Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires carries a $40 price tag, and seeks to improve upon the original Dynasty Warriors 6 with an expanded Empires game mode, and much more. Does it live up to the series’ reputation? Read on to find out.
New to the series is the ability to play as a lowly vassal, which the option to seek out a proper master, or start your own campaign to rule all of China. This is much more fun than the previous system which only allowed you to play as a ruler, because you can choose unique options such as defecting in the middle of a battle, and doing mercenary work for the highest bidder. The leader system additionally has been downgraded in favor of vassal play: politics are no longer a major issue.
Literally anything can happen. For instance, I started working for the warlord Cao Cao, finding great success as a general, until I was propositioned by him to assassinate The Emperor of his land. I declined and fought against my former Lord, only to lose and be cast out of his army forever. As a vagrant, I wandered around China until I became a low ranking official in another kingdom. Even losing the struggle against Cao Cao was a blast, as the Empire campaign picks up without a beat.
In addition to the officer mode above, you can simply choose the begin the game as a Lord and ruler. While the ruler mode isn’t quite as fun as freelancing, there is still quite a bit of freedom. In order to enforce your decrees, you’ll get “cards” at the beginning of each month with various outcomes such as “increase your army’s strength” or “increase your nation’s wealth”. There are quite a ton of cards to collect, and you will find that there is always something to suit your play style.
Both modes feature a “council meeting” every 3 months, which is a gathering of all officers in your nation. If you’re an officer, your leader will state his nation’s policy until the next council, and give you orders. If you’re playing as a leader, you will be able to choose your strategy and give out orders. As an added bonus, if you’re a high ranking officer, you’re allowed to offer alternative suggestions to your leader’s plans, which is a rather nice mechanic that actually inspires you to stick around in one army. Of course, your Lord my not agree with your decision, but any friends you may have picked up along the way will back you up and support your ideal.
Leveling up your character is also quite simple. As you move around the map, different areas contain various upgrade centers such as forges, stables, and training grounds (capital cities have everything). The amount of customization is unparalleled in the Dynasty Warriors series. You can now buy a number of upgraded horses which you may summon at will with the back button, imbue your sword with a multitude of different abilities, upgrade your physical abilities through a skill tree, and buy upgrades for your troops.
Another really welcome addition is the ability to make up to 100 custom characters, and turn on the option to have them randomly set loose at the start of any Empires campaign. You can customize quite a bit, from the look of your character, to his costume, weapon, and voice (with the option to choose your vocal type, and tone). As you progress through Empire mode, you’ll earn more costume options, which always encourages you to try them out by constantly making new characters and personas for them.
The absolute best part of the Empire story mode is that there is an infinite amount of replay value. There are 5 over-arching campaigns to choose from, all of which take place in different periods of China’s history. You can easily spend around 20 hours as a vagrant and just do mercenary missions, and still have fun.
In addition to the complete overhaul and inclusion of the Empires system itself, there are also quite a few gameplay changes. If some of your worst memories of Dynasty Warriors were hunting for food pots aimlessly, Empires has you covered. Battles are now fought with more of a focus on strategy: you no longer simply have to defeat gate captains and lieutenants to capture enemy territory. Bases have a strength counter at the top of the screen, and as you defeat enemy units, that marker goes down. Once it reaches 0, you have captured the base, and a food supply with strategically spawn inside. Of course, don’t just leave it undefended, as enemies can take it back.
Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires also gives you more bang for your buck with an additional Encyclopedia of the Three Kingdoms. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a bit about the historical influences of the Dynasty Warriors series, now is the time. There is quite a bit to look at, as the game includes major battles in Chinese history in additional to character biographies. There’s also a wallpaper and music section where you can buy extra tidbits with the points you earn in-game.
Visually, the game isn’t going to push any boundaries, but it’s certainly serviceable. The game is able to draw a considerable amount of troops on the screen at one time, and there isn’t as much of a problem with draw distance as with previous Dynasty Warriors titles. The only time you’ll really find graphical slowdown is when there are a massive amount of troops on the screen, but it usually only lasts a few seconds while the game compensates.
The classic Dynasty Warriors dialogue is also back, for better or for worse. A good deal of the merchants and NPCs in the game are voiced by very high pitched American sounding voice actors, which throws off the continuity a bit. The rest of the generals and leaders are much more triumphant sounding due to the fact that a few veteran anime voice actors lent their talents. Musically, this is the best Dynasty Warriors title to date. If you’re a fan of the mixed power metal and ancient Chinese tunes that the series has to offer, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires rewards you with a full soundtrack that contains nearly every song from the entire series. You are able to choose the song of your choice, or a random selection on every single load screen before a battle.
Despite all these amazing additions, Free Mode and Versus are missing in the Empires version of Dynasty Warriors 6. Also, there is no online play to be found, just 2 player local coop. Koei occasionally gives and takes when it comes to game modes, so odds are we’ll see these return in the future. Even though there is no Free Mode, you are still able to go back and relive your favorite moments in Empires mode by reconquering territories as any of the game’s 40+ characters.
All-in-all, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires provides nearly limitless combinations of gameplay for action fans. There are multiple campaigns with various paths, a myriad of characters to choose from, and a fun character editor so you can customize your experience.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Even though the series has room for improvement, the locales this time around are a sight, and the game is able to keep a decent amount of troops on the screen at one time. The menus are also very easy to navigate, and easy on the eyes.
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Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires has abandoned the Renbu system, which previously required you to constantly fight enemies to increase your attack strength. Most fans will find the old system superior, as it promotes more of an enjoyable experience, although simplistic. Additionally, the Empires mode is very extensive, and is a blast to play.
Musically, this is the best entry. Sound effects wise, you'll find that a lot of characters repeat their battle dialogue (even yourself), and there is a bit of sub-par voice acting.
Even if you tire of the hack and slash formula, Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires still has a ton of various delivery and sneak attack sidequests to hold your interest. Overall, Empires grants one of the most extensive gaming experiences possible with over 40 playable characters, and randomly generated Empires campaigns. Oh, and there's a whole host of unlockable content.
Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires is one of the best values in years. For $40, you essentially have access to a game with limitless replay value, with the added bonus of customization. If you haven't tried the series in a while, give this one a shot; if you loathe it, give it a rental first.