I like Dynasty Warriors. Yup…and I said it early enough in this write-up for all of you to make a snap judgement about me and my gaming preferences. I have liked all of them and am well aware that it’s not necessarily a badge of honor for a member of the supposed “hardcore gamer” or “intelligent gamer” sub-group to do so.
But let me drop some knowledge on you quick: Dynasty Warriors 7 is fucking awesome and I don’t give half a shit that the series has progressed in a sloth-like manner for the last six billion iterations. The characters are amazing. The story of The Three Kingdoms is supersaturated with intense *insert epic adjective here* shit. The gameplay is tight and the amount of content is massive. These are inarguable statements that make DW7 to be in the very least a pretty damn good game. Yeah, the generic rock music usually blows (7 actually has some decent tracks) and the voice acting is horrid as a rule but these are minor (and stupid) complaints that people repeatedly level against the series as a whole.
Still, DW7 has taken many steps in the right direction. I have liked previous games in the series quite a bit but the seventh version easily takes the cake.
You are truly a Hero of the Three Kingdoms
If you’re sitting under your rock unaware that this ridiculous warring era in Chinese history exists…where three kingdoms formed under charismatic and visionary leaders battled for supremacy, then I just did you a huge favor. Go do some research and you’ll find that the books (yes, actual books) are extremely interesting accounts of BAT SHIT CRAZY heroes who actually shaped China’s past. It just begged to be made into a video game, so Koei and Omega Force jumped to it some time ago and (long story short) Dynasty Warriors came to be. I latched onto the game initially because it seemed like an awesome idea to take one guy or gal into a battlefield and end up killing like 2,000 enemy troo00bs in one battle. Speaking specifically on the story presentation, DW7 is by far the most cinematic. It is thoughtfully directed in a way where the narrative takes the forefront and it’s implementation takes a much higher priority than in the past (which I like). You don’t have the option to choose which character to play as in the story mode, and forcing you to play as pertinent characters in the timeline presents you with a much more cohesive and powerful chronicling of events. People will always be in the right place at the right time, there’s no taking Lu Bu deep into the Jin Dynasty era here. I didn’t know how I felt about that at first but after a full playthrough it was clear that this is the best way.
My first foray into Warriors hooked me for the what will be the rest of my life. Not only were you some awesome warrior who could single-handedly slay hundreds, thousands, (millions?) in large-scale battles BUT YOU WERE ACTUALLY A REAL PERSON FROM HISTORY. Each character, I came to find, had a backstory that was as ridiculous as it was deep. “Who is Xiahou Dun?” you might ask yourself. No big deal, he’s just some psycho general, right hand man of Cao Cao who once tore an arrow that had pierced his eyeball in battle OUT and then ATE THE FUCKING EYEBALL. FUCK YOU. Most who know understand that Romance of the Three Kingdoms is at least part fantasy and many of these nutty things may not have ever happened. But what if they did?
What this all meant to me was and still is pretty profound. Can you think of any other game with a premise even remotely similar? If even half of what this book/game says is true then the men and women in it are simply the most badass people to ever live, period. And Dynasty Warriors gives you the ability to play as them, go through the battles they went through and follow their path through the war. This touch of reality offers a weight to this unrealistic series that would have no chance of immersing the player as much without it. And that weight is one of the beauties of DW7 for me. I feel much more attached to what is going on, which if we want to be completely honest is literally insane most of the time. But that gravity is there, enriching your experience that much more. I get to be Xiahou Dun. I get to take part in historical battles taken video game form and march with the armies of Wei. That itself, without taking any more time to explain, is plenty.
Conquest Mode…huh? JESUS
I touched on the amount of content in Dynasty Warriors 7 earlier and that was no idle comment. You are, without a doubt, getting your sixty dollars worth with this title. Take a picture of that sentence folks because you may never hear me say that again about a modern video game. Dynasty Warriors seems to still be clinging to an idea that a game payed sixty bucks for should have enough shit to do in it to last you a good 60-70 hours. How odd. For some reason Koei decided to, like, make a game that has a ton of stuff to do. There are now four main factions, each with an in-depth and lengthy story mode. At any point you could also partake in a new mode aptly named Conquest. What you do there is fight across tiles that make up the whole of China like a game board. Each tile represents a battle (actually some represent multiple battles). That leaves the player with, hmm, maybe around fifty seven twaztrillion to complete in total. Each tile battle has a specific reward that a victory will grant you. This is mainly how one would go about obtaining the majority of items, mounts, weapons and characters. Fucking sweet.
Now keep in mind this is in ADDITION to the MAIN STORY. The story and conquest modes are two SEPARATE entities. So not only do I get to fight through the Three Kingdoms Era as each faction separately (which is itself a 20 hour+ endeavor), but I get to then choose whatever character I want and CONQUER FUCKING CHINA ALONE? Hi. What’s up. See ya.
Now, if you’re anything like me you’ll be at least mildly interested in the history as well. Within the menus you will find everything ranging from character and faction descriptions to dates, places and even non-playable character information. This most recent entry in particular is information translated to video game almost literally. You could spend a hefty amount of time just browsing the encyclopedia there, which of course gives the game even more weight. It happens pretty frequently that I’ll read about a non-playable character that’s somewhat important that I will actually run across in certain battles, named but dressed as just a generic captain. What this tells me is that Koei is faithful to the information and has made it a priority to make sure the details are in place. Integrity, who knew? These types of things coupled with the ingame conquest mode quiz that proposes legitimately hard questions (and tons of them) are indications that there’s a lot of care given to this franchise. Yeah it’s their breadwinner and headlining game series, but for them to treat each iteration with such production value and attention to detail is admirable.
You know what, go right ahead and level your complaints against this game and Dynasty Warriors as a franchise. Here’s the hard shit right in your face: Nothing in the industry does what Dynasty Warriors does. There just isn’t anything comparable, period. It is by far the best in the genre, always has been and always will be. Copycats have arisen over time and disappeared just as quickly. Anyone remember Drakengard? Me either. Ninety-Nine Nights? Hog shit. If DW isn’t your thing, cool. I respect that, but don’t sit around with a holier than thou attitude complaining that all you do is “press one button over and over again.” If this was such a simple formula why can’t any other companies even come close to emulating it? If you crave this particular brand of action there is simply one place to go and that’s Dynasty Warriors. In my world, it’s better to be the clear best of a small group than in the middle of a large one. That puts Dynasty Warriors 7 on an island all by itself and that’s tough to do in any medium.