If you’re one of our readers there is a good chance you are already a fan of Dynasty Warriors. If you are already a fan of Dynasty Warriors, odds are the reviews of Dynasty Warriors 6 you find in magazines and on the internet aren’t comprehensive enough to satisfy you curiosity. You need not look any further. We would like to present our own comprehensive review of Koei’s new title, Dynasty Warriors 6, written from the perspective of dozens of people who actually care for this series. And unlike other reviews we may actually add more information to this one as time passes.
Dynasty Warriors 6 features 41 playable characters. Jiang Wei, Xing Cai, Pang De, Da Qiao, Zuo Ci, Meng Huo and Zhu Rong have all been cut from the cast. Only seventeen of these characters actually have a Musou Mode, and among those characters available in free mode a number have cloned movesets (e.g. Taishi Ci and Zhang He). Character models and character weapons, in many cases, have been drastically altered and a single alternative color costume is available for each character when they reach level 25 (see below). Koei takes more liberty with the storyline (as it relates to the novel and history) in this release than any other before.
Each character has a dedicated skill tree which serves to make them unique. Each character begins at level 1 and gains level-ups with experience after battle (until they reach level 50). Each level-up increases stats and allows them to unlock another step somewhere in their skill tree. This is a wonderful addition to the game and greatly improves replay value. Combined with different special attack types and widely varied play styles you may find yourself enjoying the process of playing with each new character more than ever before (and will likely become all the more frustrated when you run out of Musou Modes to play).
Koei offers five difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, Hard, Master and Chaos. Higher difficulty levels are unlocked as you play through the game. Difficulty increases considerably as you climb up this ladder so you will probably never reach a point where you don’t have an option to challenge you more.
Combat no longer follows the familiar square, square, square, triangle method. Instead a new ‘Renbu’ system has been implemented. As you defeat soldiers and officers it gradually builds up. As it grows higher your attacks become more varied and efficient and, depending on character attribute, take on certain qualities. Charged attacks still exist but they are used more appropriately to break an enemy’s defenses or to gain a strategic advantage now, rather than simply to clear out enemies. Musou attacks still exist and the ‘True Musou’ status can be obtained randomly in weapons. New special attacks have been introduced and are made available by picking up red book-like items in battle. The frequency with which these items appear, how many you can hold, and how powerful the special attack is are all governed by your character’s skill tree. These attacks are generally extremely powerful and very useful.
Fourth weapons, unique horses and items have all been stripped from the game. Similar to previous games, you find weapons with various strengths and attributes on the battlefield, but a new feature gives different weapons different attack styles. Horses are randomly found in battles as well and have two qualifying attributes. These attributes determine the horse’s potential. If you get a horse with the finest attributes you may wind up with a familiar ‘type’ of horse (e.g. Red Hare, Hex Mark). There is a special variation of the Red Hare which can be extremely difficult to find. You can now call horses to your side as you were able to do in Samurai Warriors and they are more useful in combat (perhaps too useful—try taking a good horse on a trampling rampage and you will see what I mean). Items have not been replaced with anything comparable.
The flow of battle has changed considerably. Gate captains are a thing of the past and food rarely drops in combat now. Instead battle depends on your party’s ability to secure enemy bases. Food spawns, regenerates, and improves in quality at the center of these bases, making them extremely important while playing on higher difficulty levels. Your side’s ability to seize and hold bases has a strong affect on officer morale as well, making them even more important. Each battle now features three objectives which award you with extra experience, bonus weapons, and help to unlock new officers. Allied officers tend to get in much more trouble now than ever before, so you may find yourself babysitting specific people more often (a concern which is complicated further on many stages if you are trying to meet your objectives).
Dueling still plays a role in combat, but they have now been integrated to the flow of combat. One moment you may be fighting an officer or lieutenant and the next he will utter some kind of challenge to you. Soldiers will circle around the two of you and and the enemy officer will focus his attention only on you. This may sound like an easy way to dispatch an officer, but it isn’t. Enemies frequently become much more powerful when you duel them and their lieutenants may jump in to help them out. Also, if you get close to the outer ring of soldiers, someone may smack you back into the fight. The only way out is to kill the enemy officer or to jump out into the crowd, breaking the duel.
Environments in Dynasty Warriors 6 are now more interactive than ever before. Water plays a major role in stages and your officer, mounted or on their own, can now swim to various points in the stage. Koei has integrated this in a very strategic way. Similarly, laying siege to a castle gate is very different, now. Siege weapons are interesting and play a regular role and you can now climb atop gates via ladder to help your army in, or to attack officers on the other side. You can sneak into forts through unexpected routs to launch surprise attacks. You may stumble across wild animals now (e.g. tigers, wolves) but they have very little impact on the battlefield unless your character possesses the ability to befriend them.
First, it should be noted that this is the most attractive Dynasty Warriors release to date, and we’re not talking about the mediocre jump between Dynasty Warriors 4 and Dynasty Warriors 5. Character and stage detail have both been fleshed out considerably (as we will discuss below) and in many cases it makes for more exciting gameplay. Compared to other XBox 360 and PS3 games—even the earliest releases—graphics are rudimentary and sub-par. Grass or foliage on the ground, for example, is replicated on a grid using the same flat unmoving graphic, and as you draw near them they vanish. This may have something to do with the quantity of soldiers which must appear on-screen at any given time but it is easy to see that more could have been done. Gameplay does retain the familiar feel of Dynasty Warriors, though, and that is a plus.
Stages, though, are more interactive than ever and we consider this to be a wonderful plus. Mountains, ravines, gates, castles, fields, rivers—they all blend to create unique and interesting stages, something which adds a whole new level of strategy and entertainment to the game. Gone are the cliffs which you cannot interact with. Jump from even the top of Mt. Ding Jun and slide down into the combat which waits below, but don’t be too hasty. You’ll have to climb all the way back up if you forgot something. Water and swimming serve as a particularly delightful addition.
