When Dynasty Warriors 2 first made its debut on the PlayStation 2 so many moons ago, gamers were met with a world of massive armies that demanded to be conquered. Over the years Dynasty Warriors has mostly been known for what it has kept true to Dynasty Warriors 2. The mere mention of this series to any well educated gamer will prompt visions of over-sized armies spanning massive lands in China and covering your television screen. I’m happy to report that Omega Force and Koei have kept this large scale at the core of their game experience. With this being a port from the PlayStation Portable though, I wondered how would this game stack up against other Dynasty Warrior games, other PSP ports, and other action games in general. The answer is better then expected, but very far from perfect. Read more for the complete review on Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce for the PlayStation 3 to find out what holds promise DW:Strikeforce and for the future of Dynasty Warriors as well as what needs a complete overhaul.
Beginning with the graphics of this game, there is already complexity to why this is or isn’t a masterpiece. While on one hand the visuals are beautifully done, especially considering this was a PSP port, there is one absolutely unforgivable flaw in the graphics. Running one way while looking another, strafing of any type, or sometimes just moving the right stick is all it takes to discover the flaw. When players attempt to orient their viewing by these standard moves there is a phenomenon occurring where the camera is moving faster then the graphics system within Dynasty Warriors and the result is your entire television turning into an extremely fast moving blur. At some points this generated headaches and make me want to puke. It is really a disappointment that such a obvious and huge bug made it to the final version of this game.
The controls are really killer if you like games with terrible controls. Dynasty Warriors has always been a simple game in that department, and while Strikeforce does add significant features to this series, for example Dragon Ball style floating and dashing, the basic underlying control system has remained the same. Only certain types of weapons work with the manual-aim mode of the melee combat system, which was a huge let down. Many times you will find yourself feeling like its the PS2 days all over again as you aim your character and swing, realizing that full 360° aiming was just too much to ask for. When players clearly land a blow to a pickup box with their sword and it does not break, they will know Dynasty Warriors still needs a lot of fine tuning under the hood. Taking this right along, there is a simply terrible auto-aim function thrown in that seems like it was way more useful for PSP users of the game. When locking on to enemies the camera and orientation of your character will be much more conducive to the fighting. However the wrong enemy is constantly being selected as the right stick becomes something you are afraid to use by accident. Players will find themselves unable to play this game until they have mastered the clunky, buggy, and poor excuse for controls.
I won’t spend too much time explaining the storyline because frankly its not that interesting. The typical kill this guy, oh wait he’s not really dead yet kill him again, in fact just kill this guy 25 times because we really ran out of ideas. This is not an exaggeration, the end boss is one that was seen throughout the game so many times I will never forget his name. Players choose one of the expected factions Shu, Wei, or Wu and play as a plethora of various commanders who want to unite China under their rule. Although it is explained at a few points in the game that these commanders would like to restore peace to the land, all you will see is merciless killing the entire game. The characters who you face will not be extremely detailed in back-story. Apparently they should simply be assumed to be evil, given their dark character design and tendency to laugh a lot as they murder you and your friends.
The lack of any tangible story, terrible controls, and puke-inspiring graphics have certainly hindered the experience. Being a gamer of many systems, genres, and godless hours of the night, I pressed on with the full intention of finding out how this game shapes up aside from these hindrances. Many of the game experience aspects will bring back memories if you’ve played Dynasty Warriors before. This is typically viewed as a negative for the series, however I personally think there is still a lot of fun to be had whilst reaching 255 kills in a matter of seconds, without a single death. In the first room of the first stage alone I killed over 1,000 enemies. Where Strikeforce really shines though, is where it did things different.
If you can get past the obvious flaws in this game you truly can find a decent game experience for yourself, depending on your tastes. The weapon enhancement system allows you to put various upgrades on different slots in your weapon. Reminiscent of Diablo for the PC, you will also be able to buy orbs that can be attached to your weapons for further enhancement. There is also a dramatic Fury mode transformation your character will undergo to become something like a demi-god when your Fury meter has been filled. Fury mode will allow you to use about four different Chi moves (basically super attack skills) that can give you the power to do things like float, convert the damage you receive into health while in Fury mode, radiate poison, and more. Fury is earned either by getting the crap beaten out of you, or more easily, by dominating your opponents. There is also a special Musou attack, which annoyingly wastes all your Fury and is easy to hit by accident. This attack can be customized but the base attack is not very powerful for some of the characters, causing Musou attacks to take a backseat to regular attacking while in Fury mode.
