The Action Continues
Ah, good ol’ Koei Tecmo (Or was it Tecmo Koei?), I finally get to write about something of yours. Eager to ride the ever rising wave of ports to the Switch (and, interestingly enough, the Windows 10 Store), our friends at KT are throwing their hat into the ring with a port of Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends, called the Definitive Edition, for Windows 10 via Microsoft Store and Nintendo Switch (both $34.99 and released December 27, 2018). The Nintendo Switch version was played for this review.
Once you see the word Warriors, almost everyone will likely know the formula within: Pick your favorite super-human Warrior, step onto the battlefield, and slice through legion after legion of lowly soldiers and other Warriors with your over-the-top powers. Seven main iterations in (The first Dynasty Warriors was actually a fighting game), plus a slew of spin-offs and crossovers later (like Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors, and One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, just to name a few!), and the Chinese Three Kingdoms-based franchise is just as satisfying as ever. There’s almost not much else to say! You might expect that the button-mashing madness of these games would get old after a while, but even after playing a few of these games extensively, I find myself picking one up whenever I get bored, and I’m pretty happy to include this one in the list. So let’s cut in to the meat of things and see how it stands today.
Retelling a Story…of Battle
Like its predecessors and crossover titles, you are presented with the choice of several flavors of wanton destruction. You’ve got Story Mode, where you will play through several battles telling the stories of one of the ancient Chinese Kingdoms – Wu, Shu, Wei and Jin – in their struggle for supremacy, as well as a story that specifically follows the character Lu Bu and his encounters with each of the kingdoms.
The story is told simply. You get a short prelude to the coming battle while the game is loading, and during the gameplay any remaining narrative material is communicated through character dialog seamlessly as you play. Rarely does the game interrupt the battle with a cutscene, and they’re generally very short. This is fine though, because the story is largely there to set the stage for the gameplay and is not treated as important beyond that.
That being said, there is an overview of the history surrounding the events and battles of the game provided in the Encyclopedia available on the main menu, which offers a timeline of actual historical events, bios on all of the lords and ladies involved, facts about the locations, and so on. Every Dynasty Warriors title covers the same period of events, so you aren’t missing anything if you have played other titles in the main series.
In addition to the Story Mode, there are other game modes: Free mode, which lets you play any of the story battles using any warrior you’d like; Ambition mode, a more open-ended option where you build up a base and recruit a team of Warriors in order to welcome the Emperor; and Challenge Mode, with a series of special battles where you aim for a best time or score. These modes offer extra gameplay and allow you to find more items and grow your Warriors, but are not part of the story.
Y Y Y Y X X…. Gameplay!
For a person new to the series, things might appear a little more overwhelming than they actually are. You have a lot of options, the game puts up multiple prompts explaining things, and you see complex-looking stat details about your characters on the loading screens. In reality, this game, like the others, is easy to pick up and play. Most of the time you can just mash some combination of Regular Attacks (Y) and Strong Attacks (X) and, after filling the musou gauge by defeating foes, Musou Attacks (A), but there is a convenient in-game manual available if you’re not sure about anything. While the franchise has a reputation for being kind of easy, there are a range of difficulty levels available and I think most people will find one that challenges them.
As the “Definitive Edition” moniker suggests, this version of the game includes all DLC previously released on other platforms. The game offers an extensive library of ancient Chinese figures from the well known (like Lu Bu, Guan Yu, and Cao Cao) to the more obscure ones you’d have to be a real Chinese history buff to know of – more than 80 playable Warriors in total. Any of them can wield any of the dozens of weapon types available, and have their own special moves as well. On a related note, if you aren’t a Chinese history buff, this game’s got you covered with a basic overview of all the material the game is based on in the Encyclopedia. The KT team is nothing if not thorough!
You’ll also find a wide array of battlefields to decimate your foes on The level design in this game far surpasses the other Warriors games I’ve played, with complex paths, pathways that cross over each other, tall structures reached by ladder, and overall a good flow between the important areas of each map – all very well done. All this means that if this game is up your alley, you’ll be putting a ton of hours into it. I spent several hours playing every day leading up to writing this review and there’s still tons more to do.
A Fight for the Eyes and Ears
So how are the quality aspects? While Dynasty Warriors 8 (and even Dynasty Warriors 9) has been out for quite some time on other platforms, they didn’t seem to spare any effort to make a solid port for the Switch. The graphics are solid all-around, and the game maintains a smooth frame rate at all times with a good number of enemies visible on screen. Pull the Switch out of the dock and nothing changes. Impressively, there doesn’t seem to be any FPS loss like I’ve seen on some games. I was genuinely impressed here; you’ll lose nothing by taking your button mashing action anywhere you go.
Also like every Warriors title I’ve played, you’ll find an extensive library of excellent music. Typically, this is heavily electric guitar-laden stuff, but there is a lot of variety, and you can pick and change the music for any stage if the default isn’t to your liking. The voice acting, while probably the weakest part of the package, is mostly good, though some of the voices lack enough emotion, and in a few cases, seem to have a tone that doesn’t match the situation. This is pretty minor, but likely to be noticed. All in all, it’s hard to say anything bad about this port. Looking at the versions on other platforms, it is pretty much flawless with no notable version differences that I can see.
To the Escape Point!
If you are a regular to the series, it is fair to note that this is a largely incremental update to the franchise and it doesn’t do much of anything new. The main series has historically kept the core formula, tweaking it and improving it, while they look to spin-off versions (e.g. Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires) to experiment with new gameplay ideas (As a side note though, Dynasty Warriors 9 has also been out for a while – See our review here – and that game is very… different).
Having said that, DW8XLDE is an extremely polished entry to the series and its port over to the Switch has compromised nothing. If you’re looking to break up your usual gaming fare to get your power-hungry action fix, I can hardly think of a better alternative. The gameplay might seem a little mindless and some may criticize it for that. It is, but that’s the entire point. This is that game that you turn on when you just want to kill things in epic fashion. Of course, on the Switch it has to compete with One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, Hyrule Warriors, and Fire Emblem Warriors, but as far as I’m concerned, this is just like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream. Perhaps you like your killing rooted in a fantasy world, or perhaps you prefer you like it sprinkled with real history, or even anime instead.
Review copy provided by Koei Tecmo for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.