There’s something sadistically enjoyable about killing thousands of warriors on the battlefield. And considering this is the first time I have ever played a full Dynasty Warriors game, I found it to be quite an enjoyable romp through the historical fiction Romance of the Three Kingdoms book.
I don’t think I could coherently put into words how much fun each of the missions are in this game. The missions take place within some very famous battles that really did happen a long time ago, as well as multiple hypothetical scenarios. Each mission starts off in a small closed off area. The calm before the storm. The character can use this time to talk to NPCs, or buy weapons at the shop. Then as your character walks into the battlefield, all hell breaks lose. Story mode is where Xtreme Legends shines, as it makes the player feels as if they are experiencing the battles as if they occurred in real life. Sure one hero is killing thousands of enemies with an oversized paintbrush, but the flow of battles are modelled after a real historical event.
Some may attack the series for predominately being a button masher. At first, I would have agreed with them. I was having quite an enjoyable time on Normal difficulty doing just that; button mashing. Then I decided to try out one of the harder difficulty levels. I sucked. It takes quite a lot of skill to conquer Dynasty Warriors on Hard or the more difficult settings, as it becomes less about plowing your way through enemies and more about balancing the multiple factions of your army, and responding to a range of urgent matters that need to be handled around the battlefields. It turns into a strategic battle. Spend too long in one spot and the battle will be lost, as the war still plays on around the player.
One of the best things about the gameplay is also one of the game’s major flaws. These battlefields are enormous, and the number of characters that can inhabit the screen at any one time shows the scale of these environments. There were multiple times where all I could see was an ocean of infantry waiting to attack my lone soldier. Yet on some maps, it can easily take a few minutes to walk from one end to another, and when missions change on the fly that ask the player to travel to the other side of the map, it becomes a very dull trudge indeed.
A big downside to the PC port is the unfriendliness of the control schemes. There are no button prompts for both keyboard and gamepad, and it makes the learning process a pain. Additionally, whilst playing co-op, two players have to share a keyboard. I don’t think I can remember the last game that delegated the arrow buttons and the number pad to player two. Needless to say, that isn’t a whole load of fun.
For fans of the series (and the historical events the series is based upon) I have no doubt in my mind they would be happy with the included Encyclopedia alone. It is staggering how much content Tecmo Koei have been able to insert into this game. If I spent time to read all of the history and character descriptions, it would easily take a few hours. Dynasty Warriors 8 feels like a fan service, almost to the point of frightening off new players. In my experiences with games that feature a huge character roster, you’re slowly introduced to the cast, allowing you to experiment and decide which character plays best for you. With 82 characters to select from, the inexperienced player will be overwhelmed by the choice.
In addition to the wonderful story mode, Xtreme Legends offers a Challenge mode and Ambition mode. Challenge mode is pretty self explanatory – you’ll be tasked with showing your skills through a range of scenarios, while Ambition encourages players to, as well as the on-field action, build a camp by using the resources they obtain from battles. They’re both not that fun to be honest, and I found myself quickly returning to the story modes.
The PC version of this game allows for players to tackle missions in split screen co-op. Sadly, all this does is cause the framerate to significantly drop. It also lessens the atmosphere that Dynasty Warriors tries so hard to create. I never felt like I was fighting an army in co-op when I was forced to squint at half my screen. Sadly, there is no form of online co-op, unlike in the console version, so if you want to play with friends you’ll have to battle on the same screen.
All said though, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I got from Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends. There is so much content that you could spend hours just trying to skim the surface. Although as I’m not familiar with the history I never fully understood what I was doing, it didn’t hinder my enjoyment. Both fans and newcomers to the series will have immense joy in fighting on this battlefield.
– Sam M.