Normally, this is the time of year where I would write my “Top X Dynasty Warriors Games of 2023” list (See previous examples: 1, 2). This started out as both a celebration of my love for Koei’s long-running action franchise and its many spin-offs, and also a gentle lampooning of the prolific production calendar of their Omega Force development studio. They usually release enough hack-and-slash action games each year that they can have their own entire game of the year list, and I was all-in for it both genuinely and ironically.
However, this year, Koei actually tried a different business strategy for once. They still put out a whole variety of games — but with a true emphasis on the word “variety.” The only game that aesthetically resembled a core Dynasty Warriors title was Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, a Souls-like from the Nioh developers at Team Ninja. This game borrowed art and character design, world elements, and general Three Kingdoms-inspired plot details from the Dynasty Warriors franchise, but paired it all with the intense combat and progression mechanics that Dark Souls and Elden Ring fans have come to love.
It was a solid game, and also a surprising mainstream success thanks to its inclusion on Microsoft’s game pass service. It’s a great intro into the larger Dynasty world for anyone that avoided the many earlier games, and far less janky and weird than the pile of idiosyncrasies those titles have collected over twenty years of iteration.
Koei’s Omega Force team had their first launch of the year with Wild Hearts, a Monster Hunter rip-off that was paid for and published by EA. I don’t know why Electronic Arts decided that they should get into the Monster Hunter business, and it was also surprising to see Omega Force give it another try after the Toukiden games failed to gain much traction outside Japan.
Wild Hearts didn’t turn out all that well. It tried some new stuff with fun traversal tools and building mechanics to mix up the usual MonHun formula, but its launch was plagued by performance issues, particularly on PC. The game was a brief distraction for genre fans that were looking for a new thing, but it wasn’t enough to succeed up against years of work from the bigger…