Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires from Koei Tecmo meshes characteristics of strategy and hack & slash games together onto the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4. While the series has always been known for its mindless combat against waves of enemies, Empires tries to mix things up by allowing players to manage a kingdom and create a dynasty. Those who have loved the series for a while will resonate with the combat and wide selection of characters from feudal history, but others may not find as much to like in this latest installment.
Most of the new additions to Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires muddy up everything that makes the series so appealing to some. The new Empires mode tries to give a more complex presentation to the simplistic combat by adding an RTS like metagame that dictates a shallow narrative. You select one of many characters from different factions and build up a legacy by conquering other kingdoms, managing your resources, and engaging in light politics.
How you make decisions in this influences your combat strength and ally morale during battles. At the very beginning, all of this seems overly complex and does very little to ease players into the Empires mode. Lots of information is thrown at you very quickly and the game doesn’t give you a lot of time to digest and implement all of it. Over time however, things start to even out in difficulty, but it takes a very long time before getting to this point and understanding how Empires mode can work.
During the course of the game’s Empires mode, there will be random events that occur based off the stability of your kingdom. You can build relationships with fellow allies, strike alliances with neighboring kingdoms, and even get married and have offspring to continue your legacy into the next generation. All of these things happen infrequently and sometimes occur with the most minimal of consequences to your chosen character.
There are a number of options that offer some amount of customization for your kingdom, but you never really have a connection to what you build over time. Getting married and having children with another officer opens up new abilities for the battlefield, but they never have a great impact on your play style or the dynamics of the battlefield.
There are a few other modes that offer some gameplay outside of the single player Empires mode. You can set up a custom battle in Free Play, which allows you to choose characters and have your armies fight each other. You can also go online to play with others in either co-op or competitive battles that play out in a classic Dynasty Warriors domination format. But connection issues and the lack of players online really make it difficult to enjoy the game’s online capabilities.
There is also a customization mode that allows you to change up the banners and color scheme of all the characters in the game. You can customize everything from your banners, characters, units, and even your war horses when on the battlefield. This is neat with how intricate you can be with your customizations, but this loses value quickly since you can’t easily show off your look to other players online.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires unfortunately has many technical problems that are abundant throughout the experience. Lots of texture pop-ins and collision detection issues are found frequently in all of the game’s levels. Interactive structures and enemies will disappear and reappear when moving the camera as you traverse the battlefield. The camera itself becomes a major issue when it gets stuck behind obstacles and environmental structures while fighting.
The frame rate also takes a nose dive when the screen becomes heavily populate with enemies, making it near impossible to react to what is happening on screen. During online play, these issues can pair up with connection problems and make online matches completely unplayable.
The new ideas in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires are interesting concepts that can develop more with subsequent titles, but their implementation here is subpar at best. The game features cross-save functionality between the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 versions of the game, but there are no benefits from owning Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires on both platforms. The online mode is all but non-existent, which defeats the purpose of customizing all of your characters.
The technical problems are incredibly frequent occurrences that break the game and diminish any fun you might have while playing. While there are some solid ideas here, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires just doesn’t deliver.
This review was based on a digital version of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires for the PlayStation Vita provided by Koei Tecmo.