Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is the latest Dynasty Warriors game from Omega Force and Koei. Empires is built on the same engine that runs Dynasty Warriors 8 and adds in the Empire mode seen in previous Dynasty Warriors Empires games, such as 6 and 7. In Empires, players take up the role of an officer in a warring China, with many factions battling each other over territory. The goal, it seems, is to conquer all of China and unite them under the same banner. At it’s core though, it’s still a Dynasty Warriors game.
Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires doesn’t particularly have a storyline for players to follow. Instead, players choose from pre-built (or custom) scenarios in Empire mode, scenarios that are based on a certain era in a warring China. These eras are: The Yellow Turban Empire 184AD, The Alliance Against Dong Zhou 190AD, The Battle of Guandu 200AD, The Battle of Chibi 208AD and Coup d’etat 249AD. Each of these scenarios have a bit of a backstory to them as flavour text while in the menu, but while you’re playing, it doesn’t really affect the game outside of which officers you’ll meet on the battlefield.
The main idea in Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is to capturing opposing empires territory in battle. However, before that can happen, players must first sit through a kind of empire management phase where their rank within the empire decides the amount of control that players have during these phases. A management phase lasts around 3-4 months (out of a 12 month year) of in-game time, with an entire month passing between each management decision. If you play the game as an existing officer, you’ll assume their rank and have many more options available to you than if you create a custom character and start out as a lowly mercenary without even having an empire to serve. However, outside of having the additional task of having to choose an empire to ally yourself with, their are very minimal differences in the way the game is played.
During the management phase, players will have to make decisions like: recruiting more units, building upgrades, forging alliances and much more. Most of these options will use a resource of some type, like money or construction resources. A players army resource will be consumed in battle where each officer can have a number of units assigned to them out of a maximum that is determined by their level. During this phase, players can also conduct raids on opposing kingdoms that will trigger a battle. These raids are used primarily to destroy upgrades on the field and lower the opposing nations army count. Players can also do quests, which are similar to battles, but can be vastly different. On a quest, a player might have to sneak through an enemy fortress to assassinate or capture an opposing officer.
The main gameplay in Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is in its combat. If you’ve played a Dynatsy Warriors/ Warriors/ any kind of Musou styled game in the past, you can expect a similar level of gameplay here. The main idea is that on a battlefield, players will be tasked with capturing bases placed in certain parts of the map. They’ll have to defeat hundreds of enemies in each of these bases in order to capture them. The enemy AI controlled team is also tasked with the same objective, except against your teams bases.
Taking these bases is a pretty easy objective though, and I found it way too easy to play this game solo and to ignore the zerg of your main army. As an officer, players are way overpowered in comparison to grunt units who seem to only exist as fodder to look cool being mowed down by relentless special attacks. Even when capturing a base, hundreds of units seems like a pretty large number of enemies to have to kill, but if you use the right special attacks, you can have them down in 30 seconds. Even enemy generals didn’t pose too much of a threat, with the only danger they brought was when I got too close to them and they could launch a special attack. The main and best way to kill them was to simply execute a special attack from outside of their range, making them a trivial concern.
One of the cooler features of this game is that you can customise and create your own officers, banners and scenarios for use within the game. If you have another Dynasty Warriors 8 game, you can also import custom units over from that as well. For our playthrough, we used a default scenario, but we did it with a customised officer as well as a pre-built one. Players can create a character by modifying a lot details about the character. These go from facial details down to the style of clothing and armour that they wear. You can even choose default weapons, some of which are pretty standard, but they can get pretty silly as well. The character editor is pretty detailed, but it’s not quite the level of All Points Bulletin (which I still hold as -the- standard in character creation) but it’s infinitely better than anything from an Elder Scrolls game. You can make extremely pretty or ugly characters, depending on your whims. Ours had a Valkyrie feel to them, wielding a Sword and Shield while also having wings and a lightweight warrior build.
Returning as a staple of the series is the rocking Dynasty Warriors soundtrack. Like seriously, the soundtrack is amazingly catchy while retaining a video game feel to it. It’s always hard to describe a soundtrack in detail, but it’s basically a lot of music with electric guitar work played with a simple melody that is repetitive but also really catchy. It sets the vibe of a battle and the game itself by using similar tunes throughout. One of the cool things about this game is that it brings back classic tracks from previous Dynasty Warriors games as well, and you can set which track you want to listen to in battle and in the empire management sections if you don’t want to listen to the default for those phases. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that it’s as good as Hyrule Warriors soundtrack, but as a Zelda fan, I’m heavily and massively biased on that statement.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve always had about Dynasty Warriors games is that they’re not as visually appealing as they should be. Given that Microsoft has been touting the power of the Xbox One, I would have expected Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires to look a bit better than it does. However, it’s understandable that sacrifices would have had to be made somewhere along the lines to keep a smooth gameplay experience and the ability to render hundreds of units on the screen, as well as structures and terrain, but it’s still a bit of a shame that Warriors games have to look pretty basic. I did like that units and settings were distinctly Chinese looking though, so I can’t fault the art-team for not creating an authentic looking game.
Overall Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is a massive amount of fun that gives the player the opportunity to conquer China instead of running a storyline through it. The Empire mode itself is pretty cool, but the meat of the game is in its battles. While the battles aren’t as strategic as they should be, they’re still incredibly fun. The soundtrack is especially awesome.
Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires comes from Koei and Omega Force. This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, but it is also out on PC and Playstation 4 (as well as 360 and PS3). We were given a promotional copy of the game from Mindscape, the publisher of Koei Tecmo games here in Australia for the purposes of review. It is out now. We recommend grabbing it from JB Hi-Fi for ~$80 or Steam (PC Only) for ~$50.