Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends
Developer: Koei Tecmo Games
Publisher: Same Guys
Released on May 13, 2014
Dynasty Warriors is an ongoing series of hack and slash games derived from historical text dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. The story is based on Records of the Three Kingdoms, with many volumes describing the war efforts of the lords, military generals, and nobles of that era. Dynasty Warriors 8 returns, expanding upon story mode by adding new characters and hypothetical scenarios to the game.
Genre: Action/Hack & Slash
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends, the complete edition, is bringing back the mightiest fighters and strategists on the battlefield from the unchallenged warrior Lu Bu to the ambitious Cao Cao and his Wei army. With DLC skins for every playable character and difficulty levels ranging from Beginner to Ultimate, it makes for a well put together game.
This expansion pack has everything the fans could want: Fist-pumping soundtracks, dynamic fight scenes, challenges to clear, ambition mode, and officers to unlock in Free Play. Players have the freedom to build their own military camp, follow the historical campaigns or read about the characters and their affiliations with one of three kingdoms.
In Story Mode, players can choose to play through the campaigns of Shu, Wei, Wu, and Jin, with Lu Bu getting his own story and a few stages reserved for the side characters. Seasoned players could test their skills by increasing the difficulty until they feel it has the right amount of challenge. But those who are new to Dynasty Warriors should get familiar with the controls first.
Before the stage begins, players are given some background on the context of a battle, the motivations of officers, and the political implications of their actions on the state of the empire. The kingdoms are always at war with each other as military generals and officers prepare for their next move, whether to defend the main base or to storm the enemy gates.
There are several cutscenes that play before battles, at the turning point when your troops are in high spirits, or after a formidable opponent gets defeated. The three kingdoms’ timeline does jump around a lot so battles are not necessarily fought in succession. The transition from an event cutscene to the actual fight where you knock down hundreds of foot soldiers is what I enjoyed most about the gameplay.
Each stage has a description of the battle’s history and which officers will be playable. Players will have to select one out of three or more officers to join the battle. The others will serve as allied forces fighting by the player’s side as they clear out the front lines. This is Ma Dai, a general from Shu who wields a cedar brush to assist his cousin at the Battle of Mt. Dingjun.
The only downside to story mode is that players are restricted to choosing between three warriors, of whom a handful will suffer casualties and be unplayable/dead in future battles in order to follow the historical route.
Equip Weapons: I have to admit, the Dynasty Warrior weapons are often over-the-top depictions of everyday items like an iron fan or a piece of cloth. I don’t ever recall warriors in ancient China being able to throw spinner wheels or command a set of flying swords. Then again, I won’t argue with the logic of a fantasy game, especially one based on anime physics.
While some weapons are best for shooting at a distance, others are meant for heavy-hitting. But most of them do AOE damage to large groups of enemy units. I’d recommend picking a compatible weapon since this increases its attack power when equipped by the officer. Try to use weapons with different affinities too.
Equip Skills: This is where players give their warrior abilities like adding a bonus to filling up their Musou gauge, increasing the duration of power-ups, having more resistance against ranged attacks, or improving their horseback-riding skills. These bonuses level up when a player fulfills the conditions listed such as finishing off an enemy guard with a switch attack.
It might be helpful to talk to other generals and officers since they explain what the player needs to do and where they should go. Players can also learn about the situation between warriors by listening in on the private soldiers. There’s a blacksmith in the corner who sells weapon upgrades for players who want them to deal elemental damage.
During the stage, combat is set up so that warriors are surrounded by trash mobs that are easy to KO, allowing them to build up their Musou gauge and Rage meter over time. The game keeps track of a player’s chaining bonus until they unleash a powerful Musou or a Rage-fueled attack to finish off their opponent.
The regular charged and EX attacks are executed when a player hits enemy officers (between 2-8 times) in concession, though this changes with different warriors. Players have to know when to send out an aerial attack or use a ranged one that hits enemy units in their line of sight. Each character has a unique move set that players have to work with.
In story mode, allies will warn the player of incoming threats, and respond quickly with a counter-strategy of their own, depending on the enemy army’s position to predict the flow of battle. If a player completes the objectives indicated on the map, then the army’s morale increases. The player can always count on their horse to rush towards the next area indicated on the map.
Players will often encounter generals from the opposing Kingdom, who take advantage of the terrain to impede their progress by setting up ballista traps or deploying a few battering rams. There are obstacles like the pyro cannons and siege ramps players must navigate around. But the important thing is to support one’s allies when they are close to being defeated as war conditions may change.
Defeating enemy units slowly fills up the Musou gauge until players are ready to unleash their warrior’s most powerful move in all its Super Saiyan glory. Each character has a unique Musou finisher so it’s always fun to watch them perform their signature attacks, where some can KO an officer in seconds while others can knock back entire crowds.
Players cannot deny that the choreography is spectacular, especially when they obtain a high combo: A cutscene plays out in which they declare victory in an epic one-liner. Of course, these moves should be saved for more dire situations. Raging elevates a warrior’s attack speed and power to unprecedented levels–it is particularly useful against the final boss of the stage.
Health isn’t usually a problem for there are jars on the battlefield that players can break to grab a speed boost, double their attack, or fill up their Musou bar instantly. The real challenge comes from knowing where to go on the map. With all the red dots, it’s hard to tell which objectives must be cleared first. Players are expected to keep up with the flow of battle if they intend to beat the stage.
Players will feel accomplished if they manage to collect all the stars required to unlock the hypothetical route of their chosen kingdom. In this scenario, every major general is alive, there is hope for winning the war, and the story resolves all political conflicts focused on restoring honor to one’s family. It just shows that with a proper strategy, you can outsmart most enemy tactics.
I did honestly enjoy how the game weaves historical events into the dialogue and cutscenes:
One of these is the Battle of Hulao Gate, in which the Allied Forces tried to overthrow Dong Zhuo after the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Another one is the Battle of Chibi where Shu called forth a fire attack against Wei’s naval fleets. And years later, Wu turned on their peace treaty with Shu by siding with Wei to flood Fan Castle.
What Dynasty Warriors 8 Does Right
Well, I gotta hand it to them: Dynasty Warriors 8 wrote the narrative from another viewpoint to show that no true villain exists, just three leaders who have conflicting ideals: Shu represents bringing peace to the land, Wei values intellect above all else, and Wu takes pride in their strength.
I still need to finish up Ambition Mode but in my opinion, Story Mode is where most of the gameplay lies. It gives players a chance to collect their favorite characters, weapons, stages, events, and animals for a custom playthrough of their choice.