Dynasty Warriors 9 Review: The Bad, The Good, and The Trailer

You know what you want, right? How is a rambling categorized opinion mixed with an arbitrary number attached going to help you?

Let’s mix it up.

Here’s some things I think are bad and good about Dynasty Warriors 9, a game that’s about fighting a bunch of dudes across a big land. At the end, there’s some commentary on whether or not the trailer represents the game correctly. Enjoy!

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THE BAD

Let’s get this out of the way: the framerate in DW 9 is all over the place. I’ve played about 30 hours on Xbox One X and about 4 hours on PC. The game works a little bit better than it did at launch, but if you’re the sort of person who needs a locked 60 in every game…you should run away.

The Xbox One X has two choices, movie mode(30 FPS cap) and action mode(no vsync at all). Both of them have noticeable framerate fluctuations and screen tearing…even though the movie mode theoretically shouldn’t tear.

The PC version has full graphics options, and you can get it running at 60 on most modern hardware…but not without tweaking it a bit.

It’s clear that performance wasn’t a top priority.

The visuals don’t live up to most other modern graphical showpieces…but then it’s a Koei/Omega Force game, so I never really expected that. It’s never unplayable but if you’re the sort of person that loves a smooth framerate over all other things…watch out.

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The interface in this game is a very clunky bit of business. It’s had a total overhaul from the previous games, and has a much cleaner, more modern look…but everything takes about 3 clicks more than it should.

The map has all of its functions bafflingly split across various menu items. So instead of just picking a spot and then hitting a certain button to fast travel there, you first have to enter fast travel mode. Want to see where treasure chests and resource deposits you’ve already discovered are located? You’ve got to enter Treasure Info mode. Want to fast travel to the next recommended quest for your character? That’s located in a whole separate tab with quest log information.

Upgrading and kitting out a character is similarly clunky. Now, once you get the hang of it, the UI is nicely-featured. It has all the things you’d want a modern open action RPG to have in it, it just takes longer to learn than is really necessary.

I also don’t love the font choices for the main information overlays on the game screen. The fonts look very bland and business-like. When they first showed these fonts in alpha footage last year, I assumed they were going to be replaced in the full game…but they weren’t.

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You can turn a lot of the UI off, if you want to. All of these screens are from the Xbox version, and I took them.

90 percent of the quests in this sprawlingly huge game are very simple to understand: you go to a place and either fight some guys or find a thing.

But some of the quests are way more complicated, and it’s not always clear to the player. Some of the quests have optional stealth. Some of them only work at a certain time of day. Some of them have optional objectives that only open up if you’ve completed some other thing. Some of them are dialogue-based.

The quest text could do a better job of telling you your options and when to use them.

Also sometimes you’ll fail a quest just because an important character got killed on the other side of the world, thanks to the new dynamic battle design.

I’ve also had two quests in my time with the game so far that simply refused to work, though thankfully they didn’t stop my progression. And Koei has been working to patch quests that are messed up.

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I’ve only played the game with the english voices so far, and if you liked the old voice actors…prepare for disappointment.

Now, in a vacuum, I think most of the new actors are just fine. Some of them are even really great, turning in some of the better performances in the series.

But the quality, like the framerate, is wildly all over the place.

And I have the 6/7/8 actors so burned into my head that I’m still not used to the new voices, even after seeing a few endings.

Dynasty Warriors has always had voice acting that was more fun than it was good, and the voices here continue that proud tradition. On consoles, you also have the choice of a Japanese or Chinese dub. On the PC, the Chinese dub is a timed exclusive to the WeGame version(!) apparently, but Koei have said it’ll be coming to Steam for free at a later date.

I do plan to try the other voices once I’ve finished all 90 characters. The two voices I miss the most are the narrator and Cao Cao. Their old voices are so deep and iconic, that it’s hard not to notice their absence. The new performers doing those are actually two of the better ones, but it’s still weird.

I’m not sure if budget issues lead to this, or the voice actors strike, or what. Dynasty Warriors 9 does have more voice acting than any previous title by a comical amount (more on that later) so maybe it was a bit of both.

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After four big complaints, a small one: the grappling hook is a pain. Every character now has a hook on a rope they can use to scale buildings, mountains, or anything else vertical. Problem is…you have to be right up on the edge of something to use it, and you have to wait for the button prompt to show up.

The fun grappling hook system from Koei’s Attack on Titan game isn’t here at all, and I just keep imagining how fun that would have been in a Dynasty Warriors game. I hope that a future title at least allows me to toss the hook out dynamically instead of looking for a prompt.

To be fair, the hook is pretty versatile and usable almost everywhere you’d want to use it. It just feels like it takes one step too many…like a lot of other things in the game.

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THE GOOD

Dynasty Warriors 9 is a stupefyingly large video game. For some people that’s going to be bad, but for me, it’s wonderful.

Its open world version of China is massive. It reminds me of the map from Euro Truck Simulator. It’s a big place with lots of different biomes, and it’s fun to just chill out and ride around it on a horse. It’s also really cool to finally get a sense of the geography surrounding all these battles.

The scope extends to aspects of the game beyond its world. Each of the 90 playable characters has their own storyline, and their own ending. I’ve seen a few of these endings…and they’re fully animated in-engine cutscenes.

