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Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Review

In a weird way, there are many great games from the Dynasty Warrior franchise. Spin-offs with the Gundam series and even Fire Emblem franchise exist and be played without much issue. However, enter Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires and learn of it’s very rough around the edges package.

One of the more divisive titles from Koei Tecmo Games and Dynasty Warriors franchise as a whole comes packed with a few different gameplay elements and, unfortunately, content via a Season Pass. Find out what we thought of this overall here in our review.

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires
Developer: Koei Tecmo Games Co., LTD.
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Co., LTD.
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: December 22, 2021
Players: 1
Price: $59.99 USD 

In a retelling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, you can choose which event through history you would like to play in. Scenarios such as the Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184 AD can be chosen, as well as your officer for battles should they break out. Each path you take is up to you and the events unfold following your strategic choices of recruiting other officers, tacticians, and more from other regions.

Serving a ruler means you’re presented with invasion objective and political objectives that can further advance the main goal of unifying China through peace. Because of the nature of this specific Musou game, you will spend a lot of your time dealing in strategy and less in the story, or lack thereof. It’s a major shortcoming of the game that is known more for it’s 1 vs 1000 fights.

In regards to that, there are nuggets of story in there somewhere depending on which character out of the dozens you can choose from. Cutscenes are present to show you those elements but can be hard to see since the resolution of the prerendered video is worse than 480p. A huge step back and definitely not a game with a story if you were hoping for one.

The real meat of the game comes from the battles that take place in the open fields and castles that you are aimed to take over. There’s not a lot in this department and if you’re experienced enough, you can cut through enemies fairly easy and without much struggle. Firstly, the HUD for combat is a bit in your face and isn’t scaled at all, so you can miss some things in your peripheral vision as a result.

Like most beat ’em up games, you can do a combination of light attacks and heavy attacks with some sprinkled in specials. This can get boring and repetitive against the waves of enemies, but not because of the enemies. It sounds weird but it’s more due to the lack of substance in the fights which can be won almost mindlessly.

In every segment that required me to fight, I was able to push forward with little to no opposition. That being said, in the rare instances that I did, it was always the same stealthy enemies that came from behind to ambush your base while you’re gone. They can be taken care of easily and you can just advance again with no penalty.

Besides those segments, you’ll spend your time looking at menus to travel to countries to talk with other regions and their soldiers in an attempt to join forces with you or your ruler. It’s unfortunately the most boring part of the game with very little direction and something that spoils the fun.

Some may know the meme from years ago of most Japanese developed games all looking the same, this is that game. Graphically, this isn’t pleasing to eye in any regard at any resolution. It is a stable frame rate and is playable thankfully but that’s the only real benefit to the graphics.

It’s not the worst game I’ve ever seen and it does have a charm of it’s own, something that only a mother could love. Mainly, the displeasure comes from the environments and generic characters which all lack any real polish. Main characters do have a good look to them but harkens back to the PlayStation 3 days of graphics.

Sounds of war cries and wooden constructs are actually not that bad and serve their purpose. In fact, the best thing I can say about Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is the sound design is good. Thematic music should be a given and I’m glad it is, otherwise it would be another ding against it.

Spin-offs of the Warriors franchise have proven themselves to stick to the combat formula and trim out the fat. The same can’t be said here in the mainline series at this point. It’s a game painfully trying to find itself and stay in the realm of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Sometimes it feels like those who enjoy Musou games have very little options nowadays and this is a huge letdown. One negative that I forgot to mention was that this game, that at times can feel unfinished, has a Season Pass of content you can get. I feel like this is a little uncalled for since it is a game so far detached from itself that it should fix itself first and then worry about the extras later.

For that, I can’t in all good conscious recommend this game to those wanting more Musou action. There are alternatives like the aforementioned spin-offs but it shouldn’t take those to bring in fans of a very, quite frankly, left out audience.

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The Verdict: 6

The Good

  • It can almost run on a toaster
  • Musou gameplay, when it happens, is good
  • Strong Zhurong waifu

The Bad

  • PS3-era graphics in "current year"
  • Monetization for what feels like an unfinished game
  • Boring and repetitive gameplay

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