Dynasty Warriors 6 Review
This just has to stop. In the past, we’ve always given Koei and Omega Force a pass concerning their long-running Dynasty Warriors franchise, primarily because the foundation was always solid. As repetitive as the titles felt, the gameplay core allowed us to make exceptions when analyzing new installments. But after playing Dynasty Warriors 6 for the PS2, we’ve finally decided that the time for free passes is over: this only proves that we probably should’ve taken the developers to task years earlier when we noticed the repeating phenomenon. Now, it has not only fallen into the “complete rehash” category, but the technicals have also failed to sustain the action on screen. There are still some entertaining aspects to the game – it’s always fun to bash on hundreds upon hundreds of enemies; it gives you that good ol’ invincible feeling – but there are far too many drawbacks and the fact that we know we’ve played this many times before…well, it’s just irritating.
The graphics are actually quite good for a late-generation PS2 game, but only in regards to the cut-scenes and CGI. The gameplay itself is just more of the same, and this time, there may be more crippling shortcomings than in any other recent DW installment. Usually, when we cite “pop-in” as a flaw, we’re talking about inanimate objects, like buildings or trees. DW has always had the issue of pop-in enemies, and here, the design flaw is so pervasive it’s borderline comical. You could be standing still, twirling the camera about and looking at a completely empty battlefield and then you take one step, and there are fifty foes directly in front of you. There’s plenty of color and interesting special effects, as usual, but the textures are still terrible and the battlefields are still drab and boring. Character design seems to have taken a backseat as well, as even the once-impressive officers and generals are now little more than cardboard cutouts; in that you’ll say, “yeah, I’ve seen them before.”
The sound is a little better, but only because the soundtrack is appropriate. The music itself is almost as repetitive as the action on screen, and the voice acting is typically atrocious. After all this time, we would’ve hoped Omega Force would give us a new set of sound effects, but instead, landing blows and executing special skills sounds exactly the same as they did in the original Dynasty Warriors. The cries of the soldiers are also generic and clichéd and unless you really get hooked on that rock/classical soundtrack, you’ll soon grow tired of it. Whenever they decide to issue the much-needed overhaul, we’d like them to consider changing the soundtrack focus because, like everything else with this series, it has played itself out. The quality of the music and effects remains decent but that’s really the only saving grace, and we had to sigh when running around, beating on enemies. All we could think was, “geez…it even sounds identical.”
If we have to explain the gameplay, you’ve never seen a DW title, which means you must be living under a rock on Mars. We could very easily just say, “well, if you’ve played one before, you know what you’re gonna get,” but we’re trying to be professional here, so here we go: Dynasty Warriors 6 is an action/strategy game set in the old times of Feudal Japan. You take to the battlefield with one particular character and use a variety of attacks and skills to slice your way through hundreds, even thousands, of enemy soldiers. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on your map and your allies; you have objectives in each mission, and the combat continues to rage even if you’re in another part of the map. You don’t want to abandon your allies and go off on your own, but that’s about where the strategy ends. Provided you follow your map, keep your allies safe, and push forward to obtain new territories, you should be successful. It’s all about the combat, really.
Several different gameplay modes await you. There’s the standard Musou mode, which basically features the main story of the game; this is where you’ll find your cut-scenes and character development. The Free mode allows you to choose any mission in the game to try, which gives you a chance to brush up on your skills. For extra fun, you can always try your hand at Challenge, which includes a variety of different options, including Rampage, which has you taking down as many enemies as humanly possible within a certain span of time. There are also Challenges that test your agility (nab as many power-ups as possible), speed (secure forts and other secured areas as fast as you can), and power (kill as many as you can before death). Therefore, the extra modes outside Musou add some appreciated diversity and longevity to a game that desperately needs both, but again, you really won’t do anything different, regardless of the mode you select. In the end, it’s all about running around and beating on foes, all the while trying to stay alive.
You do have the benefit of riding a war horse, choosing different weapons, and enhancing your base abilities with any given character. There are only three characters to choose from when you first start, but DW has always featured plenty of unlockables to pursue and you can bet there are many other characters to locate and utilize. When playing, you move with the left analog, control the camera with the right, attack with the Square button, jump with the X button, use a powerful single attack with the Triangle button, and charge yourself up with the Circle button. As you take out enemies, your Musou gauge fills and when it’s maxed, you can unleash hell via the character’s specific special move. You can also dodge with the R1 button, but outside of these basics, there really isn’t much else to talk about. The biggest problems revolve around the massive framerate slowdown issue and the camera. The game will chug to an almost complete stop at times and that camera is all sorts of loose and erratic, often causing you to lose track of the action.
As if that wasn’t annoying enough, the aforementioned pop-in issue started off amusing but quickly got tiresome. Essentially, the entire experience centers on you, mashing buttons as you’ve always done and battling a sloppy camera and a terrible frame rate that clearly can’t handle the action. Then there’s the problem of particularly frustrating enemies taking advantage of you; when you get knocked to the ground, officers will often wait for you to get up, then immediately strike again, giving you no time to block or evade the attack. That was infuriating. Then’s there’s the almost complete lack of ally AI, and the only reason this isn’t a devastating issue is because the enemy AI is just as dumb. The vast majority of random soldiers will often just gather around you and wait for you to eliminate them. The only real challenge comes when you face those officers and generals, and that’s when the game swings from boring and easy to overly difficult and irritating. It’s just a poor balance, you know?
In the end, Dynasty Warriors 6 is just more of the same, and this series is definitely showing its age. The same problems that have been here since the beginning haven’t been fixed, and they’ve really added nothing new worth mentioning. It could be okay for the true die-hards, but other than that, don’t waste your time.
3/19/2009 Ben Dutka