Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires Review
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires had a daunting battle ahead of it even when it was nothing more than words on a page. It’s the follow-up to 2018’s Dynasty Warriors 9 and 2015’s Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, two games mired in design issues and mixed fan reception.
DW9 tried to shake up the long-running action franchise with a vast open world and a big new take on the storyline, but it made enough changes to the core mechanics that it left some players feeling betrayed. Its ragged edges were also on constant display, and it took months before the game was in a fully-working state. It didn’t have any of the series’ trademark English voice actors either, since it was produced right in the middle of a union strike. I still ended up loving it and played many dozens of hours, but I totally get why it rubbed everyone the wrong way.
DW8: Empires is a better game, but still plagued with problems that its own predecessor DW7: Empires didn’t suffer from. It has a stripped down strategy layer compared to the gentle complexity the Empires games are known for, and the console versions are super prone to crashing in my experience.
Koei Tecmo already righted these “wrongs” in other Warriors installments over the last few years. Warriors Orochi 4, Samurai Warriors 5, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity are all breathtaking examples of the mainline action formula. Samurai Warriors 4: Empires brought back the excellent strategy the spin-off series is known for, and added a fun new graphical treatment inside a cutaway castle view. That game is good enough that I wish it was on every platform and not just PS4.
With all the above titles and the quiet downplaying of DW9’s open world experiment, I didn’t think Koei would return to the well for an Empires spin-off of their beleaguered 2018 game. It already had some light strategy mixed in, and the “kitchen sink” approach to its game design plus its three season passes made me think that Koei was hoping they’d no longer have to develop spin-offs to keep players coming back.