The game has been said to resemble Monster Hunter in many ways. It does. Players will start off in a main town every time they turn the game on just like in Capcom’s Monster Hunter and even use a post-it board to get missions just like in Monster Hunter. In the towns of Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce players can find a Academy to learn new Fury Chi skills, a Workshop to build mysterious objects called Orbs which can be attached and de-attached to weapons for enhancements like increased fire damage, a Blacksmith who will craft you any of the various weapons in the game, the Market where you can buy standard battle supplies such as Meatburn for healing and Nectar for curing status ailments, as well as a Shrine to change which character you want to use as your main without creating a new game, and a few other areas you will likely never use. With most of the actions you do revolving around your combat capabilities, you never feel sidetracked from your mission. As some one who has both games I personally feel that if it was Koei’s desire to make a better game than Monster Hunter of the same style, they succeeded! If players get past the appalling flaws I revealed earlier and adapt enough to play this game, they will surely enjoy the pick up and kill aspect to it.
There are Role Playing Game elements infused into this title, but infused in an action-based way. Players can maintain multiple characters and leveling up is very familiar of the RPG genre, however all of the character attribute assignment is done automatically based on which weapons you are using at any given time. The magic aspect to this game was fun, however underused. The game does not challenge you to match elemental weapons to elemental weaknesses in enemies, so honestly there is no point in having them in the game. Having your status affected is cool but it would have been great to be able to affect enemies’ status the same way they affect yours. Often times the enemy bosses will hover over water, defying even the physics of the game itself by never falling into the water. The player, however, is left trying to hover carefully while fighting and penalized with health damage and a inconvenient re-spawn every time they get wet. This is intensified by the fact that common enemies can afflict players with a status condition disabling their ability to jump and float.
Unfortunately one RPG aspect that does not work out well for Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is the economy. While fun and rewarding at first, suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt when you are broke. If players get stuck on a mission they will have to backtrack to old missions to rebound from their poverty. You really feel poor sometimes in this game even when you just made a hard earned two hours worth of pay, since all of the shopkeepers keep begging you for materials that must be found in various missions to upgrade your shops.
In order to get to the peak levels of playing this game, it is very efficient to customize your weaponry and characters’ Chi skills to focus on one type of play style. If you are into the whole Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon thing and/or Dragon Ball Z then you will probably want to set up everything for dashes. In Dynasty Warrior: Strikeforce you are able to line up all your upgrades, skills, and weapons with one various setup. In the example of the all-dash setup, players will be able to lock on to bosses that fight mostly in the air and keep up with them in epic, gravity-defying sword fights.
Where Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce shows promise is its integration of RPG elements into the slash action genre, pick up and kill functionality, and strategic setup of missions and boss fights. Although the game does give the player a sense of purpose, the storytelling in this franchise has needed a major reboot for a long time now. The strategic elements added to the level design are great, but sometimes seem more like hard work than fun on single player mode. Taking this game online for co-op was pretty great, but again the strategic aspect of this game becomes fairly simple once you figure out the mission at hand. The game has weapon specific special attacks (between one to three per weapon) which are powerful, useful, and cool, but there are not enough of them and it becomes repetitive solving various situations the same way. Dynasty Warriors fans will love this game, but a lot is holding it back from its true potential. A lot of times it was fun, a lot of times it was frustrating. When playing online with friends this game feels like it could of been a masterpiece if it was built just a little better. For a PlayStation Portable port, I am somewhat impressed, but with so many titles vying for our hard earned cheddar I have to say try before you buy as its flaws will prevent most gamers from the core experience being offered.
Title: Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce
Developer: Omega Force
Platform Reviewed: PS3
Release Date: Available Now
Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided by the publisher to DualShockers Inc. for reviewing purposes