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Dynasty Warriors 8 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Dynasty Warriors 8 (PlayStation 3) review

"It takes a special sort of game to make the mass slaughtering of one's enemies kind of boring."

While I can't say it was the best time I've had playing a video game, I can state that I did find Dynasty Warriors 8 to be interesting. Sure, it might have been in the way I find low-budget slashers to be interesting, but interesting is interesting, is it not?

In the general time period of 200 AD, China had a whole lot of anarchy going on. The Empire was weak, so lots of warlords were trying to stake claims to power — eventually resulting in three separate kingdoms vying for supremacy. This time period was immortalized centuries later via Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This was a novel based on those real life events that took those warlords and their subordinates to create an epic tale. Some characters were made to look more heroic, while others may have become more villainous due to the written word, but it probably is as good a way for any history-loving person to learn about this era.

For those of us who are less studious, there are a lot of video games also covering this time period. There was a series of Dragon Quest clones — of which Destiny of an Emperor was released in America for the NES — that revolves around the Shu faction and its leader Liu Bei due to how the book's writer seemed to LOVE that dude and felt he was the true hero of the conflict. Around the same general time, gamers who were more strategy-minded could experience the beginning of the long-running series of Romance of the Three Kingdoms games where you can engage in resource management, diplomacy and battle in the same manner as Koei's other games of the time.

And then there's Dynasty Warriors. Also published by Koei and also a long-running series, this one started on the PlayStation and has continued through nine installments up to modern systems. This game mostly eschews anything resembling role-playing or strategy and simply gives you direct control of any number of characters from those kingdoms to hack the living hell out of all opposition in a number of battles.

From playing Destiny of an Emperor, I gained a certain amount of interest in the Three Kingdoms time period, so I wasn't averse to playing one of these titles if one fell into my lap. And, at least on the surface, Dynasty Warriors 8 was able to provide me with what I wanted.

Dynasty Warriors 8 (PlayStation 3) image

If you actually want to learn about the people and events of the time, the game has a pretty large encyclopedia giving brief descriptions of everyone — whether they're important figures or guys simply used as cannon fodder in a fight or two — as well as summaries of battles and other important events. You also can control four different factions in lengthy campaigns and take part in Ambition mode, where you pick any of the game's many playable characters and try to create your own kingdom to earn the respect of the emperor.

Wait! Four factions? But there were only three kingdoms — I mean, that's the title of the damn book! If that was your initial thought, welcome to the club, bro. Liu Bei's Shu faction, Cao Cao's Wei and the Sun family's Wu were the main ones who've always been a part of this series, but in more recent times, Koei decided to break Sima Yi's Jin faction away from Wei. Historically, Sima Yi was an important strategist for the Cao family, but eventually decided that Cao Cao's descendants were becoming progressively more incompetent and his family would be better suited to the task of uniting the land. In real life, this led to the end of the Three Kingdoms conflict because dude was accurate in his assessment. In this game, it adds a fourth campaign to play through where the action primarily takes place after the events of the other three.

For people interested in all of this, Dynasty Warriors 8 provides a lot of information. You'll get brief history lessons between battles summarizing what happened between each major conflict to set up the next one. You'll experience how the deaths of important figures affected their kingdom and its efforts. Cutscenes will impart cinematic drama to those proceedings and there is enough even-handedness that playing through multiple factions can give you different impressions of various characters. Take Cao Cao for example. Playing as Shu or Wu, he tends to come off as your main adversary — an ambitious man looking to crush all opposition to his rule. But if you take control of Wei, you discover that ambition comes from a sincere desire to bring order to a chaotic land.

This version also adds hypothetical scenarios to go along with its historical stuff. By achieving optional (and often obscure) objectives in certain battles, you can essentially change the flow of history and gain the opportunity to make right what went wrong for your kingdom of choice, leading to a new set of battles where they definitively succeed in their goals. While it might be really tough to meet the necessary criteria to access these hypothetical routes, it is a nice addition that shows Koei did put some effort into providing replay value.

Overall, this would be a really good game except for the minor detail of actually playing it. I mean, it's kind of fun in a small dose, but if you do all four campaigns and Ambition mode, you'll likely be spending a lot of time doing fun things like reassessing your life to determine if it actually has worth.

Dynasty Warriors 8 (PlayStation 3) image

This is about as generic of a hack-n-slash title as one can imagine. For each battle, you'll pick from three or four characters and head out to tap the attack button a million or so times. There are tons of generic soldiers who combine a general lack of aggression with a general lack of any other fighting attributes serving as cannon fodder for you to eliminate by the hundreds. They'll be supplemented by all sorts of named characters. Some are barely tougher than those faceless rank-and-file, while the more significant serve as mini-bosses and bosses.

When you aren't simply tap-tap-tapping on the attack button, you're probably using various special attacks. One meter fills up to allow up to three uses of powerful attacks, while another meter fills up to allow you to enter a super-charged rage mode for a brief period of time. Both of these are great for handling those more powerful boss-types. Let's see…while I'm sure there's more to say about fighting in Dynasty Warriors 8, about the only thing I found noteworthy was how different playable characters have differing proficiencies in the many classes of weapons.

Due to this, I tended to only work with guys who had great crowd control weapons, such as the voulge and its powerful attacks that have a wide range. And so, after learning the ropes, my strategy was as follows: Pick a guy with good proficiency with the voulge or a similar weapon and mindlessly slash through everything between me and my objectives, occasionally using a special attack or rage mode when fighting a tough named opponent. There it is: My walkthrough for beating Dynasty Warriors 8.

