Monday, July 22, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires (PS3)

Reviewed on PS3, available on PS3 (PSN Exclusive)

The Dynasty Warriors series is famous (or perhaps infamous) for it's grinding hack-and-slash gameplay that has changed little over the generations. Traditionally, the games take place during the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" era in Chinese history. From here, players select their character from a massive roster, and jump into the battlefield to clash against their foes. The "Empires" series takes this familiar and 1-dimensional game and adds a new element of strategic management into the mix.

In Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires, the game introduces managing territories and resources, in addition to the standard battlefield gameplay. During setup, players may choose from pre-built scenarios which dictate the starting forces and resources, or they may choose a clean slate to manually (or randomly) populate the map. Even further still, players can then choose to play as a leader, officer, or roaming mercenary with no allegiance yet. Once the starting conditions are set, the player is free to begin their conquest.

A leader discussing with his officers their next course of action.

From the strategic map, players will manage four different types of resource: Food, info, gold, and a new resource called "fame". Food is used to heal and train your soldiers, info is used to invest and for diplomacy, and gold is for purchasing equipment. Fame is broken down further into six categories: Brave, Wise, Kind, Orderly, Affluent, and Evil. The higher your fame is in a particular category, the more abilities you unlock of that type. For example, a player with high orderly fame can summon elite cavalry, while a player with high evil fame can pillage enemy bases. Any abilities you earn can be selected and used anytime in the battlefield, and add a very interesting and fun aspect to the game. The game is interrupted with a cut scene every time you use an ability; which is highly annoying in multiplayer or even after an extended play.

Despite having all these different resources to acquire, the strategy portion falls flat very quickly due to no significant depth. Unlocking new abilities can be fun, but the usefulness of the early abilities compared to later ones ruins the incentive. Improving your army is borderline meaningless, and the only worthwhile investment is buying items to buff the player himself. Diplomacy is also painfully shallow, as it is impossible to have long-term friendly relations with another faction. You can make a temporary alliance, but the moment it expires, former friends will be marching on your lands without hesitation.

Defeating thousands of enemies takes little effort.

Once the player has reached the battlefield, they must navigate capturing (and defending) bases to create a path to the enemy's main camp. Enemy soldiers and officers will engage you, but serve no purpose other than to stand in your way, and are quickly dispatched after a few well-placed combos or musou attack. Friendly officers have improved A.I. over previous games, and are capable of pushing and even capturing the main base. Fame abilities (called strategems) are by far the most interesting part of the battle, allowing you or any officer to place ambushes or set bases on fire. Unfortunately, strategems are far from critical, and rarely change anything significant.

Perhaps the most redeeming feature Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires has to offer is it's detailed custom character creation. Complete with sliders, tons of outfits, and ridiculously large weapon selection, it's very easy to make tons of unique and interesting characters. Even further still, you can choose to have your custom character replace a particular officer in game, allowing the player to replace all the generic officers with characters they have made. Players can also download custom characters from PSN, or choose to have PSN automatically push random custom characters seamlessly into the game instead of generic officers.

The custom character screen will entice you for hours.

Gameplay - 4/10
There is nothing new to be had here in terms of gameplay, aside from a strategy mode that adds little to nothing (even compared to previous Empires titles). Combat is fun at first, but dries out quickly once you figure out the formula to win even against powerful enemies. The strategems are a step in the right direction, but need a lot of work to become worthwhile.

Design - 6/10
The visuals are high quality on characters, but the environments are plain and barren. Strategy map interface is pretty bland and generally uninteresting. Occasionally, there's a cool cut scene where your character interacts with another character during the battle, which adds a lot to the feel. Most points are given here for the excellent custom character creation.

Replay - 8/10
Playing with different fame types and custom characters greatly improved the replay value of this game. This game gets excellent replay points for the return of split screen, which is becoming a rarity these days. Different scenarios and a few unlockable features after beating the game. There's also the ability to jump into another player's game via PSN, but its only for a single battle and takes a long time to match.

Final - 18/30 Poor
With this many games in the Dynasty Warriors series (as well as the Empires series) you would expect to see some ground-breaking improvements of some sort. Unfortunately there is little satisfaction to be had, aside from the custom character creation. If you are a die-hard fan who lives for this franchise, then grab a friend and create custom characters to greatly improve the experience.

Recommended Buying Price: No more than 30$

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