Jul 7, 2010

[Games] Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires (PS3)

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires (PS3)I know, I know, most of you out there probably consider Koei to be a one-trick pony when it comes to games. For the past several years they've been pretty much milking the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story for games including their classic hack and slash button-mashers like Dynasty Warriors and their various strategy-style games like, um, Kessen!

Yes, I actually played Kessen - and I liked it, too!

So anyway, that's pretty much how a lot of us remember Koei and as much as you think they'd start seriously putting money into either a new game engine or a new piece of historical fiction to exploit, they still continue to release more and more games covering the Three Kingdoms period. As repetitive as this may seen, it does result in interesting refinements to the gameplay style and different ways for us as players to be pleasantly surprised by how things work. I'd like to think that this edition of Empires was a nice improvement to the genre and still one of the more enjoyable PS3 games around that still offer local multiplayer options.

Lu Xun as he appears in Koei's Dynasty Warriors 6.Image via Wikipedia
Dynasy Warriors 6: Empires is the strategy version of Dynasty Warriors 6 with the addition of a few more characters that were removed for Dynasty Warriors itself. Why the player characters were swapped in and out is beyond me, but that's just how it goes for these games.

This time around, we get to break free of the six-stage Musou / story mode of the other Dynasty Warriors games and instead embrace a nicely epic Empire mode in your quest to take on China. The country has been divided into a significant number of territories and it's up to you to try and conquer them all and bring peace to the land. You can start out in the role of a Ruler, Officer or Vagrant, depending on your character and you then take steps to fight the good fight and make your way across China.

The strategic element of the game happens during your turn, which is the equivalent of a month of time within the game. Here you get to play cards that have special effects for set period of time given a supporting number of available resources in your pool. Depending on your role, you can end up taking on little mercenary missions for fame and fortune or start your conquest region by region. When you do engage in combat, you're returned to the familiar Dynasty Warriors engine. The only added bonus is that you can now control the AI behavior for any officers in your employ for the stage such as having them protect you like a bodyguard or take key objections in order to open supply lines to the enemy base. You can choose to obsess over the strategic element to things or you can just hack and slash your way through the level in order to achieve the objective. Just remember that generals (apart from yourself) can now regenerate up to four times before they are truly and finally killed.

The game features a LOT of characters to work with including all those features in the Dynasty Warriors edition of this game along with a large number of fellow officers and vagrants with the bonus of characters like Meng Huo, who did not appear in the main Dynasty game. Plus the game has a character editing mode which allows you to create your own custom character that borrows the fighting style of one of the more famous heroes. Another nice bonus was seeing some of the more exccentric weapons return to the game (given they weren't in the main title) such as Zhang He's claws or Taichi Chi's stick clubs. The character templates are pretty nutty, but what can you expect from a game like this, right?

I've spent most of my time playing the 2-player mode given the dearth of cooperative games on the PS3 thus far, but it's certainly fun. The strategy elements have to be discussed and manipulated by Player 1 but once you have officers, then a second player can join in the combat scenes. This is pretty crucial since the game is rather hard at the beginning before your upgrades and character bonuses really kick in. The card game style strategy side takes some getting used to, but the end result is pretty enjoyable all the same. I felt it was a nice way to expand the game and give it a lot more meat.

Plus just the time it takes to conquer all of China is a pretty serious undertaking and it'll take a lot longer than just a few hours to finish. Thus it was odd that the developers have yet to include an auto-save feature to protect the integrity of one's progress and I fell into that little trip by failing to save my very first game. One quick trip back to the main menu and then BOOM - game over, no progress was saved and there wasn't even a warning about that. Bugger.

Despite that little mishap, the game offers a significantly expanded gameplay environment for any fan of the series and I for one certainly enjoyed the added value this provided to the game. Some may find each round feeling like it's a lot longer than it should but then you probably just need to read the manual or try to explore roles other than a Ruler in order to see how diverse the game can truly be.

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is a nice addition of the Koei family and one game that I see my partner and I playing a lot more than just Dynasty Warriors 6 alone. It gets 4 campy strategy card effects out of a possible 5.
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