Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires
Empires Returns From The Open World
Koei's Dynasty Warriors has been touted as both a trendsetter as well as a subject of criticism over its two-decade tenure. The 3D hack-and-slash combat popularized the "one-man army" mechanic. As the series progressed, not only did defeating over a thousand foes become an expectation, so too did its romanticizing of the Three Kingdoms. While the series always lauded fiction over realism, Dynasty Warriors 9 was an attempt at a realistic overhaul. In 2021, the release of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires built upon where the predecessor left off.
One major chance DW9 had over the rest of the series was the change to an open world instead of the classic level selection. The combat system was overhauled to make the series more modern. This gameplay would be tailored to fit other future titles like Samurai Warriors 5 while keeping the familiar level system. While ambitious, the dynamic change polarized fans who were used to the level system as opposed to the open world. Empires seek to alleviate that by returning to their roots, but is this expansion also too ambitious for its own good?
Time To Pursue Lu Bu, Again
Players who are introduced to Empires for the first time will find out that these games are vastly different. While the main series is based around simple arcade-style combat, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is more of the "sim mode." Combat in Empires takes a backseat as the focus is shifted towards the officers themselves. Things like resource management, officer recruitment, and social stats take priority.
Players can either start an army themselves or align themselves with an established force. Certain actions can affect the player's personality as a benevolent ruler or an evil tyrant. Learning the meta is just as if not more important than the actual fighting players will be doing as they maintain a public image outside of battle. At first, it was overwhelming considering Conquest Mode is the main mode of Empires. There isn't a "free mode" unlocked by default. After a while, it's easy to manage once the player follows what the game tells the player to do.
Dynasty Warriors Reaches Its Customizable Peak
Before the player can set their conquest, they have the option to create their own officer in Edit mode. While previous Dynasty Warriors titles had this option in their expansion games, much like Empires, the customization was never this intricate. The character creation is comparable to that of Nioh 2, complete with presets, sliders, and other details. The customization has come a long way since earlier titles, giving players almost free reign to create the character they wish.
In a surprising twist, the player's officer is also fully voiced, talking in cutscenes with their personality based on their character's voice. My character, for example, had the "Seductive Woman" voice which meant all of her lines reflected on that personality. If players wish to create a hardened war vet, they can. If they wish to create a character that gets their way with their charm, they can also do that. The clothing is also a mix between what was relevant during that time as well as modern clothing.
Empires Is An In-Depth Beat 'Em Up Overall
My girl wearing a sailor fuku with stockings may have seemed out of place, but Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires doesn't shy the player away from the series' absurdity. It instead balances it with a deep management system that fans will either love or hate. During my recording I spent at least 20 minutes wanting to fight enemies because that's what the Musou series is all about. It wasn't until I engaged in my first invasion battle that I realized the payoff. Talking to fellow officers, putting myself out there, and building up resources. All of these affected how my allies performed.
It suddenly wasn't just being a "one-man army" but being a good leader as well. The better you are at commanding your squad, the less the player will have to manage when the fighting begins. Those who wish to experience Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires for the in-depth character creation and taking said character out to become a warlord on the battlefield would do better to lower the difficulty. This also impacts the micromanaging players will have to attend to. For those who brave the challenge out, as well as seasoned veterans of the Empires series, this may be the best entry yet.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is available on Microsoft and Sony consoles, PC, and the Nintendo Switch.