Dated Review - Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends

Dated Review - Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends

I have always thought I had specific tastes that didn't align with everyone else. Full disclaimer. I don't consider myself special, or unique. It's just that I seem to respond to certain games and genres that other people just... don't. I can't explain it.

Today's article is a prime example of my tastes being wildly different, resulting in me liking a game that everyone else should probably dislike.

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends (hereby renamed to DW8XL, because bollocks to typing that out over and over again) is not a good game. Dynasty Warriors is not a good franchise. And Tecmo Koei is not a good publisher. And yet, I love this game. Go Figure.

As per protocol, I did some research into Tecmo Koei (publisher) and Omega Force (developer). I could not find anything. It seems the only crime the pair have committed (that has been made public) is to relentlessly publish the same game over and over again. Seriously, these people make Nintendo and Game Freak's intellecual properties look fresh and original.

When I was a little boy, I cut my teeth on Dynasty Warriors 3. I loved the setting, the gameplay and the light touch of roleplaying elements in the game. I loved the hilarious overacting and the dramatic over-the-top nature of the cutscenes. I also laughed like an idiot at the westernised pronunciation of Cao Cao (cow cow, hur hur - it's actually pronounced sao sao) It's one of my lasting memories of a child, playing it at a friend's house and lapping it up.

Then I went into a time capsule and let fifteen years of Tecmo Koei published games pass me by. Finally I got spat out in 2017 and bought a copy of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends (Complete Edition) for the Playstation 4. And boy, oh golly gee, was it like putting on an old comfortable sweater. Of course I missed the part where it turned out Tecmo Koei had cranked out an unimaginable number of Dynasty Warriors titles.

Despite me wanting to believe, there is no merit in liking a video game publisher or developer just because put out the same game every few years with minor updates. I have that relationship with Pokemon, and can now add Dynasty Warriors to that list (although after hearing that Dynasty Warriors 9 was a load of old junk, I steered clear.) I can certainly understand why people would buy annual franchise titles like Call of Duty, or FIFA, but they should know, just like I do, that the games they're buying are not of good quality.

It's the same reason people like Dragonforce. You like their music because all their tracks sound the same. It's pleasant, but doesn't expand your musical tastes.

And I can certainly understand why Dynasty Warriors is not a popular franchise and why people do not like Tecmo Koei. And even if I didn't understand (but I do) I wouldn't hold that against them. Because Dynasty Warriors, as a game and as a franchise, as mentioned above, is a bit naff.

Let's start from the bottom. Dynasty Warriors is a hack and slash... thing where you play as one of eighty five (85) characters through a series of storylines based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. A period of civil war in China that lasted for some eighty years. You experience the war from the perspective of the three primary factions - Wei, Wu and Shu. You also play the faction responsible for concluding the conflict, Jin, and the xtreme legends expansion (yes, it is really spelt xtreme, stop asking) adds a prequel of sorts in the story of the legendary warrior Lu Bu. The story plays out in a series of 'stages' depicting battles and key events in the storyline, abstract as it is.

There's also an "ambition" mode, which is kind of like the game's endgame content. It sees you play a character (which you can change later as you acquire more characters) and build up a small village into a facility worthy of the Emperor's attendance. Along the way you'll acquire some very useful facilities to improve and utilize, if you're interested in doing things like acquiring unique weapons for characters (which I am, because I'm mad). Rather than playing through stages, however, you play through a series of copy and paste battles which reuse maps and assets from the story. Paper thin, yet oddly addictive.

So there's a huge amount of content here. At least, so it seems - but at it's core, you're just doing the same thing over and over again. You play a character, you hack your way to a series of objectives, sometimes completing hidden objectives and sometimes completing timed challenges the game doesn't tell you about for fat loot. If you don't enjoy that core loop of hacking and slashing, you'll hate this game - because is 95% of what you do. But I know this game is not for everyone and I would not recommend it to everyone. I don't know if I've said that enough, but I will continue to say it, because it's important.

I will also continue to say that I loved it - and I really enjoy the hack and slash gameplay, married with the cheesy narrative elements. So, naturally, I played this game to death. I shudder to think how many hours I have lost playing this title.

As I mentioned above, a lot of my love for Dynasty Warriors (and DW8XLCEOMGWTFBBQ) comes from the combination of the setting and the gameplay. The story is completely nuts (much like the Three Kingdoms period actually was) and is represented with unfliching inaccuracy here. The voice acting is hammy, the dialogue is corny and the music is mid 00s butt rock. The content actually borders on racist, if you were to really look at it with a critical eye. Yet, to me, it works. It's a perfect fit for the abstract nature of Dynasty Warriors' gameplay, which features characters with absurd weapons like an enchanted tarot deck, a boomerang, firearms, a scroll that summons ghosts and many more besides. But it all just works.

The core hack and slash gameplay has also been refined with a decade and a half of combined knowledge. Concepts like counter-attacks, rage modes, Musou (a kind of special attack meter where you do something cool), multiple layers of comboes and of course the visceral and satisfying feeling of sending all your enemies flying in a cone in front of you. It's a bit like gathering up a huge handful of potato chips and jamming them in your craw. So good, yet you know it's bad for you in the long term.

However, whilst I do have love for the game, I have plenty of gripes of my own. There isn't a lot of tutorialisation and there are lot of mechanics you have to learn by doing or looking things up. I've gone on the record in the past as not being a fan of games that do not fully explain themselves and leave the player to stumble into its mechanics. Dynasty Warriors 8 is absolutely guilty of this. There's also lots of little gameplay features that you have to learn about that aren't well tutorialized, as well as a whole suite of RPG mechanics to learn about, of which you are given no information as they are unlocked via the game's ambition mode. Incidentally, it is possible to play through the entire story mode and miss some of the key parts of the Dynasty Warriors experience. This doesn't help the game's case when some of these mechanics add much needed depth to the core loop.

It also doesn't help that the game is clearly not optimsed very well for the PS4, and chugs harder than a frat party when the screen is overfilled with enemies. Which happens often because it's a hack and slash game. I have been meaning to pickup the game on PC to determine if the performance issues are there as well, but it's still somehow $90, and I'm not prepared to pay that for an upgraded version of a game that has existed since 2012. Go away, Tecmo Koei.

In conclusion, I gave the game away about what I thought about Dynasty Warriors right at the top. I love it. However it's almost fatally flawed. The gameplay loop never changes, there is an endless amount of cut and paste content, the game's poorly optimised, the combat and controls are too simple to hold a person's attention for long unless they're mad, like me. These are all valid criticisms of this Dynasty Warriors title and of the franchise. I cannot recommend this game to anyone. I will not defend it in a public forum and I will openly disparage it.

However, I love it. I love the gameplay, I love the story, I love the setting, once I learned the mechanics, I loved those, and I love the DW8XL package as a whole. And I don't need to defend myself because I know it's awful. And sometimes we like awful things.

But that's another story for another time.

Catch you next time,
Vulkan

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Rowan Naveau

About Rowan Naveau

I'm Rowan (Vulkan) - and this is my blog. Here you'll find a stream of consciousness about video games, wargaming and just about everything else.