I hate history. Actually, I should rephrase that. I hate history classes. All they ever test you on in school is names & dates, which are the two things I have the hardest time remembering. Plus, it’s always the same stuff you’re learning about. That being said, I’m not sure how accurate the events in Dynasty Warriors 7 are. Not that I doubt the battles ever happened, but it’s hard to keep track of the real history behind the game story. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own country’s history, let alone some place I’ve never been.
A lot of people criticize the Dynasty Warriors series for basically being the same game with a few minor tweaks. However, since the last version I played was 3, I can’t vouch for that point one way or another. The seventh installment has two gameplay modes: Story & Conquest. Story Mode, obviously enough, follows the story of the Wei, Wu & Shu kingdoms. New to this version is the inclusion of a fourth kingdom, Jin, after the original three. Each stage is a battle within your chosen country’s history. In this mode, you don’t get to select your character. You’re given a character at the start of the stage to play as. The goal of the stages vary, from defeating the enemy commander to protecting your commander. Sometimes the battles are split into two stages, & you’re given a different character mid-battle. In Conquest Mode, you select a warrior & fight your way across a map of the kingdom. The map is made up of numerous hexes which represent different stages. Each stage has a different goal. There are several special hexes. Some unlock legendary battles for the officers, filling out parts of their stories, some give you rare weapons & a few give you access to guardian animals to help you in battle. As you battle your way across the land, you can gain allies by saving officers in a jam or taking them into battle with you.
At its core, DW7 is a hack-&-slash. Waves of enemies assault you from all sides & you wade through the mobs with your trusty weapon. The combat is similar to previous DW’s. You have regular & strong attacks, & can do various combinations of both. This time around characters can equip two weapons at once. Although you can use any weapon you like, characters are only skilled with certain ones. Also, characters have a preferred “EX weapon,” which allows them to perform special attacks. Also back from the previous games is the Musou attack, sort of like an overkill mode. You gain skill points from defeating officers, which allows you to improve your character. In Story mode, all playable characters gain skill points even when they’re not being used. These points are carried over to Conquest mode as well. However, skill points are not shared in Conquest mode, so characters only improve if you use them.
Story: Although I’m not a history fan, the storylines of the different kingdoms are interesting to play through. I especially like that some battles overlap, so you go through the same battle from different sides. The cutscenes during battles help to flesh the story out & give the characters personality. The cutscenes between battles, however, are less than stellar, consisting of only a map with officer pictures & arrows. It made me feel like I was watching a football strategy meeting. I do have to give the game credit for making all of the officers distinctive. With 62 characters to unlock in total (1/2 through story & 1/2 through conquest) you’d expect some of them to just be rehashes. But that’s not the case. All of the characters have their own unique personalities, & I found myself growing attached to some of them. It speaks well of the game when I get upset because a character I like is killed off. The story in Conquest, however, is a bit lacking. It’s basically just you building up your favorite character. It seems more like a way to unlock characters you didn’t get to play in Story mode. There are also some strange inconsistencies. The idea is that you’re an unknown warrior rising in fame while to affiliated with any kingdom. But some characters react to yours. For example, I played as one of the new Jin characters, Wang Yuanji. Because the enemies in each stage are random, occasionally I had to fight my own faction. This led to her husband acting surprised when I beat him. I think Conquest mode is more suited to letting you create a character from scratch. That being said, the interlocking kingdom stories are what kept me playing through the game. Score: 4
Gameplay: The game tries hard to cover up the fact that it has repetitive gameplay. Your goal in battles vary. Sometimes you’re assaulting an officer, sometimes you’re guarding your own officer, & sometimes you’re just trying to escape. But when you take all that away, each battle is basically: Kill the commander. You might have to kill a bunch of other officers first, but that’s pretty much your goal in every battle. There’s no strategy involved. Just find the closest officer & kill them. The combat works well enough. It’s fun to watch your KO count reach into the thousands as you perform Musou attacks, but it does lose its appeal after a while. But thanks to the thick AI, you don’t even have the kill that many. It might be different on harder settings, but for the most part I could just run past the fodder, kill the officer, then run to the next. Rinse & repeat. Your own allies aren’t even that much help. It was rare that they killed an officer on their own. But your time isn’t just spent killing officers. It’ll also be spent riding to the next officer. I spent just as much time reaching my next target as I did fighting. It didn’t help that it always seemed to be on the opposite side of the map from me. The only saving grace is that you can call your horse at any time, so you don’t have to run all the way. But it is a bit dull riding for several minutes & not seeing a single enemy. Conquest mode suffers from the same problem. Although it says your goal is different it’s still accomplished the same way. The game also throws in some ballistas & catapults for good measure, but these moments are over quickly. So overall, the gameplay works but gets repetitive. Score: 3
Visuals & Audio: The officers are nicely designed. However, I felt they looked more like they belonged in Final Fantasy than in a game set in ancient China. Especially the women. I’m pretty sure some of those outfits didn’t exist back then. The environments you fight in are also decent, but I can’t really be a good judge of that. I have a bad habit of watching the map when I run rather than the actual game. But the battleground layouts do vary, so it’s not the same place being reused except when it’s replaying the exact same battle. The audio is okay. With two exceptions, I didn’t think any of the voice actors were too over the top or cheesy. Those exceptions are for the characters Xu Zhu & Zhang He. If you’re familiar with the series, you know what I’m talking about. If not, Xu Zhu is a stereotypical fat man who sounds like he was kicked in the head by a horse, while Zhang He is so overly flamboyant it’s impossible not to cringe. Also, be prepared to hear the same comments during battle. The generic officers sound like parrots, repeating the same lines. Melodrama aside, the rest of the audio is average. The music is upbeat to match the fighting, but the only song I actually liked is the very last one for Jin. Score: 3
Replayability: Varies. I didn’t see much point in replaying any part of Story mode. If you’re interested in the story, you can watch the cutscenes any time you want once you’ve unlocked them. In Conquest mode, you’ll probably replay some of the missions to build up the new characters you unlock. Score: 3
Overall Score: 3
Final Word: If you’ve never played Dynasty Warriors before, this is a good place to start. It’s not a bad game by any means. They story will see you through the repetitive combat. But I doubt this will change the minds of those who don’t like the series, & I’m not sure if there are enough differences from the previous DW game to warrant buying it. At worst, it’s a rent.
Title: Dynasty Warriors 7
Console: 360 & PS3
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: March 29, 2011