Title: Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: February 15, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Genre: Musou, Strategy
Dynasty Warriors is a comfort series for many. It’s not a genre for everyone, but it can be undeniably cathartic to just lay waste to thousands upon thousands of enemies. However, its singular premise can be too straightforward for some, and that’s where the Empire spinoffs come into play.
These entries provide more strategical planning, enhancing the immersion emitted by large-scale battles. After the overwhelmingly negative reception to Dynasty Warriors 9, this spinoff, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, has been highly anticipated to redeem the series. Thankfully it does, but probably more for those who know what they’re getting themselves into.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires consists of two primary phases. The most straightforward of these two parts is the musou combat, which is about what you’d expect. Players control their chosen combatants as they take over enemy territories, protect their own, and storm enemy strongholds. These sequences are typically the entirety of what the more mainstream entries comprise, but they’re gradually distributed here.
While the map variety is lacking, with the exteriors of the strongholds being incredibly repetitive, the action itself is engaging, thanks to customizability. Each character controls uniquely, primarily thanks to weapon choice being a distinct factor. Additionally, combat builds adds variety to these systems.
Equipment can be outfitted with gem artifacts that offer a plethora of combative benefits, such as induced elemental damage and contextual bonuses. Moreover, there are Secret Plans, which is a bit of a misleading name. At first, I believed this mechanic would be akin to altering the battleground state, like changing the behavior of your troops somehow.
However, these are actually skills that can be activated in the midst of a battle with varying cooldowns. They range in utility by granting buffs, restoring health, or emitting raw damage. Lastly of note are mid-battle skills that can launch, stun, or knock-down foes. Getting into the habit of constantly using these abilities is crucial to prevailing against sturdy opponents. Musou-centric special skills are also useable, though they have expected recharge times.
The combat of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires gets the job done of being appealing and recognizable to the franchise at large. The ‘Empires’ part of the name comes into play via the strategical decisions. Conquest, the mode that acts as the real crux of the experience, has players choose between different eras varying in militant and political climates.
After doing so and viewing a few introductory cinematics, the planning eventually begins. Here is where the game can become undeniably overwhelming. A slew of options are available to pick from, and as helpful as the tutorials try to be, there’s a lot here to take in.
Objectives are presented by the era-respective ruler, with the opportunity to either abide or suggest alterations. I always stuck with attempting the latter, even if unsuccessful, since having the chance to change objectives to better suit my playstyle was more desirable. Regardless, these objectives are what I recommend sticking to like a mantra, at least for beginners, because afterward is where the meat of decision-making occurs.
Domestic Affairs, Human Affairs, Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Battle, Stroll, Buy, and Rest are the selectable options when part of the war council. Some of these choices are more self-explanatory than others, but following the objectives outlined beforehand is enough to get new players by without feeling overwhelmed by these systems. You gain Merit for completing them, a valuable resource for your reputation. They can be seen as a clever way for players to hone in on specific mechanics every few in-game months to better assess how each component coalesces.
Discussing the intricacies of each potential political move extends outside the scope of this review. Simply put, gradual experimentation is key to understanding these systems. There may be a lack of musou combat for those desiring that side of the game more, though the non-Empires entries can fulfill that desire instead. Those who have played Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires, will likely feel at home with the gameplay loop here, resulting in a far more enjoyable experience.
While I had a fun time with the political decisions, I wish there was more to do during a single turn since tedium can quickly set in, especially during the start of eras where there aren’t many exciting moves to make. At its worst, each decision can end up feeling like a blur, and almost soulless with their incorporation due to the lack of depicted impact or moderation in doing so.
Regarding presentation, the title looks stellar with realistic character models that aren’t too jarring to the eye, though the reused models for the more minor troops can become somewhat humorous thanks to this greater detail.
On PlayStation 5, performance is delectably smooth, with no noticeable frame hiccups interrupting my time. So if this platform is on your radar for this release, then you’ll be in good hands with performance. There are other features like creating a custom officer and being unaffiliated, but chances are you have a solid enough idea of whether you want this game or not.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is a great representation of the Empires series with a few modern elements to entice seasoned players. Its strategic systems are addicting, with combat being delightfully simple, instilling the gratifying sense of mayhem the franchise is known for. It’s a moderately enjoyable time-sink, yet it lacks an identity that can make it difficult to recommend to casual series fans who want more out of their experience. At the very least, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires isn’t an erroneous existence like the original Dynasty Warriors 9 since it provides genuine entertainment, even if not sincerely lasting.
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