battle with the sort of sword that would shame the Kurgan and killing (or, ahem, KOing) literally everyone in China dead.
Bosses and sub-bosses act players accessing newer parts of the utterly bland maps (usually a series of funnels between open areas), and mission types vary from killing rival officers to escorting your own to safety. There are plenty of options available to players, such as customising their character's abilities and weapons; certain blades are more effective against certain enemy types, meaning you also have to choose the right tool for the job.
For the most part, however, you'll be swanning around on a battlefield, cracking skulls. A few other nuances mix things up, such as the special move-giving Musou gauge - that fills up as you lay waste to entire continents - and the new 'rage' mechanic that triggers as you lay waste to... you get it.
It's fun at first, and then distinctly not fun. I nearly fell asleep twice during the review process, and that's generous: I've known colleagues to slip into comas and wake up years later speaking Mandarin.
Despite this counter-intuitive dynamic it is still utterly addictive, like attempting to eat everything at the Pizza Hut buffet in one sitting. There's a moment when you know you should stop, but at the same time it's nearly impossible to do so. The feedback loop of most combat games is in the gratification of smashing people's faces: in Dynasty Warriors this happens all the time, and while your enjoyment of said violence may wane in the short-term, long-term you'll be back for more. Especially if you're likely to play in the on or offline co-op modes.
The highlight of Dynasty Warriors 8, however, is Ambition mode. Whereas the campaign seems like one long trudge through the Three Kingdoms stuff until you either aren't good enough to progress or you suffer brain-death, here you've got to build a base so that an emperor will come and visit you. Starting at your camp, you've got to head out onto the battlefield and choose between scrounging materials, recruiting allies (by stabbing them, of course) or acquiring fame (by stabbing people, of course).
While that's not really any different to the main game, the fact that the missions are broken down into smaller chunks and objectives means that there's some form of choice, and there's always another level to play should you get stuck. There's also the inherent appeal of crafting your own base - and as such filling it with people and shops - with the spoils, which nicely incentivises all the war-facing you're going to have to do to get them.
Is it new? Not really. Does it run, look and control like a drunk forklift truck ? Yes. Will it make you question your sanity due to its repetitive nature? Undoubtedly. But is it fun? Yes.
Version Tested: PS3
Played for 7 hours.
5 / 10
- Violence is golden
- Ambition mode is a welcome addition
- Poor looks and controls
- Very repetitive