Even the biggest Dynasty Warriors fan will be feeling deja vu.
This is the fourth go-around for the Empires spin off series, and apparently Koei is apt to ignore any requests to update the stagnating series since Empires is more of the same game play you've come to expect. There's no innovation here, just some minor strategy elements and a mountain of the same hacking and slashing we've been doing since Dynasty Warriors 2.
The Empires series is different from the regular in that the story-based Musou mode is swapped out for a nation-conquering Empire mode where the goal is join a ruler (or become the ruler yourself) and conquer ancient China one territory at a time.
If you play in Officer mode you can expect an experience similar to the other DW games. A turn in the game lasts one month, and each month you are given a variety of battle options, and every three months your ruler will give you a special mission that usually involves invading an adjacent territory. You will also be offered the chance to occasionally defend your ruler's lands against invading armies.
Ruler mode is a bit more involved. Invasions are now up to you and can be done once per month to capture enemy lands. You also have a collection of cards which can be played every month to give benefits such as additional gold, bonuses to attack, or gain new officers. The only resource you need to manage are troops, which are either replenished naturally every month or through cards and special officer abilities. Troop numbers determine which side has the advantage in a given battle and discourages you from trying to steamroll every other nation since entering a battle with a large troop disadvantage will result in the opposing force being significantly overpowered. You also are given a pile of gold each month to spend on upgrades for yourself and your officers, but spending the money on anyone but yourself isn't advised since you can't expect the friendly AI to win any battles for you.
It is difficult to lose DW6: Empires. If you're defeated in battle you fail at whatever you're doing but the game continues until the country is united. You are free to defect to an opposing side at any time which all but guarantees you can be on the winning side when the dust clears. NPCs use this as freedom well, as you can never actually kill an opposing officer and they come back time and time again even in the same battle, making battles even more redundant than they already are.
Multi-player options are still terribly lacking. A second player can join in to play split screen on any mission, but there is no versus option and no online play. If there's one piece of innovation Koei should be expected to introduce by now it would be some sort of online play.
Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires is more annoying than anything. The core game play should still appeal to a group of hardcore fans and newcomers, but the fact that the series continues to fail to take advantage of the opportunity to innovate at this point is maddening. With an overly simplistic strategy element and redundant battles Empires is a game you won't regret avoiding or just renting a short time to get your button mashing fix.