Through an indefinite delay, and multiple criticisms of previous installments Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires was eventually released. The game received a mixed reception from critics. Despite being enjoyable, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires was a lukewarm experience.
Great Generals and Shallow Character Creation
When it comes to Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires’ character creation, it was undercooked. Fans were told that the game’s creation system was going to be in-depth and was comparable to the one in Nioh 2. That is not the case here.
The character creation is severely lacking options and is overall pretty barebones. Interestingly enough, face customization provided the most options, when you expect outfits and clothing to be the most diverse. I went through the process for about 30 minutes and ended up deciding to use a pre-created officer. So the generic character creation was a letdown here as the developers failed to meet promises.
On a more positive note, there are a ton of selections for generals to play as instead. You can play as one of the 94 officers that many Dynasty Warriors fans know well. You can even experience playing as one of the many generic generals instead if you would prefer. For my playthroughs, I chose to play as the legendary strategist Zhuge Liang. He’s my favorite all-time character and I enjoyed my time with him.
Hack N’ Slash Gameplay With Some Additions
When you jump into the game, you better enjoy hack and slash combat. You get plenty of that in Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. I would say over 50% of the game’s combat is hack and slash. Everything else is sprinkled in the remainder of the gameplay.
The Musou gauge is reversed for your ultimate abilities. The more you fill up the gauge, the more powerful the ability players can unleash. My favorite ultimate was an ability that started off with a few melee attacks and was followed up with a massive lighting strike around my character. However, if you enjoy more ranged tactics, don’t worry the game has your back as well. Players will have access to a bow, which you can purchase special arrows for such as fire arrows.
Strategems were also a welcomed feature of the game’s combat. They allow players to do things such as summon whirlwinds, lightning blasts, heal allies, and much more. Strategems were a big help in difficult combat providing a range of unique abilities. My favorite was the Reinforcements strategem, which would heal my squad and me. It was particularly useful especially since I was running off on my own a lot.
Secret Plans Added to the Mix
Before battles, players can select Secret Plans which provide a new layer to gameplay and combat. You can summon reinforcements, envelope the field in fire, summon giant wolves, and quite a few other things. The one thing here though is if players do not meet the Secret Plans’ conditions there are repercussions such as reducing the troops you have in your unit to 0 after the battle.
Each Secret Plan has its own difficulty rating base on what you have to do to complete that specific plan. I enjoyed using them when I did because they were really helpful in difficult invasions. The Secret Plan I mostly used was the reinforcements. Truth be told, I did not want to use more difficult Secret Plans because I was worried about failing those. Resultingly, I stuck with the ones that were easier to complete. The many different plans, such as upgraded rams or siege weapons, provided a much-needed strategy boost to the hack and slash combat. So, it is worth your time and added new considerations for combat.
Lack of Modes
Conquest is the only gameplay mode available in Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. You get to experience eight different timelines or scenarios which can take quite a few hours to finish based on your style of play. The game relies on the Military Affinity system is based on a Rock-Paper-Scissors system in determining which troops can defeat each other. This isn’t terrible, but feel they could have done more here. I would even outright ignore the system at times and just run around and take whatever bases I wanted to with some difficulty by myself. No doubt the Military Affinity system needs improving. It needs to compel me to stay and fight with my squad, but sadly, it did not. Otherwise, it felt like an afterthought.
On another note, my playthrough of the 3 Kingdoms scenario took me around 17 hours to finish it. You will definitely get your hours of play in these scenarios, but again the lack of offered modes was a huge letdown and hurts replayability.
Domestic Affairs Fit for an Emperor
The Domestic Affairs system was a great addition to Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. You can build relationships with other male and female officers, which affects different aspects of the game. Growing your relationship with an officer might get access to their strategic plan before battles begin. Certain relationships can even lead to pledging oaths to other officers which you can have a brotherhood-style bond with up to three officers.
Something else that has always been good for these games is the fact you can even get married and have a child. You can then play as the child in the next playthrough or just use them as an ally. I bonded with some of my favorite generals who aided me while gathering rations, funds, other officers, etc. It was a really cool feature to be able to continue as your child or have them as an ally in your next playthrough.
You also had the ability to walk around and interact with these officers as well which allowed you to build that personal connection and grow that bond. When a bond was high enough some of the officers would even want to speak with you more often, especially your wife, and you could get cool cutscenes for these meet-ups as well. I had a daughter by the way. The Domestic Affairs system was a nice change of pace and allowed me to connect with the characters on a deeper level.
The Ways of Life Another Solid Inclusion
The Ways of Life system was another solid addition to the game. During my playthrough, I started off as a wandering officer and was recruited to join Liu Bei’s ranks. I proceeded to experience the life of a good general all the way up until I became Emperor. You have options where you can be free wandering, join others’ ranks, become emperor like I did, and some other options as well. Liu Bei actually asked me to take over leading his army during one of my playthroughs. It was moments like these that pushed the game’s immersion.
Should you prefer to be an evil tyrant, you can also go down that route too. Depending on your actions, it could swing either way. These systems were excellent for this game. From all the relationships you can build to different ways your can play your general throughout Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, the options can become endless and make playthroughs unique.
Bland Visuals and Solid Animations
In the visuals department, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires was average at best. I played on the Xbox Series X and the current generation consoles are powerful. So a game like this should not have basic or average visuals and should strive to be top tier. But unfortunately, that was not the case. It was glaringly obvious that many assets were reused. Running around the battlefield, I could not help but think to myself about the bland graphics.
Conversely, the game’s animations were on point. Using the ultimate abilities from the Musou Gauge beautifully exhibited animation quality. The lightning strikes ability in particular always left me in awe. Lightning would strike the ground throwing enemies into the air. Sometimes, they would even break the ground around my character and knock enemies off their feet. The animations were visually mesmerizing and more importantly smooth.
Even the majority of the stratagems visuals and animations were a great spectacle too, as they were smooth and transitioned well. Dropping Whirlwinds, Ice Storm, Lightning Blasts, and much more were visual treats. Not only that, their audio design had an oomph to them and reverberated beautifully. However, these flashes of greatness can only make up for so much of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires‘ bland visuals.
Final Thoughts on Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires
Overall I enjoyed my experience with Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires on the Xbox Series X. Its shallow character creation system was disappointing and could dampen your time with the game. Unfortunately, the game did not take advantage of the new hardware, as its visual look dated, despite its solid animations. I feel after the indefinite delay the developers might have changed course a bit and that’s why we got what we did.
Both the Domestic Affairs and Way of Life systems are welcomed additions. Especially if you decide to play as your child in a second playthrough. I can say that Dynasty Warrior vets and new players alike will have a lot to look forward to in the game, despite its glaring shortcomings.