gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires – Xbox 360/PS3

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires box artIt’s been a while since the release of Dynasty Warriors 6, so it was inevitable that the release of this spin-off title would happen. Developed by Omega Force and published by Koei, it is available now for both PS3 and Xbox 360.

Combining the hack’n’slash gameplay of the Warriors series with the strategy elements of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series this game lets you play as one of hundreds of selectable characters in scenarios which see you trying to conquer China. Let down by a poor tutorial system, this fun game will put some players off at first glance.

As a veteran of this game series (I’ve owned every Koei game since Dynasty Warriors 3) I always get a little twinge of excitement when I hear a new title is being announced. Not because I expect revolutionary improvements in gameplay or graphics, but simply because there is a certain comfort in the familiarity of a new iteration of a game you enjoy playing. While many reviewers will simply knock this game for being what it is, there must be a reason that these games keep getting made (and bought).

For me the pleasure harks back to the days of coin-op games like Final Fight, X-Men, The Punisher and Cadillac’s & Dinosaurs. Growing up in a seaside town meant spending away my life in increments of 10p, playing those old multiplayer bash’em’ups for hours with my friends. Console gaming continued that love, with Streets of Rage 2 in particular being for me the pinnacle in that genre. And so I find it hard to resist the Warriors series, for their simple yet enjoyable hack’n’slash button mashing gameplay is my kind of fun.

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires - Xbox 360 screenshot
The combat mechanic is copied directly from Dynasty Warriors 6

The way that the story is presented in the game is certainly not going to win many people over, it’s actually quite trivial due to the non-linear nature of the gameplay. When you consider that it is based on one of the four most important novels in Chinese history which not everyone is going to be familiar with, a little more effort to get the story across would have helped.

Presented as a smattering of conversations between rulers, officers, peasants and merchants you have to already have some knowledge of the scenarios to fully appreciate what is going on. This is probably the area that really needs the most improvement in the Empires series, relying on people having played the prior titles or having seen movies like Red Cliff is just not going to cut it.

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires - Xbox 360 screenshot
Before battle is the opportunity for training and preparation

Playing the game is done in one of two ways. Firstly, you can select to be the ruler of a particular region. Doing so gives you full control over the strategies your forces use in battle, the training and development of each general under your control and also the tactical movements you make against opposing region leaders. Each game “turn” takes place over the course of a month, where you have a limited number of choices to make before either resting or heading into battle.

Prior to each battle you are able to select which generals you want to accompany you, at this point you can also press start on a second controller to allow a friend to join in. The battlefield is divided up between you and your foe, each of you has a base camp and a number of supporting bases. As you move across the battlefield and enter these bases, you will have a set number of troops that you must defeat before you can claim it. Depending on the type of base this can be difficult, as many hundreds of enemies are trying to stop you.

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires - Xbox 360 screenshot
Strategy cards have many different costs and benefits

Victory is yours when either the enemy force commander has been slain, or you have made a path to the enemy main camp and successfully claimed it as your own. After each battle a number of spoils are gained, which can be used to upgrade each characters weaponry with special abilities. These can range from simple speed-ups to devastating ice explosions, helping turn the tide of battle in your favour. Activating the abilities in battle is as simple as holding down the left trigger and hitting the corresponding button.

The other way you can play the game is as a roaming officer, travelling from land to land in search of mercenary missions and leaders that inspire your loyalty. There are many different missions available, making this a lot more diverse than the ruler mode. However, as you are not the ruler of the lands, it takes some time before your opinion is considered in the tactical meetings each ruler has every three months, and also when deciding which lands to attack.

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires - Xbox 360 screenshot
He’d look much tougher with a pink afro, honest!

As well as the huge roster of characters, you also have the opportunity to create your own using a large range of outfits and physical features, more of which are unlocked each time you progress through the games objectives. There is actually some fun in this mode, as you can create some very weird looking and sounding people, who add a touch of hilarity to the proceedings – I managed to make a warrior that looked like the Burger King!

In all there are five different scenarios to play through and each will give you about ten to fifteen hours of gameplay depending on the tactical approaches you use. When you start a new scenario you have the option of loading one of your previously completed save files and keeping some of the abilities and weapons you built up, rather than starting each character from scratch. This “new game plus” mode is a nice touch, but was a little confusing at first, thanks again to the poor tutorial system in the game.

I was fortunate enough to play the game on both the 360 and PS3 and although there isn’t a vast difference between the two (making this a viable purchase on both systems), the game seems to cope with the huge amount of enemies onscreen just a little better on PS3.

For me, whether you should get Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires or not really hangs on if you’ve had a taste of the Warriors series before. If you haven’t, I’d personally recommend getting Dynasty Warriors 6 or Samurai Warriors 2 over this. Although this spin off is fun and essentially more of the same, it doesn’t quite match the accessibility of some of the titles in the main series.

Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires scores three and a half red hares out of five.

Three and a half stars

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009, Computer Gaming, Playstation 3, Xbox 360.