Fight to Save the Dynasty
At the end of the day, the most amazing thing about Dynasty Warriors 7 is how the developers managed to squeeze so little gameplay out of so much content.
Under the hood, there’s really a lot to this game. Since the franchise changed genres from fighting to hack-and-slash/adventure about ten years ago, it has built up an amazing amount of lore, and this entry features four lengthy campaigns in which different kingdoms fight for supremacy. Each campaign has a ridiculously big cast of characters.
Like previous entries, Dynasty Warriors 7 tells the story of China’s bloody Three Kingdoms period. It’s loosely based on the stories told in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and it begins with the Yellow Turban Rebellion in 187 A.D. After that, the Kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu diverge, and for the first time in Dynasty Warriors history, this game goes beyond those three kingdoms and their factions to the Jin kingdom. The storytelling is strangely compelling, despite the spotty voice work and often-terrible dialogue; these historical dramas are just interesting in their own right.
The mechanics of the fighting system do a good job of striking a balance between simplistic and overly complicated. You can jump, block, attack in varying strengths, and change weapons in mid-combo. Juggles are important, and as you deal damage, you build up a meter that can be used to unleash a special attack. There’s a series of tutorials to help you master the various moves and rhythms of combat.
The item system is well-done as well. Being able to wield more than one weapon at once is new to the franchise, and you’re constantly swapping out old weapons for new ones with better stats and special moves. Hacking and slashing is always more fun when you have a shiny new blade to hack and slash with. Your character can also increase his stats, though there’s no longer “leveling up,” as such.
But as soon as you set foot in battle stage, none of that really matters. Much like the Dead Rising games with their hordes of zombies, Dynasty Warriors 7 values quantity over quality when it comes to enemies—and unlike the Dead Rising games, it doesn’t make up for that with clever gameplay innovations. Nearly the whole game is just a matter of running up to enemies and hammering buttons.
You spend most of your time hacking through groups of weak enemies en route to some objective or other, and most of these groups have particularly powerful leaders. The leaders are basically just random soldiers with pumped-up stats, however; they seldom have special attack patterns to learn, much less any kind of personality. The rote repetition of taking out one group after another becomes boring very, very quickly. The occasional change of pace, such as an environmental problem (falling boulders, for example), a horse to ride, or an ally who needs help elsewhere on the map, don’t do nearly enough to shake up the monotony.
Of course, you have the option of turning up the difficulty, and the higher levels do require a lot more strategy. You’ll find yourself exploring more aspects of the fighting system, including blocking and jumping. But this only stays interesting for so long—it’s still the same thing, over and over—and it gets frustrating as soon as you start having trouble.
If you manage to fight your way through Story Mode, you might find some of the other options worthwhile. In Conquest Mode, you’re allowed to pick any character (of which there are tons) and fight your way through China, altering the course of military history. Local and online co-op is available in this mode, and it works fine, though it doesn’t improve the gameplay any. There’s also an encyclopedia, which will prove addictive to fans of series lore.
The voice acting could be worse, but like the gameplay, it’s repetitive: Before the end of the tutorial, you’ll already be sick of hearing the same two-second lines over and over. For example, when you beat them, officers often say, “I shall return! Remember that! For yours is the first head I shall seek!” The music, meanwhile, is cheesy hard rock, and it only gets worse as it, too, repeats. Basically, outside of the cutscenes, listening to this game is like listening to a CD skip.
Visually, Dynasty Warriors 7 is a big improvement for the series, but it’s hardly a leader in the video-game market as a whole. This is no Gears of War 2; the character models look slightly unnatural, the environments aren’t as detailed as they could be, and some of the animations look off. Nonetheless, the cutscenes look good enough to tell the stories, and the in-game graphics work well enough to let you fight some bad guys, so the series hardcore won’t be put off by the looks.
The movement controls feel a little bit loose without being imprecise, like those in a Grand Theft Auto game. The camera doesn’t always stay strictly over your shoulder, as it does in, say, Resident Evil 4, but rather lets you turn around a bit without jerking around. You can adjust the camera by hand if you’d like, but sometimes it’s frustrating when you can’t see the enemy you’re trying to hit. Still, once we got the rhythm of combat down, we didn’t have a problem executing combos and special moves.
Longtime Dynasty Warriors fans don’t need a review to tell them to buy this game. They’re caught up in the story, some of them probably really love hacking and slashing, and, well, good for them. For the average gamer, however, this is a long, tedious, repetitive slog through hundreds of faceless enemies. Avoid it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
They’re an improvement for the franchise, but not too impressive. 3.7 Control
The camera could be better, but otherwise they’re fine. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice clips and music are repetitive, and the dialogue is often cheesy. 2.8 Play Value
There’s a ton of content, but it all feels the same to play. 2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best