Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is part of the Empires spin-off series: games with a bigger focus on a strategical and tactical battle system, allowing players a wider margin of freedom and control, while including new gameplay elements that add to the experience just enough to keep it fresh. After being released earlier this year for home consoles (PS3, PS4 and Xbox One), the game has now received a Vita port. So does it get better on the go?
The game includes a vast array of 83 characters all of which play a little bit different from each other *cough*albeit just 1 new character*cough*, so there’s a lot of variety as every single character has their quirks in battle. The weapon system is also back introducing a little bit of depth to character selection.
Of course, the main attraction of the title is the eponymous Empires mode, which adds a layer of strategy to the game. It’s a deep mode in which every decision you make helps grow your empire and influence throughout the land. There are lots of options like recruiting new soldiers, befriending other warriors, building new facilities, attacking new kingdoms and even resting to recover from the action.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires allows for a great range of customization. You can create a character in the really deep Edit mode and also change banners, officers and even customize horses (without paying for it!). You can then use this character to play in Empires mode and try to unify China during 50 year span while climbing the military ranks, until the day you become the absolute ruler of the land.
Whether you like extended gameplay sessions, short sessions on the go or even before going to bed, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is a perfect fit for the Vita. The combat missions are not overly long, and you don’t need to spend tons of time in Empire mode for something to happen, so going at your own pace is definitely something you can do and not suffer from it.
Also of note is that Strategems—cards with magic-like effects that can affect combat in many different ways (those rectangles with pictures, shown above)—can now be activated via touchscreen. It’s not as responsive as one would want, but it is way friendlier than in the console version.
The console version of the game, while not having breathtaking graphics, at least had smooth looking ones. However, to fit the game in a portable console, the graphics took a hit. This probably won’t be a big issue for new players as they are at least decent looking. But if you’re like me, and have played the console version, the difference is pretty obvious and glaring. Knowing what the Vita is capable of, this feels like a poor effort.
The game at times gives the impression that it expects the player to be familiar with the gameplay system judging by some poorly explained things, specially when it comes to combat and how to use things like strategems or figuring out what does every button does. Empires mode also likes to skip explanations every once in a while. It’s definitely not the best place to start with the series.
Dynasty Warriors games are known for putting as many enemies on screen as they can handle, and Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires does a great job at maintaining the frame rate during normal combat, which is no small feat and keeps improving from past entries. The problem is that the game still suffers from some framerate issues in the most unexpected of places, like when activating a large-scale stratagem. It is not a game breaking deal, but still is distracting and keeps the game from trying to look cool.
Like any other Dynasty Warriors games, there’s a problem with monotony. I praised the huge and diverse cast and all the strategems you can mix, but at the end of the day, while in combat, the objective is pretty much always the same: win territory until the Enemy General shows up, and then go and beat his ass. So even if you change character every fight, the strategy you need to follow in every stage doesn’t change a lot, which can tiring pretty quick.
The same can be applied to Empire mode. There are lots of options to pick from, but I actually only used like 10 of them and still got great results, so I don’t know if so many options, with so little explanation that can confuse players, really adds anything to the experience.
Fans of the series will love this expansion of what was a somewhat solid Dynasty Warriors entry, and will find lots of new content and stuff to do, making it a richer experience for longtime players.
The game does have some issues, like the confusing management system in Empires mode that can be really overwhelming for newcomers and feel a little too simplistic for veterans of strategy games. Visually the game also has a cheap look, so it is probably not the best game to start the series with (in which case I recommend the original Dynasty Warriors 8 for hack and slash fans, and Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence for strategy games fans).
But one thing is for sure, it is great fit for a portable console, so if you need to choose between the home console version and this one, definitely pick the Vita one.
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