Ambition Mode is more of the same, only with much more tedium as you do a seemingly never-ending series of smaller battles that all blend together to gain materials, fame and allies to max out the castle you're trying to build. I mean, I know it did actually end, but it was so tedious getting to that point that you might as well take the number of hours I spent playing this mode and multiply them by infinity to get an idea of what this experience was like.

Look, through gaming, I've gained a certain amount of interest in the history of this time period. That interest is what led me to this game. And on one level, it succeeded in satisfying that interest. You get to control a lot of Three Kingdoms warriors and strategists and take them through epic battles while experiencing dramatized versions of real-life events. The thing about Dynasty Warriors 8 is that it just isn't that much fun to play for anything resembling an extended period of time because the fighting is so repetitive and dull. And fighting is the main thing you'll be doing in this game other than watching cutscenes or looking up names in the encyclopedia. I appreciate the intentions here, but I'd be more appreciative if Koei would, I don't know, make combat more engaging, so I could consistently enjoy myself while experiencing the stories of each faction.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 23, 2023)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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LeVar_Ravel posted February 24, 2023:

Nice comprehensive review, Rob! You make the fiction and real-life history behind the game sound interesting. Too bad the gameplay didn't inspire you as much.

Ever play the arcade game Warriors of Fate? I played it years ago; it's inspired by the same book and historical period! Acc. to Wikipedia, a lot of this was lost in the English version though.

It was a Capcom beat 'em up like Final Fight. I remember there being rideable horses, and an emphasis on weapons you could pick up.
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overdrive posted February 25, 2023:

Thanks for reading. Yeah, playing Destiny of an Emperor got me interesting in the historical period...I just wish I liked the games based on it a bit more. Destiny kind of fizzled out for me late in the game when enemy tactics got really hateful (instant-killing one of your generals, healing all damage done to their generals) and the vast majority of generals' motivation came down to "WHERE'S MY ENEMY?" being said by them before fighting. This game did a better job of showing that history (or at least a dramatized version of it), but with how its combat is, it's one of those games where you shut your brain off and just work through battle after battle.

I am a bit saddened by how I never heard of that fighting game. I guess the American version changed all the Chinese generals to just generic random bosses, but as a huge fan of Final Fight, I likely would have had a good bit of fun playing that one.
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honestgamer posted February 28, 2023:

Have you looked into Wo Long, overdrive? The demo is on the PlayStation Store right now and the game hits soon. It's a Souls-like in the vein of the Nioh games, developed by Team Ninja. The story covers some of the same stuff and features characters that should be familiar to you, though in a different context. You might like it, if the difficulty isn't an issue.
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overdrive posted February 28, 2023:

It's a consideration. The thing is, while I've loved everything I've played in the Souls line, for some reason, the first Nioh didn't click with me and I abandoned it about 2/3 of the way through the main quest (after buying the DLC because I figured I'd love it...D'OH!).

Not really just one thing that turned me off on Nioh...more of a death-by-1000-cuts sort of thing where all these little flaws just added up during the course of me playing it until around when Elden Ring came out and I decided I'd way rather play it than Nioh.

Just to name a few:

Ungodly amounts of repetition with the Twilight realms and all the side quests that take place over parts of regular levels.

I prefer the more "metroidvania" style of FROM to the self-contained levels of Nioh.

Small bestiary, so you'll be fighting the same damn Oni in every level. FROM tended to introduce new foes throughout the game; here, you'll be fighting the big red guys with the breakable horn as mini-bosses in the first stage and they'll still be around in that capacity throughout the entire game.

Wasn't overly keen on the Diablo-esque loot collection for weapons, where you're constantly going to a sub-screen to see if you found something better. I like that in Diablo-esque games, but I didn't like how it transferred to this sort of game.

I've always liked to be BIG MELEE POWER in these games. Felt this game went out of its way to punish me for playing that way. Mainly with bosses: They either were BIG MELEE POWER, but where one hit by them could take off 3/4 of my life OR they were so nimble that I felt like a blundering oaf trying to get close enough to damage them.

HATED the health potion allocation where you get three in each new land and have to collect little critters to gradually gain more...and then go to another land to start that over.

Those last two combined to suck the life out of me. First level of a new land, so I started with 3 and maybe collected enough critters to get it up to 4 before reaching the boss. Said boss was the one in a burning building against a quick guy who uses his magic power to fly away from you when you corner him and has a bow to damage you from afar --- really making my style look sad with my big-ass weapon and its wide swings. After burning through my storehouse potions, I was stuck trying to grind them (horribly slow process, as I could only use my critter collection to get an additional 5% chance or so of them dropping from enemies).

In short, I've had more fun... Is kind of funny that one of the best-rated Souls-likes has been my least favorite of the sub-genre that I've played, but sometimes, that's how it is!
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honestgamer posted March 01, 2023:

Based on the experience you've described, along with who developed it, I wouldn't blame you for following a "try before you buy" approach with Wo Long...
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overdrive posted March 02, 2023:

Is Wo Long PS5 only or is it on 4 and 5? Wondering because I checked out the demos featured on PS Plus and it wasn't there for me. You know, in case I want something to kill my self esteem for the moments when Crash Bandicoot 4 isn't doing it.
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honestgamer posted March 04, 2023:

It is on both PS4 and PS5, as far as I know, but they might not make the demo available for all platforms. If that's the case, it's a game to watch when they add it to the service outright, as they likely will at some point. I think it might be a Game Pass game at the moment, so perhaps there's a temporary exclusivity deal. It's difficult to keep up with all these things...

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