I’m not sure how to classify my feelings towards this game. I haven’t been a long-time fan of the Warriors franchise like some; my start was with the Gundam spin-offs, before moving to the official series. Despite that, I’ve grown to like the hack-and-slash games in spite of their faults and repetitiveness. They offer up a sort of catharsis in a way, at least for me. And so, even as I play through the latest offering, and see it plainly for what it is, I don’t really know how to explain myself.

A summary would be to say that I find this game fun, in spite of how big a failure it truly is.

DW9 is an attempt by Koei Tecmo to ‘evolve’ the series, if you will, by bringing it out of the linear scenarios that have been the standard for the last 8 entries, and into an open-world setting. Giving you the whole of China to explore has its benefits, such as giving you a sense of scale previously unachieved in the series, but it also has its drawbacks. For one, the game makes a rather weak attempt at giving you things to do besides the main missions: You can buy yourself a house and decorate it, go fishing and hunting for supplies, cook meals to give lasting benefits… many are standard pieces of content in other open-world games, but as filler or embellishment, not as the only side content to speak of.

And when you factor in Koei Tecmo’s traditional QA testing into the mix (as in, none whatsoever) the results can be ugly. Now despite what certain people might claim, this is nothing new for the series; there is always SOMETHING wonky in a Warriors game unless it’s being bankrolled by Nintendo (see Hyrule Warriors for them at the top of their game) but here the problems only get exacerbated by what seems to be an unfinished world.

So what does this game get right? Firstly, the combat has received an overhaul. Rather than just being a two-button affair, combos can now be modified using Trigger Attacks; for instance, you can get your enemies airborne, and then follow it up with a combo that keeps them airborne as you continue to pelt them with attacks. It’s a simple change to the combat that allows for some extra style to your gameplay.

But the biggest plus to this game by a mile is the most unlikely; it’s use of the characters. At this point, Dynasty Warriors has over ninety characters available to players (which is still a small amount of named characters in the Romance novels the actual history of the Three Kingdoms) and they have been having issues with giving each of them space to breathe in the series. With DW9 however, each character has his own story to follow. While the missions in each chapter are mostly shared between characters of the same kingdom, their part in the story is exclusive to them. This allows most of the characters a far greater amount of screen time than ever before, rather than them just being there for the ride. For those that do take an interest in the plot, this is a boon.

It hurts to see the effort that goes into certain parts of this game be overshadowed by the glaring faults. I can appreciate their attempts to try something new with the series, but that last time they did that, we got Dynasty Warriors 6. Even if it continues to hug that stigma of being the same old hack-and-slash year after year, maybe it’s one that the series should continue to bear, if only to give us something we can enjoy.

Still, at least it’s not as bad as DW6… if only just.

++ Best characterization in series (with few exceptions)
++ Improved combat system
- Koei GlitchesTM
- Fights lack drama and appeal of previous entries
-- Lack of enjoyable side-content
-- Bland open-world