Developer Omega Force recognizes a need to switch things up
A longtime criticism from players of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series and, well, just about anyone who pays any attention to it is the rote nature of its gameplay. Dynasty Warriors and its many Musou inspired spinoffs are a known quantity; players slash through hordes of mindless enemy soldiers in historical battles.
But with Dynasty Warriors 9, coming next early next year to PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, even developer Omega Force is feeling the series’ stagnation. The studio is hoping to mix things up, starting with a new open world structure for Dynasty Warriors 9.
Series producer Akihiro Suzuki, who’s worked on every title in the franchise with the exception of Dynasty Warriors 5 and Dynasty Warriors 6, said feedback from players prompted Omega Force to think about altering its formula. Members of the Dynasty Warriors team also believed the series was feeling stagnant, he said, and conversations about experimentation came up naturally during development.
“We recognized that players’ play styles have changed,” Suzuki said through a translator at Tokyo Game Show. “Some will play a lot at once, while others will play over time. We thought the open-world format would be a good base [for Dynasty Warriors].”
Dynasty Warriors 9 will let players explore all of China, Suzuki said. Using satellite data, the developer created an expansive map of China that will provide a variety of locations and terrains, unlike the boxed-in arenas of past Warriors games.
Players will be able to visit historic locations and landmarks, Suzuki said, and learn about China’s history. There will also be side quest activities like fishing, hunting animals for meat and cooking food, like meat buns. Recipes and ingredients for meals and even for strengthening weapons can be collected throughout the world.
“I really enjoy playing open world games,” Suzuki said. “And in creating the Dynasty Warriors 9 design, we thought ‘How do you incorporate that into the open world genre?’ The games are based on historical battles in war and until now there’s been restrictions in the hardware that force the battlefield into a box. It’s not historically accurate in that aspect, but we’re trying to make it enjoyable.
“Since we’re creating the entire map of China and place the various kingdoms throughout, players can see changes in power a more realistic way, seeing those battles play out in history.”
In addition to adopting now-common open world gameplay mechanics from other titles, Dynasty Warriors 9 is also adding a new layer to its combat mechanics. The game will incorporate what Omega Force is calling trigger attacks, moves designed to stun, knock down or launch enemies into the air. A “flow attack” system will modify how regular moves behave when enemies are stunned or downed by a trigger attack.
Players can also use reactive attacks: contextual attacks that will perform guard breaks, counterattacks, moves that will push the enemy away and more. Based on some hands on time with the PS4 version, the new mechanics make Dynasty Warriors 9 feel much more dynamic and engaging than past games.
At Tokyo Game Show, I took the game’s new character, Xun You (a relation of, yes, Xun Yu) out for a spin. Xun You is a military strategist for Cao Cao, and can scope out the battlefield for preemptive attacks. In a mission playable on the TGS show floor, Xun You approached a castle stronghold, and can attack it in a variety of ways. While a swarm of allied troops stormed the front gate with a battering ram, I opted to scale an unguarded wall, attacked the smattering of guards atop that wall and dropped down into the center of the stronghold.
From there, I had the option of dispatching the troops inside by myself a relatively easy task or opening the front gate and letting my fellow soldiers in. They’d come all this way, so I figured let’s open the door. The castle was captured shortly afterward.
Xun You was fun to play, and his weapon, a flexible Indian whip-like sword called an umuri, showed off the new combat mechanics well. Xun You could stun a large group of enemies, gracefully whip them into the air and then kill them a dozen at a time with his flowing, snakelike blade. His musou attack, which slows time and sees him calmly flick his blade outward in a corkscrew shape, looks beautiful and dignified.
Dynasty Warriors 9 looks like a welcome new direction for the 20-year-old franchise, and Omega Force is wise to start playing things less safe. Lapsed players or anyone looking to jump in for the first time may want to keep an eye on it when it arrives in early 2018.