Not many people remember the original Dynasty Warriors. Most people first heard of the game when Dynasty Warriors 2 came out in the early days of the PlayStation 2. Given this game’s popularity, particularly in Japan, Dynasty Warriors 3 came out a year after, and now a little over a year after
that, Dynasty Warriors 4 has surfaced.The plot of the game is a familiar one to any Koei fan. It is the same story about second and third century China that is told in Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Kessen series. Three powerful kingdoms, the Shu, Wei, and Wu kingdoms, are fighting with the same goal, to unify China under their rule, and defeat the other two.
The Premise of the game hasn’t changed much since the days of Dynasty Warriors 2. You get to play as one of the great heroes, strategists, or even the Liege of one of the three kingdoms (there are even a few characters who are not associated with any of the three), and help your side achieve victory. Once the game begins, you are just one soldier out on a battlefield of thousands. Your job is to just fight your way through hordes of enemies, usually until you reach the enemy commander, defeat him, and win the battle. However, rather than just charging straight in, you must often tactically choose your points of attack, lest you or your commander be killed, and the game is over. Other occurrences such as ambushes or appearance of reinforcements further the importance of fighting in a tactically sound way.
An additional factor during battle is the morale of your troops, which is a significant influence on how well they fight. Every time you defeat an enemy officer, or fifty enemies, their morale will rise and the enemy’s will fall. Likewise, the reverse is true if your opponent gets the better of someone on your side. Other events, such as the burning of a town or capture of a supply depot can also have a profound effect on morale.
One of the more incredible things about this game is it successfully gives you the feeling of being one soldier in an army on a battlefield of thousands, while also giving you great influence. If you stand around and do nothing, your army will surely lose, but if you hit your enemy in all the right places, it could be over in no time.
In terms of features, most of the old ones from DW3 are back. You can still power up your character’s attack, defense, life, and musou (endurance of special attack) by picking up items found after defeating enemy officers. You can also equip your character with items that power up these stats, as well as others, such as speed and bow attack. However, the weapons system has changed a bit. Rather than just finding better versions of your characters’ weapons on the battlefield, you now gain weapon experience. The idea is simple; the more enemy officers you defeat, the more weapon experience you get, and the more damage your weapon does and the more hits it can perform consecutively.
Like the last Dynasty Warriors, there is a huge number of characters, 43 this time. All your favorites from the last one, like Ma Chao, Xiahou Dun, Huang Gai, Lu Bu and the rest, are back with the addition of three new characters, one to each kingdom. Needless to say, you must unlock all but nine of them, usually by playing through battles in which they are involved. As you progress, your character will also gain more models, meaning you can change his appearance. There are six total, though really only three, each with two color variations. Out of the six, two are usually the character’s DW3 form.
Another addition is of a character creator mode. Unfortunately the options are fairly limited. You can choose their weapon, gender, clothing, hair and uniform color, but there is little variation in terms of their appearance (only three options for four body parts) and no way to customize their stats. You can also customize your body guards now by choosing their weapons, gender and even naming them. They grow the more they fight, and the same group can be chosen to protect any character you play as.
There are far more levels in DW4 than in any of the previous installments (like DW2 which had something like seven levels). Many of the battles from previous DW games have been split up into multiple parts, which you must play through individually. It is also no longer common place for a battle to take an hour. Musou mode is back. This is like a career mode where you play through all the battles your kingdom must fight. However, unlike previous DWs, you now play as the whole kingdom, and can switch characters within that force between battles. You can also play any battle you’ve already done in Musou mode in Free mode. There is a two player split screen mode for Musou and Free modes. This is a lot of fun, but like its predecessor, is often plagued by slow down or pop-up. Survival mode is back too, except now there are four different kinds: endurance, time attack, bridge melee and demolition.
At the end of the day, Dynasty Warriors 4 is a pretty good game especially if you like insane, dense melee action. It’s a sequel, but hasn’t really added as much as it could have to what was in Dynasty Warriors 3. So unless you skipped Dynasty Warrior 3 there won’t be that much that’s new here. It’s a fun game though, and if you were really into the last few Dynasty Warriors games, then pick this up. With all the unlockable characters, items to find, and now a decent number of levels, there is enough replay value to last a while. And most importantly, there’s that great feeling you get when you’re charging down entire armies on the field of battle like Mel Gibson.
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