Note: I played this game on an original PS4. Also there is a day one patch that adjusts the strength of enemies on the field and fixes other minor issues.
One of my best gaming memories would be stay up late with friends playing games like Tony Hawk, Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain, Goldeneye and Dynasty Warriors. We would play Dynasty Warriors 3 on the Playstation 2 and we would just sit there for hours, not even caring about the story, but rather just hacking and slashing as many grunts as possible. Many, and I mean many Warriors style games have been released over the years and I have always been a fan of the series. Seriously, there have to be at least 50 of theme games at this point including the various Dynasty Warriors games, Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi, and licenced games from other franchises such as Zelda, One Piece and many of them I have reviewed for this website. As much as I like these games, even I can admit that the formula has gotten stale over time. All of these games are really the same. Run around a battlefield, go to a base, take over the base, kill generals, rinse wash repeat. Dynasty Warriors 9 however is completely changing the game. With a new open world structure, new combo system and tons of other new additions, Dynasty Warriors 9 is a fresh and fun take on the long running series.
First thing first. When you first start the game, make sure you go to the audio settings and change the spoken audio to either Japanese or Chinese because good lord the English voice acting is laughably bad. It sounds like the silly English dubbing they would put in over old Kung Fu movies. Anyways, Dynasty Warriors 9, as you would expect is another re-telling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story. Famine and panic has spread across China which has led to the rise of tyrannical empires and civil war. It's up to you to stop them and restore order to the land. Playing first as Cao Cao you are tasked with stopping the Yellow Turban Rebellion. It's from here where the land of China will open up to you and you are free to explore the land as you please. While traveling you will notice a map pop up which has patches of blue and red all over it. This let's you know how much of the land that is controlled by you and the enemies. A lot of the map is blacked out at first but once you start exploring either by foot, boat or by hoarse as you make your way around China, you will start to notice more points of interest. Watch towers will reveal parts of the map for you. You may also notice small enemy outposts which you can take over and increase the size and power of your army by defeating all of the generals there, taking it over. It's nice to be able to battle whenever you choose to instead of constantly being forced by a timer continue moving and battling. Battles are always happening as you play the game and you will get notices that your army is being defeated and is losing areas or when your armies take over an area as well.
Of course the one thing that hasn't changed about the series is the signature 1 vs 1000 gameplay where you can hack and slash thousands of grunts in minutes. The action is still as fun as ever and is made better with the new combo system. By holding the R1 button, you can choose between three special attacks including a Stun, knockdown, pop up move and a signature move, which you can string with your normal combos to create devastating attacks. Of course the traditional combos are still in there by stringing together the square and triangle buttons, but these new moves add and extra layer of strategy to battles. The new special attacks are also on a cooldown system so knowing when to use them is vital to victory. There are also new reactive attacks. When battling you may notice an icon appear over an enemies head. This will allow you to perform a move which deals massive damage to the enemy, sometimes even knocking them out completely. Of course there is also the Musou attack which is performed by pressing the circle button which can wipe out a full screen of enemies at once.
Mission structure has changed as well. There are story missions which need to be completed to advance the story as you would expect but there are also a number of side missions to complete as well. You can pick up side missions by talking to various people around the land. They can range from taking out thieves, recovering items, and defeating high level enemies. There are also side missions which tie into the story missions which can swing the battle in your favor. For instance, say you are level 20 and the main story mission says it's level 25. You can complete side missions such as taking over enemy bases or taking out enemy generals which will then weaken the forces of the enemy. That level 25 mission may then drop to level 22. Complete another mission and it may drop from level 22 to level 18. The nice thing about this is that these missions are optional. There is also a consideration to be made as to when you want to attack the enemy. The game now features a day and night cycle along with a weather system. You can use the new grappling hook feature to climb over castle walls allowing you to sneak into bases undetected. For instance if you sneak into a base at night or during the rain, there won't be as much security or enemies around since they are either inside sleeping or taking cover from the rain.
All of the characters from Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires make their return and with the addition of new characters, there are now 90 different characters to choose from. Most of them are locked from the start and will become available to play after playing through the story mode with other characters. Each character has their own signature weapon (weapons can be bought or crafted and changed out at any time) and signature move so like a fighting game, there is a large variety here and it will be easy for anyone to find a favorite character that will fit their place style. The cool thing here is that each character has their own story and character ending, so it's going to take quite a while to see all of the endings. Another cool thing is that you can see the story from multiple perspectives. For instance, if you were tasked with assassinating a certain individual, you can then start the story mode again while playing as that character to see their side of the story. All of your items, and character levels will carry over when you start a new story mode so you can play through part of the story as one character and then swap around to others if there is someone you really want to play as. You also can unlock a free mode when you complete a story for the first time which lets you play as any unlocked character you have on any chapter you want. You cannot unlock character endings this way however. One thing that is sadly missing from the game is any kind of multiplayer feature. Being able to hack and slash thousands of enemies with a friend has been part of the series for a while so it's a shame that this is completely a single player experience.
Since you are no longer on a timer when completing missions, there are other activities to do as well. Throughout your travels you will inevitably find various materials scattered throughout the land. These materials can be used to craft various items including gems, armor, health items, and are used to forge or upgrade your armor and weapons. An example would be the ability to craft gems, which can then be applied to your attacks. Gems give you additional such as adding elemental attacks or extra damage to your combos. You can also find materials by going fishing or by hunting animals in the wild. You are now equipped with a bow and arrow which can be used to hunt down wild animals. Killing wild animals earns you hunting points which can be traded in for special coins, items and gems which you won't be able to get elsewhere. Wild animals however should be approached with caution as I learned the hard way just how dangerous they were. I came upon a pack of wild wolves and got too close. Within two hits, I was dead and had to restart at the last savepoint. Also sprinkled throughout the lands are new hideaways that you can find and purchase. After purchasing a hideaway you can then customize your new pad with various furniture and items that you can buy from the various vendors with special coins. This will allow you to craft items right from your home instead of having to travel to a friendly base to do so. Hideaways will also let you cook meals, which can be brought into battle, sleep to advance time or recover your health, play background music, or invite various officers that you have a high bond with to spend some quality time with.
With all of the new additions and the great changes to gameplay, there is unfortunately one thing that puts a huge damper on the entire thing. I am playing the game on an original Playstation 4 and the game can barely keep a steady 30FPS. When you are walking around a home base or are simply traveling the land, things aren't too bad, but once you get into a battle with tons of enemies, the frame rate drops to a crawl. From what I have read online from those who already have the game and are playing on a PS4 Pro, they are having no issues at all. I'm sorry but this is the one thing I was worried about when the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X were first announced and it's starting to rear it's ugly head. If you want the definitive version of the game, you need to have the Pro version. I could understand the Pro version looking better and keeping a steady frame rate throughout the whole game, but players who don't have the Pro are essentially being punished here. The same thing happened with WWE 2K18. The Pro version didn't suffer any frame rate issues. On normal consoles the frame rate would come to a crawl in 8 man matches. Even after the day one patch was applied, the frame rate issues are still there. While it doesn't completely kill the game, it's a complete shame that
Dynasty Warriors 9 is fun and it's a massive breath of fresh air for the series, but the frame rate issues are what hurts the most. It doesn't make the game unplayable, and it's certainly still fun, but it's something that can't be overlooked. That said, this is certainly a new foundation which can be built upon for future iterations of the series. With tons of activities, missions, endings and that addicting 1 vs 1000 gameplay, this is a Dynasty Warriors title that will keep you playing for quite some time.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively. It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 29 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was. And for the record... I enjoyed the Mass Effect 3 ending... sue me