Which means that, sigh, I want to see all of them.

The story for each of the five armies in the game is tweaked specifically for the character you choose, meaning that more of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel source material is here than ever before. You’ll probably be a little shocked at the amount of dialogue and story content here, whether you’ve played the games before or not.

Oh, and there’s a ton of random people standing around that’ll just say stuff to you if you click on them.

If you’re a Three Kingdoms fan like I am, this is probably the most exhaustive adaptation of that story ever made? And it’s clear that this was one of the main ambitions for the game.

That also probably means it’ll appeal most to players in Asian territories who are more familiar with the story…and that everyone else will press the skip button a lot.

The “standing around talking” moments are all rendered in-engine and seamless to the rest of the gameplay, leading to a lot of funny moments where characters are done talking to you and then they just sprint away. This makes me laugh every time.

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I’ve already written about the fun dynamism of DW9’s battle design. The levels of the old games are gone, and replaced with big battles that dynamically spread over different territory, with AI characters doing their best to contribute.

It’s really cool. And it’s so neat to run seamlessly up to an important encounter and start going at it.

The combat system is entirely new in DW9, and the source of much controversy among the fanbase. Gone is the old two button dial-a-combo system that served all the non- DW6 games so well.

Now… there are Flow Attacks, Reactive Attacks, and Trigger Attacks…in addition to the special Musou attack that shares its name with the original Japanese title for the series.

All of these attacks are highly context sensitive. Flow attacks happen when you press the main attack button, and they change up depending on what directly preceded them. If you’re in the air, you’ll do juggle attacks if a guy is in front of you or shoot to the ground if you need to. If you’re just standing there, you’ll get a basic combo string, and it’ll vary if there are active status effects on your opponent.

If you’ve done a reactive attack or a trigger attack first, you’ll execute a different unique string of flow attacks. So, the key to the combo system is to mix things up and experiment. And it’s very easy to do this.

Reactive attacks, as the name implies, change based on the situation, and are mapped to the secondary attack button. You can use these to rush to a new opponent, break through a shield, or finish a Flow attack combo.

Trigger attacks come in four varieties, accessed by holding a trigger down (on console) and pressing one of the four face buttons. There’s one to pop enemies into the air, one to stun enemies, and one to knock enemies down…and again, each of these has their own custom string of follow-up flow attacks. The fourth trigger attack is sort of like a mini-musou special attack that you can use any time you like, but it’s balanced with a cooldown.

Oh, and you can change up all those trigger attacks by equipping gems in your weapon.

Pretty complex for a system that’s been derided as “simple” by hardcore fans, right?

When combined with the unique animations for each playable character, and the unique weapon damages and areas of attack…I personally think there’s just as much freedom here as in any DW combat system. And this one is much easier to learn, because once you learn how to play one character, you can quickly pick up all of them. And it’s much easier to see the differences between them as well.

You can also pull out a bow and shoot different types of ammo in a third-person-shooter camera system. So that’s fun too.

I really like the combat system here. If you liked the older games a lot, you’ll probably miss the “more complex” nature of having to memorize specific combos. But I don’t miss that at all, and I’ve been able to do some really neat things in the new system.

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The massive environment, while not up to the technical standard of something like The Witcher 3, still looks nice to me. It has a wide variety of different types of landscape to explore, and a whole bunch of trees. And the tessellated ground gives it a nice bumpy look…even if those effects stream in at a low draw distance on console.

Also, the fog, weather effects, and lighting are all wonderful, and in my opinion those particular aspects do live up to other modern games.

The same goes for character animations, which are completely awesome. Ever since the switch to motion captured character data in Dynasty Warriors 6, Omega Force’s animations have been a fun sight to behold…even as they dance across a field of middling textures.

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If you’ve ever enjoyed Earth Defense Force, Diablo, or the Truck Simulator games, there’s a lot to like here. It’s a big open world that doesn’t demand too much of you, difficulty-wise, and there’s always somewhere new to see and some new guys to fight.

I have a great deal of respect and love for games like this. Sometimes I just want something that’s a little laid back, and not all that taxing. It’s a perfect game to listen to a podcast to, or relieve some stress after a hard day. And there’s just enough depth here if you want that too. And yes, it’s not as “character action” focused as the previous games were. But this is like…the 62nd Warriors game.

So you have a few other choices.

Also Attack on Titan 2 is out next month. And Hyrule Warriors is getting a Switch port shortly after that.

I can’t wait for all the people who loathed this game to show up online proclaiming those two to be a proud return to form. I’ve got my eye rolls all ready.

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Yes, this game has a season pass which includes new content, including missions, costumes, and weapons. And no, unlike some others, I don’t think this is a problem. Koei always sells tons of DLC for their games, and they’re always very clear about what you’re getting. Also, the base game here is stupidly huge and more than worth the $60 asking price in those sorts of terms.

The Trailer

Here’s the “feature explanation trailer” that Koei released for the game about a month ago.

This is one of the most accurate trailers that’s ever come out of the game industry. It shows the performance dips. It shows the weird UI. And it explains the game in an accurate and fair way.

If you watch this and think it looks fun, the game is exactly what this trailer says you’re getting.

Thanks for reading.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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