The Dynasty Warriors franchise has always been somewhat of an acquired taste. Whether you are a huge fan of the series or couldn’t care less there is one thing you cannot deny; this series is here to stay. DW 6 doesn’t change the formula drastically but instead adds a few subtle alterations that fans will appreciate such as improved visuals and minor enhancements to the combat system. However, if you have never been a fan none of this will likely change your opinion of the series, but if you have been down with the mindless button mashing since it’s inception DW 6 does just enough to satisfy your hunger for more Musou madness.
For a mindless hack and slash Dynasty Warriors is actually based on some pretty hefty lore. Much like its predecessors DW 6 references many of the battles and characters from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga made famous by Luo Guanzhong. While the content is deep the presentation leaves much to be desired. Instead of feeding the player with in-depth knowledge the game assumes you already know most of the history behind the literature, thus creating confusion to anyone who hasn’t read them. The game contains a thorough encyclopedia chock full of great content, but never bothers to reference it. Sure the DW series has never been much for storytelling, but with so much history behind these characters and events a little more attention to them would have been much appreciated.
But as I said DW is never about the story and the sixth chapter is no different. What drives gamers to this franchise are the epic battles laid out in front of them. Dynasty Warriors 6 sticks to its button mashing roots as you assume the role of one of several generals as you lay waste to hordes of screaming enemies.
The combat is simple, so simple in fact that you will find yourself mashing the same button repeatedly through the majority of the game. You also have special moves that you can unleash once you have defeated enough enemies and filled up your special meter. There are two separate kinds of special attacks; one is a block breaker that can be used sparingly while the other is a flashy Musou attack that deals massive damage across a much larger scale.
It’s no secret that combat in the DW series comes across a bit shallow. With DW 6 it becomes even more evident with the introduction of the Renbu system. In past games switching between light and heavy attacks was commonplace, but now Omega Force has decided to change up the action a bit with the Renbu system. What this means is that instead of rewarding players for keeping combos going the Renbu system rewards them for chaining kills. The more enemies you wipe out before taking damage the faster your Renbu meter fills. The payoff comes in the form of flashier moves and dealing more damage, but also changes the dynamic of the game by forcing you to mash the same button over and over to achieve more Renbu power.
The level-up system has also been tweaked allowing the player to customize their character a bit more in tune with their playing style. New items and skills can be obtained to really connect the player to their virtual warrior. Each campaign takes upwards of two to three hours and offers plenty of content for the price tag; this is of course assuming you enjoy mindless annihilation, in which case if you do you are in for a treat. Also new to the series is the ability to climb ladders and swim. While these may sound like arbitrary additions it really does add something new that the series has been critically lacking.
If there is one thing that can be said about the series’ jump to the next generation of consoles is that this is easily the best looking game in the series to date. Unfortunately the game still lags behind others in the same genre. DW 6 sports an amazing amount of onscreen characters and with the power of Xbox 360 and PS3 Omega Force has managed to eliminate almost all of the fog and slowdown that plagued previous releases. Problem is you are still mowing down Ancient Chinese Soldier #1006 over and over again. It really takes the player out of the experience when every enemy is exactly the same and in some cases without even a palette swap. The levels are also drab and feel very flat lacking a sense of verticality. Thankfully the rock solid frame rate and serious amounts of butt rock do their job to remind you that you are kicking ass and taking names in yet another DW game.
Fans of the series will be happy to know that there is a serious amount of content to be found in DW 6. Outside of the lengthy single-player modes players can also return to previous levels with different scenarios in the challenge mode. Here you will be racing through levels in Time Trial mode or trying to survive with one-hit kills. Then there is of course free-play mode where you can play different levels with new characters all while leveling up and becoming more powerful.
You can also upload your best times and scores to leaderboards to compare with the world. Unfortunately that is where the online ends. Dynasty Warriors has always screamed co-op and with the jump to the new platforms it seemed obvious. However, DW 6 is still missing the key component of online co-op. You can play locally, but this omission becomes more and more hurtful as most games released today have some sort of online functionality outside of simply leaderboards.
For better or worse Dynasty Warriors 6 is more of the same. Fans of the series should find plenty to love here and outside of a lack of online co-op the game should satisfy anyone looking for more Ancient Chinese combat. While the jump to the next-generation of hardware wasn’t quite as impressive as we had hoped there is still enough here to keep the franchise going strong. Let’s hope the folks at Omega Force make the next game something truly special, but even if they don’t I am sure fans across the globe will line up to get their Musou on.