Character models have been remade or retouched with care and attention to detail. You will definitely notice at higher resolutions. Koei has continued with their disturbing trend of making male characters feminine in appearance, though (well, maybe you like it) and this has sparked a great deal of controversy in the community. They even found a way to make Zhang He more feminine (‘he’ shows off his stomach, wears makeup, and prances around in high heels). Wu, as a kingdom, suffers more than any other from this bishonen makeover and I can picture new players wondering at times if certain people are actually male or female (think Mori Ranmaru in Samurai Warriors). I wonder if this appeals to Koei’s Asian demographics—I can’t imagine it is a major selling point in the United States. The female characters are certainly beautiful but some of their costumes are particularly revealing (I imagine that makes up for some of the male characters here in the United States). If they keep this up, you’ll have to show identification before you pick up the game! This observation does not apply to everyone, however. Yue Ying was given a surprisingly wonderful and appropriate appearance and nobody would dare describe Dong Zhuo as feminine.
The limited quantity of characters which can be used in Musou Mode is something you will notice quickly and with only five officers available from each major kingdom along with Diaochan and Lü Bu. I’m sure we will have the privilege of paying for some of these lost features when Xtreme Legends arrives. It should be noted, though, that the changes made to characters, storyline (dedicated stories, battles, and FMV sequences), and combat explain in part why we have limited options and will make it more interesting to play these characters for what may feel like the first time (Dynasty Warriors 5 officered more characters and Musou Modes, but they were still the same characters you’ve been playing since Dynasty Warriors 2).
Battle is more interesting than ever, especially if you are trying to meet stage objectives (and for some reason or another, you likely will be). If you are not trying to meet objectives it will either be because you are rushing to face the boss or because you are struggling so much to stay alive that you cannot even think of it. Available difficulty levels always make a challenging option available regardless of your character’s development. Interactive and unique stage enhancements serve to make battle even more interesting.
A common complaint among new players is that the ‘Renbu’ system (see features) turns combat into a boring exercise of mashing the attack button. In practice I would disagree with this assessment. If you are able to clean up by simply mashing the attack button over and over again you are probably playing on a difficulty level which is too low for you character. Charge attacks, Musou attacks, and special attacks are vital elements of combat when playing against a challenging foe. Charge attacks are especially important for breaking the defenses of powerful soldiers, lieutenants, and officers. This good news is clouded only by the increased weakness of your allied officers. You will spend more time now than ever before rescuing your allies, especially if you have a war-like commander who likes to run off and get into trouble. You will be disappointed to discover that playing Diaochan involves a great deal of babysitting. Lü Bu isn’t a particularly tough leader when he is on your side and he loves to appear in the worst places possible. And he doesn’t last long if he gets into trouble.
Battle gameplay is not anywhere near as strategic as it was in Dynasty Warriors 3, where a poorly timed ambush by archers could turn a routine battle into a living nightmare. Soldiers are easy to mow down and plentiful, and the damage they deal is not considerable enough to warrant much concern. Koei has shifted the series from strategic battle gameplay to fast-paced ‘excitement’. Well, it may be exciting to you, or this may be a step in the wrong direction. If you have been following the series you are probably already familiar with this gradual change.
Gameplay in Dynasty Warriors 6 is fun and refreshing, though. You are likely to find yourself caring about the loss of additional Musou Modes because you were looking forward to playing more. It is a good thing that Koei has managed to stuff a refreshing sense of gameplay into this frequently re-hashed series.
Replay Value: 4
Because character weapons, fighting styles, storylines and stages have all been altered considerably, playing old names will afford a new experience. This lends a breath of fresh air to the series and you may find yourself paying attention to the storyline (our message board, Scholars of Shen Zhou, is filled with opinions about what people liked and disliked about individual storylines). Stages are far more interesting, now, and are more engaging than ever before. It will be easy to enjoy each Musou Mode ready officer from start to finish and you may still be interested in continuing at a higher difficulty. Your interest may end here, though, as collecting horses and random weapons is nowhere near as exciting as finding unique items and unlocking fourth weapons was, and without musou modes for many characters there is less insentive to max their levels. You may find you don’t even play many of the characters without Musou Modes unless you are enjoying the game with friends.
Still, Koei deserves credit for forging ahead with new concepts and ideas with this release, and the game really is quite refreshing. You should get plenty of enjoyment out of this release (especially when weighed against some of the previous releases in the series.
While Koei takes a number of steps backward with this release they stride forward in other areas. Dynasty Warriors 6, when weighed against previous releases in the series, feels a little bit like an incomplete game, but many elements help to make up for this. Koei is finally taking the series in a few good new directions and if they keep it up we will continue to benefit in the future.
If you are a fan of the Dynasty Warriors series this release may be quite fun for you, especially if you have an HDTV and haven’t been able to enjoy the level of quality it was made to offer (Dynasty Warriors 6 runs at 720p). It is certainly worth a rent. If you have never really played Dynasty Warriors and have some interest in the series disregard many of the reivews you see in magazines. Dynasty Warriors continues to get bad reviews because Koei has a history of re-hashing it frequently and adding a limited amount of new content, something which has soured the taste of many gaming magazines to new entries in the series. This has no bearing on the level of enjoyment you might derive from the game if experiencing it for the first time (or if you don’t have an HDTV and a next-generation system you might look into Dynasty Warriors 3).
Dynasty Warriors 6 is a trademark of KOEI Corporation and KOEI Co., Ltd. © 2007 KOEI Co., Ltd.