How do you review a Dynasty Warriors game? It's almost a pointless endeavor. The series has both a diehard fanbase of people that are almost certain to buy each sequel regardless, and a legion of gamers that despise it as if Koei personally takes a dump on their doorstep every time a new Warriors game is released. So what purpose does a review serve for Dynasty Warriors 7? The changes made in each subsequent game are subtle at best, so you already know if you will love it or hate it for the most part. Some media outlets take each release as an opportunity to further mock the series. As a fan of the games myself, I might be tempted to try and convince weary gamers to give DW7 a try. Is either really necessary?
The simple truth is: These games fill a niche. If the Dynasty Warriors series was a bad first person shooter you could say, "Well why don't you play Battlefield or Call of Duty?" But there is no alternative for marching across an open battlefield and single-handidly beating the everloving crap out of hundreds of dudes. There is no other hack n slash style game that gives you a huge roster of characters to choose from. So yeah, they're kinda bad, but what else is there? The Sengoku Basara and Ninety-Nine Nights games are a nice diversion, but they are released so infrequently that even if they put Koei's games to shame (which they don't in most areas) it would hardly matter. Those of us who who love these types of games aren't going to wait years for another Capcom release when Koei is there to fill the void. So bring on the Dynasty Warriors!
So let's talk about those subtle changes for this year's game. The awful one button Renbu system from DW6 is gone, thankfully, and the little complexity that the combat in Warriors games had is back in the form of tiered charge attack combos. We also have the addition of an improved upon version of the weapon system in Strikeforce. You can equip any character with any two weapons you want, with the exception of two gender specific weapons. I absolutely love this, and hope it remains in all future Warriors games. Each character has a special EX attack that is specific to their default weapon, but who cares, I'm putting gauntlets on Zhu Rong and bodyslamming people, not using her stupid throwing daggers. The characters each have two different Musou attacks in DW7, which adds a nice little bit of variety, as they tend to be different styles (grapple, crowd clearing, etc.). It's also worth mentioning there are an impressive number of grapple attacks in DW7. The aformentioned gauntlet move set has several, and large characters like Dian Wei and Huang Gai have great looking grapple Musous. The spear weapons switch attack is probably my favorite.
Dynasty Warriors 7 is broken up into two modes:
Story mode now puts you in the shoes of specific characters for each battle. An interesting approach that goes a long way in keeping things fresh and furthering character development. This time around you will experience the death of several main characters as they are suppose to have died, rather than being able to play the entire Wu story as Sun Jian and butchering the plot, for example. Story mode does a much better job of actually telling a story thanks to this, rather than in past games where it just felt like you were playing X number of stages as a specific kingdom. The interludes between most battles where you walk freely around your base camp and can have short dialogues with other characters also adds a nice element of charm and immersion.
Conquest mode replaces Free mode in DW7, giving you a large map of China to make your way across by completing missions and capturing cities. You can play as any character on the roster in Conquest mode, though several need to be unlocked first by completing special battles. Overall, I find it to be a much more interesting and enjoyable experience than the old Free Mode, but the simplicity of the Conquest missions does make the absence of the option to play Story missions with any character noticeable. Typically in Conquest missions you can simply rush straight to the main enemy you need to kill and end the mission, where as Story missions have dynamic objectives that need to be completed before the enemy general would be accessible. It would have been nice if the Story missions could've been added to the Conquest board after you have completed Story mode. Quite simply, the Conquest mode missions aren't very exciting, so it ends up being "the mode where I can play as Zhu Rong" rather than something that stands well on it's own. I have to wonder if at some point Koei/Tecmo will simply make Empires the secondary mode instead of a seperate game. Yeah, I know, money.
Overall, this is a good looking game. The close-up animations you are treated to when unleashing Musou attack look fantastic (Sun Shang Xiang's are my favorite), and are definitely the highlight of DW7's visuals. I also really appreciate the costume changes returning cast members recieved. The direction they had taken with some of the character's looks in DW6 was not something I was a fan of, so it's nice to see Zhang Fei threw that robe away and Lu Xun isn't pretending to be a Wood Elf, etc. Of course you can chalk all that up to personal preference, and they are releasing previous game's costumes as DLC for those that prefer them. The character models look great either way.
The game is not without it's faults, however. The shadows rendering on characters can be quite jittery, and some of the running animations (which are tied to the weapon you're weilding) are a bit stiff. If you amass enough troops in one area you will also notice the onscreen troop limit in effect as enemies appear out of thin air once you KO some guys to make room.
Yes, the voice acting is bad. Is it intentionally bad because it's suppose to be hammy? Maybe. Should something ever be intentionally bad? I don't think so. It is what it is though, and I don't think anyone expects good voice acting out of a Dynasty Warriors game at this point. Beyond that, hearing a character say the same line every time you defeat an officer is pretty annoying, and would be regardless of quality.
The music is once again endless guitar solos that have always felt, to me at least, out of place. If you love those rockin' guitar riffs, great. I find myself popping on some headphones usually anyway. You are treated to some nice ominous war drums and the like during interludes in the story mode however, so that's nice.
They threw in a bunch of new playable characters, gave me my tiered charge attack combos back, made some substantial strides in Story mode, and replaced Free mode with something more involved. The result, for me personally, is a game I really like. I could still sit here and list out things I wish they would change, but that would be silly. I'm just happy these games still get released in the US at all, because I need my Dynasty Warriors fix.