Review by sfcalimari

"A huge disappointment for this huge fan of DW4E."

Dynasty Warriors 4 Empires is definitely one of my favorite ps2 games, and has probably spent more time spinning in my ps2's disc tray than any other game I have ever owned. The game was challenging, the characters were fun to play as, the maps were good, the action was intense, the strategy, though minimal, added nice depth to the usually mindless DW formula. All that a sequel would have had to do was fix the terrible slowdown that occurred on certain maps during huge battles, spice up the graphics, add some new characters and maps, and maybe add a few useful features.

Well, Dynasty Warrior 5 Empires does achieve all this, but a few crucial changes to the Empires formula unfortunately sabotaged DW5E's attempt to be a good sequel to 4E, and indeed they hamper 5E to the point of being a disappointing and boring game.

First of all, the good. There are a few good things about 5E. For one thing, the graphics are noticeably better than 4E's. Characters and maps look sharper and fresher, although the title screen and menus look rather cheesy and outdated, like they are from an old SNES game. Also there doesn't seem to be any of the deadly slowdown if there are a lot of enemies on the screen at once. Unfortunately, the fresher graphics is pretty much the only good thing about 5E.

Ok, now for the bad.

First of all, the battles (which you take part in to conquer new territory or defend your lands) have been changed in a few subtle ways that make them really boring and feel too repetitive and pointless. In 4E, to take over enemy territory, you would have to move to enemy camps and defeat all the enemies there, then move to the next camp. In 5E, you merely have to defeat individual battalion commanders, and you can basically ignore all the other peons rushing around them. There are only 3 or 4 of these commanders at each enemy camp, so you can quickly and easily dispatch them and then rush off to the next camp. In 4E, having to defeat each and every enemy soldier at a camp made for a good but not impossible challenge, and it made battles feel deeper and more interesting. In 5E, the battles feel weak and inconsequential because you really only need to kill a few very easy guys to move on.

Another more major change is that you can give commands to your allied generals, such as attack a certain enemy general, take over a certain enemy camp, etc. This is a good idea, but as usual bad ally AI gets in the way of making these commands very useful. Usually when I command an ally to move forward, they end up allowing an enemy general to slip past them and take over my camps. I guess it is better to allow your generals to act on their own, as they did in 4E, because you really don't need them much except to provide defense to your camps. This command feature could have been useful but instead it seems rather useless and not very responsive.

Another problem with battles in 5E is that the maps have been changed, and not for the better. Whereas stronghold camps in 4E were laid out in a fairly logical manner, in 5E they are often located haphazardly. For instance it may seem like a nearby camp is very close to you, but in fact you need to double back, go around several maze-like corridors, and if you don't get lost, finally find the enemy camp. In any case it feels like you have to do a lot of tedious running around to get to certain camps. And it doesn't help when an enemy general casts this one command that causes you to run twice as slowly (whoever came up with this command needs to be fired), causing even more brain-numbing tedium.

So basically the battles in 5E feel really thin, dull, and rather too briskly easy and tedious at the same time. By comparison, the battles in 4E felt very challenging, intense, and you always felt like you were moving forward and accomplishing your goals.

Before and after the battle sequences, you are allowed to do some hard-core strategizing, by looking at a large set of menus that allow you to look at your acquired provinces, reposition soldiers, choose commands to replenish troop strength, power up your weapons, and so on. In 4E you were allowed to choose only a few commands that your generals offered to you, but in 5E you have a lot more to do, and this isn't really a good thing. It allows you to have more control over your destiny, but it adds in a lot of pointless features and makes for more tediousness that has no place in an action game. It's like they took all the ridiculously complicated menu options from a true strategy game like Nobunaga's Ambition and ported it to an action game. You can rest, you can make treaties, you can have battle items produced. All in all, these new features add in too much complication to what should really be an intense pick-up-and-play action game. 4E allowed you to quickly pick a couple of useful commands and then get on with the action while still giving a sense of strategizing. 5E requires you to putz around making dull administrative choices. Maybe some people enjoy this sort of control, but I find that it has no place in this action game. It is really more suited for a true strategy game like Nobunaga's Ambition or Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Another thing I really hated was having to move my troops to provinces next to an enemy territory if I wanted to invade that territory. In 4E, your generals weren't physically stationed anywhere, and could be summoned up to attack any enemy territory that abutted your land. Unrealistic, but it added to 4E's "pick up and play" feel. So in 5E any time you want to do some invading (which is almost every round) you first have to schlep your generals to a nearby territory, which takes a while and, again, adds to the tediousness of this game.

And one last thing, why the heck do I need like 40 generals? In a recent playthrough of 5E I ended up with 42 generals about halfway through taking over China. In 4E you could only hire maybe 8 or 10 generals, and that was all you needed, because leveling them up took time. It takes just as much time to level up your officers in 5E, and there is no way you can level up 42 guys in one playthrough. Just another thing I found to be pointless and annoying. I guess it is useful to have so many officers because when you first play the game, you cannot play "free mode" at all because you have to first acquire and unlock generals in Story Mode. In 4E all the officers were unlocked for free mode in the beginning. Another thing that made 4E more fun and more accessible.

So, as you might have figured out by now, I was pretty disappointed with this game. DW4E was a near perfect game, with fun and intense action, and just enough strategy during and before battle to make you have to think a little. Unfortunately 5E basically took 4E's formula, watered it down, and added in a bunch of new stuff that makes it needlessly tedious where it should rock n roll.

I highly recommend DW4E over DW5E. You might find 5E to be a good game, but I strongly recommend you rent it before you are sure you like its formula. Take my disappointed criticisms of the game as a warning that 5E really does not live up to its potential.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 09/28/06


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