Review by methedemon
"The Best Dynasty Warriors Series Has To Offer."
Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires is the third Empires game in Koei's long running Dynasty Warriors series. Empires takes DW's hack and slash formula and adds a bit of strategy to it while making the experience a lot less linear.
On The Battlefield
If you have played even a single Dynasty Warriors game then you will find the gameplay here very familiar. You take charge of one of many historical Chinese characters and hack and slash your way through thousands of helpless peons , with the occasional officer putting a bit more of a fight. On harder difficulties you will have to use a bit more strategy, such as conquering bases, cutting off enemy's supply lines or new to DW7:E using "stratagems". Stratagems are unique skills that you can use during a battle and can easily turn the tide in your favor. Some skills can help your allies like "Unity" which heals you and any ally near you while others hurt your enemies like "Fire Arrows". You can equip up to four stratagems to use during a battle and each can only be used once. There are many skills to choose from but not all are available to you, depending on the "Fame" of the character you are using you get a different set of stratagems. Fame is your character's personality, there are six different Fame types, "Orderly" , "Kind" , "Evil" , "Brave" , "Affluent" and "Wise".
Empire is the main mode in the game. You begin by choosing one of over a hundred characters or even you own created one. There are five different scenarios to choose from, such as Yellow Turban Rebellion and Battle of Chbi, although not much changes from scenario to another except for the officers who will appear during your campaign. There is also one (yes just one) "Story" battle unique to each campaign. There are three main ways to play, as a ruler, free officer or subordinate. Playing as a ruler gives you the most abilities and freedom. You can choose to invade another kingdom any time you wish to. You can also employ/hire free officers to build up your army and use "Diplomacy" like striking an alliance with another kingdom. Your ultimate goal is to conquer every territory and unite China under one Kingdom, yours. But of course you will have to overcome other rulers trying to do the same thing. The game is turn based, each turn concludes when you take any action, recruiting an officer, invading a kingdom, or even just interacting with one of your officers will end your turn which also causes one-month to pass. I do find it odd that invading a territory passes one month, and speaking with one of my officers also takes a month..anyway, how you choose to play is up to you. You can be very aggressive and focus on taking territories, or build up your army and strengthen your defenses. You will find that other kingdoms love to invade your territories quite often, the game gives you three turns to enter a defensive battle and win it or that territory is lost. This can be a bit frustrating as you find yourself having to play defensive battles a lot. You can avoid this by appointing a "prefect" to each of your territories, when one of your territories with an appointed prefect is invaded the game will tell you that your prefect is leading the defense and attempting to repel the invasion..of course if 3 turns passes and your prefect fails to repel the invasion that territory is lost. This is a risk you will have to take if you want to avoid playing in defensive battles. When you take over every kingdom, the campaign ends and you get a rather disappointingly short 2 minutes ending. There are six different ending for each Fame type.
Playing as a free officer is quite different that playing as a ruler. You can recruit other free officers to join you and form your own vigilante unit. As a vigilante leader you can't invade other kingdoms but you can join an army going into an invasion, or engage in a "skirmish" to earn gold . You can choose to "Raise your own banner" basically overthrowing the prefect in the territory you're currently in and take the land for yourself and becoming a ruler yourself in the process. You can also choose to serve a kingdom and then you will become a subordinate. As a subordinate, your options are quite limited, you will take orders from your ruler, impress him/her enough and you may get promoted to a prefect or even strategist. As a prefect you will be charged in the protection of a territory and as a strategist you will gain the ability to suggest courses of actions to your ruler such as invading a certain kingdom or requesting reinforcements.
There are many ways to play Empire mode that each campaign feels a little different. You can be a ruthless Evil ruler, execute every officer you capture, raise taxes frequently to gain more gold, and betray your allies. Or you can be benevolent, invest in your kingdom, donate to the poor villages, form alliances with other kingdoms and release/hire captured officers. You can even choose to just be a common officer, do your job and free yourself from all the duties and burdens of being a ruler , like having to constantly defend your territories or building an army. This freedom is what makes the Empire games stands out from the other more linear Dynasty Warriors games. It's sort of like the GTA of DW.
I know many who are willing to buy a game just for such a feature, luckily this is the best Create-A-Warrior in any DW game yet. You can customize everything, height and weight, hair style and color, scars and tattoos etc , there are dozens of clothes and equipment to choose from although many have to be unlocked using Bonus Points you gain by beating Empire mode. You can give your created character his/her "Main" weapon and also choose what their Fame is. You can create as many as you want, and you can even allow them to appear in Empire mode. You can also upload your created characters online so they appear in other people's game.
Graphics and Sound
Dynasty Warriors games were never known for their great visuals and sadly this isn't any different. The game looks almost identical to DW7, officers and weapons do look a bit better thanks to some added details, and the game runs very smooth never dropping frame rate even when the action gets hectic. The game is fully voiced..in Japanese, unfortunately there is no English dub. This was done as a cost-cutting measure according to Koei. At least they didn't hold back with the music, the game features dozens of music tracks from many older DW games, like DW2, DW3 etc this is especially awesome for long time fans who will instantly recognize their favorites from past DW titles. Of course if you never liked DW's rock/techno music to begin with there is not much in here that will change your mind.
While Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires does not revolutionize the series nor cure all of its problems , it does address the biggest issue that plague the typical DW game: repetition by adding much needed strategy elements and allowing the player a lot more freedom in how to play the game. Recommended .
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/07/13
Game Release: Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires (US, 02/26/13)
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