domstercool's Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (PlayStation 3) review

Dynasty Warriors finally decides to let us all play online

Did you know that since the franchise started, there’s only been two years where there hasn’t been a release of a Dynasty Warriors game? Only 1998 and 1999 did not see a title after the release of the firstDynasty Warriors on the Playstation back in 1997. Long gone are those days because in Japan the series is quite a seller. Over here the games don’t quite have the same success because people see the series just repeating its gameplay mechanics over and over again.

Strikeforce on the other hand is the biggest change to the Dynasty Warriors formula yet. It seems Omega Force themselves finally decided to give the series a much needed revamp by changing how the game is set up. The core fighting mechanics are still there but it’s now what’s around that mechanic that has changed the game for the better.

This game was released first on PSP last year and Tecmo Koei have decided to port that game across to both the PS3 and Xbox 360. With this move comes added online functionality (a first for the main series of Dynasty Warriors games) and some extra missions on top of the already plentiful amount from the PSP version.

Yes it’s still the same storyline, those Yellow Turban dudes that always make up Act 1 are still trying to conquer China, and you’ve got to stop all of them using characters from one of the three factions: Shu, Wu and Wei. I think it’s come to the point where people don’t play Dynasty Warriors for the story; it’s all about that one guy takes on an army approach that people enjoy from this hack and slash game.

The best way to describe Strikeforce is that it’s a mixture of Dynasty Warriors and Monster Hunter. It seems that Tecmo Koei wanted to get in on some of the frantic Monster Hunter action that is so successful in Japan. This translates into some major features implemented into the Dynasty Warriorsformula.

One downside of this version of Strikeforce is that it’s basically a port of the PSP version and not specifically made for home consoles. When offline you can only do single player but in online multiplayer up to three other people can join you to take on the missions. The visuals are not fantastic either and suffer from popup in the distance, muddy textures and some character models that look sharp and bright but don’t have that much detail. One thing that has improved is the fogging isn’t present, but that’s due to the levels being split into small sections. The camera is also not that friendly for the player. Most of the time you have to keep pressing the shoulder button to re-centre it because it can decide to randomly go haywire and give you an awkward angle. You can freely move the camera around as well to help you sort the problem.

After you start and select a character you are planted straight into a city that acts as a hub world for the game. Instead of selecting story mode like you would in past iterations of the series, Strikeforce has players assigning themselves to missions from the quest board. A few simple button presses will take your city online, creating a room for people to join so you can work together to complete missions. Online is something that has been excluded from the series for a very long time and what a good way to start now, since the game features the Monster Hunter approach renowned for its co-operative play.

Missions still feature a lot of hacking down countless soldiers, but now you get to do it with three other people. Doing the story missions progress your faction’s chapter while the other ones are mainly there to gain experience and items. Some of the standout missions are ones that pit you against huge monsters on the battlefield like a giant fire tiger the size of a castle.

You’ll notice coloured stones constantly being dropped by the enemies. These stones when picked up net you materials that get sent to the storage house after the end of level. Materials can be used to construct new weapons or build upgrades for the shops in town. Strikeforce focuses a lot on customisation and upgrading.

Your character can gain experience and level-up to 50. To gain more strength for the stats of the character you need to create weapons. This is where all the rare items dropped during the missions come in handy. You’ll often find people wanting to replay certain quests if they contain items the player requires to build something for their character.

There are plenty of items that can be created and most are done via the stores in the city. These stores – of which there are six – sell items, orbs to power up certain abilities and weapons. Each of these stores can also be upgrade to sell better products. The upgrading system works by assigning officer cards that you collect from NPCs that randomly pop into your city. When you return from battle these stores gain experience from these cards. When the store gets a full bar of experience you need to give the store owner some specific items to allow them to upgrade the store to the next level.

In past Dynasty Warriors games there were ways to gain better weapons, but it was never done in such an addictive way. It was mainly dependent on a certain difficulty level and the player ravaging through a box or two . Now, because of the Monster Hunter style inspiration, finding items is a pleasure and gathering the right ones to make that ultimate weapon just feels a lot more rewarding.

Everything in this game is a lot more over the top than ever before. Enemies are no longer just soldiers with swords and shields. Instead you get flying mages, man eating tigers, weird robotic contraptions that shoot laser beams, huge beasts and battering rams that just love to come whack you one. The enemies seem a lot more aggressive this time around and it makes a change from them just looking at you dumbfounded as you smack them all down.

Craziness isn’t just limited to the opposition as your character is a lot more flexible. You can dash, air dash, air combo and even transform into a fury-powered version of your character when your musou bar is full (which sometimes resembles a sort of Dragon Ball Z Saiyan transformation). This allowing you to dash all over the place and get stat buffs. It really is madness, but it all makes the game a lot more fluid and faster paced.

The level design is a little strange with the levels split into sections; this makes the game’s PSP heritage apparent. It’s something seen in the Monster Hunter games, where each area is given a number so that players can tell each other where they are. The problem with this in Strikeforce is that the game is much faster than Monster Hunter, so it doesn’t really fit in, particularly when the console series never had this before, so it’s a downgrade. It also doesn’t help that every time you transcend from one section to another it has to pop up a blank screen with a quick loading time. It’s a bit of a niggle as when you move around so quickly through the level you end up seeing these screens quite often.

Almost as if it were a trademark for the series now, the voices are just as bad as they always have been. The tone seems to be never set right, either too over the top or just monotonous and in turn makes it funny because of how terrible some of the dialogue is. Guitar riffs are once again form the centre of the soundtrack and continue to fit strangely well with the action on the battlefield.

Strikeforce is a step in the right direction for the franchise. It’s the much needed change that the series was crying out for. It’s just shame the console version is a port of the PSP game. If you’re an old fan of the series and decided to stop playing as you were getting bored of the same old formula, then this could be the game to reinvigorate your Chinese warrior soul.

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