Review by Optimus Magnus

"The quest to conquer Ancient China gets bigger and better."

The quest to conquer Ancient China gets bigger and better. Now, before we get started, YES, there's ANOTHER Dynasty Warriors game. And YES, it's the “same” as all the others. I say “same” because when you step back and look at each game individually, rather than look at the series as a whole, you will notice that there are differences between each main game (Empires and Xtreme Legends not included, though those do change as well). So this review will be looking at Dynasty Warriors 7 as it's own game, as every review for any game in a series should do.

Introduction or “During the late Han Dynasty, unrest began to spread throughout the land”:

So here's KOEI, coming off a mixed reception of Dynasty Warriors 6, thinking what will they do for the next Dynasty game to make people enjoy the series again. I say this because a lot of people, fans mostly, didn't enjoy 6 at all because of the drastic changes made to the combat and lack of unique weapons and move-sets. I look at 6 as it's own game and enjoy it, a lot. Is it the best Dynasty Warriors game? No, but it's certainly not the worst either. But a lot of people think it is the worst so KOEI had to do something to lure them back to the series. And oh man, they did it.

To start, they brought back the old combat style of stringing X and Y together for a variety of combos. They also brought back characters that they cut out of 6. And they gave the characters their unique weapons back, for the most part. They also added an entire new Kingdom, Jin, with all but one new character in it. Now let's not get ahead of ourselves. For every good thing I just mentioned, there's some bad. A lot of characters share weapons, and the move-sets are the same, but they aren't the same. I'll explain that in greater detail later. And only a handful of characters are playable in each Kingdom's Story Mode. However, there's the new Conquest Mode, which is basically Free Mode from the older games but with a purpose, conquering China. And I'll go into further detail on Conquest Mode later as well, as there's a lot of content to discuss about it.

To put it simply, KOEI combined aspects of past games and the Empires series to make Dynasty Warriors 7.

Game-play or “*hack* HAHA!! *slash* I AM A TRUE WARRIOR OF THE THREE KINGDOMS!!!!”:

If you've played a Dynasty Warriors game or a Samurai Warriors game or even a Dynasty Warriors: Gundam game, you've played them all, right? Kinda sorta. Each of those series obviously have differences in game-play, but each game in each series also has differences. And Dynasty Warriors 7 is full of them.

First off, what's similar. It's still the tried and true formula of “Go there, hack and slash those guys a lot and then go to that other place and keep hacking and slashing.” KOEI has done that for over 20 games (including spin-offs and the Samurai and Gundam games). In Dynasty Warriors 7, they do away with the Renbu system from 6 and bring back the charge system from older Dynasty Warriors games. You've got 6 basic attacks, performed with the X button. And you have 6 charge attacks, performed with the Y button. And to get to all but the first charge attack, you have to do however many basic attacks you want. So if I wanted to do the 5th charge attack, I'd have to do 4 basic attacks with X and then hit Y. Musou attacks are also in but those are also different. Every character can now have 2 Musou attacks, indicated by two separate Musou bars. And unlike in previous games where you could hold done the B button to do longer Musou attacks, once you push B, you do the attack and that's it. And because of the 2 separate bars, you can't charge them up like before either, so you have to find an item to refill them or attacks enemies or take damage like usual. The Musou change is one different part of combat and another is the addition of EX attacks.

Before I get into what EX attacks are let me say this. YES, there are clone move-sets. Bad KOEI, bad! Right? Again, kinda sorta. There are 62 playable characters in Dynasty Warriors 7 and only 36 different types of weapons (with 10 weapons in each type) so a lot of characters will use the same weapon type. But that's nothing new as many characters have done so in past games. What's different now is each weapon only has the one move-set. So it's 62 characters, 32 move-sets. Some characters share weapons and some don't. What prevents everyone from being a direct clone is the EX attack. Each character has a preferred weapon type, like Zhao Yun and spears. Equip Zhao Yun with a spear and you can then do his EX attack by doing a certain combo with the spear. Every character has an EX attack that is unique to them, and the same goes for Musou Attacks, though with those there is some similarity between characters. But even if two characters charge forward through the enemies, they will charge differently.

Another different thing in 7 is something taken from Strikeforce and that's being able to equip 2 weapons. Any character can use any weapon, though there's a new feature called “Proficiency” where you gain abilities the more proficient you are with a weapon (Zhao Yun can create whirlwinds when attacking with spears, for example). So while you can use any weapon you want, you're rewarded for using a character's preferred weapon. What's different from Strikeforce and other Dynasty games is you can perform Switch Attacks. Each weapon has an attack you do when you push Right Bumper to switch to your other weapon. And some of these attacks grant bonuses like increased attack speed.

ANOTHER different thing is the inclusion of “Seals”. Seals are bonuses that you can equip to a weapon, such as Attack + or Increased Walking Speed. Every weapon has a Seal that you can learn, and you slowly learn it by defeating Officers with that weapon. Once learned, you can equip it to a slot on any weapon and the effects are now yours. And since you can equip two weapons, you can put the same Seal on both weapons for double the effect.

KOEI did away with equipping items for increased stats in Dynasty Warriors 6. Instead they introduced a level up system where you could learn skills by spending skill points. That system is somewhat combined with the older system, but instead of items you now use Seals. When you defeat an Officer, you earn Skill Points which can be spent on Skills. Skills like Musou +1 (adds an extra Musou bar), Second Musou Attack, Increased Attack Range etc..

Apart from the Story, there's Conquest Mode, which is best described as “Empires Light”. It's like Empires in the sense that you move across Ancient China, taking over territory as you go. But it's different in the sense that it's just you. The land is broken up into individual hexes. Each hex is a stage. You unlock new hexes by completing adjacent ones. Some of them are special too. Like the Legendary Battles. Legendary Battles are character-specific battles that are retellings of certain events or entirely new battles for that specific character. And Legendary Battles are how you unlock characters that aren't unlocked through normal play of each Kingdom's Story. There are also Treasure Battles which get you unique weapons for each weapon type. And some of the hexes are Cities. These act as a place to buy new weapons, Guardian Animals and take quizzes. Guardian Animals are just that, animals you take into battle with you. It could be a mount like a horse or elephant or even a BEAR. YOU CAN RIDE A BEAR INTO BATTLE. Or they can be Companions like a wolf or tiger that run along side you and fight enemies. You also create bonds with any character you help or defeat in any stage in Conquest Mode. And if you make the bond strong enough, you can then ask that character to join you in battle. The quizzes are done by Scholars that appear from time to time and they test your knowledge on the Three Kingdoms Era and reward you with gold. There's also 2-player on-line Co-op and split-screen for Conquest Mode.

With so many freedoms given to you when it comes to weapons and the new features to combat such as Seals, EX attacks and multiple Musou Attacks, and the entirely new Conquest Mode, you can't fault the game for having clone move-sets. 10/10

Story or “The Kingdoms of Wei, Wu and Shu once again go to battle.”:

So here we are again, another Dynasty Warriors game with the same story. But just like with the game-play, there are differences that make this game stand out above the others.

For one, there's the entire new Kingdom of Jin, with all new characters. Another thing is the new forced characters for every Stage. Now, that may seem like a negative thing, especially if you're forced to play as someone you don't really like. But it serves a purpose and that is accuracy. I know, I know, this series isn't praised for it's accuracy at all because it's based off a romanticized novel based off of the Three Kingdoms Era. But at least KOEI is trying this time. And they actually do it very well. Obviously though, there will be some…inconsistencies, with the Story. Such as who finishes off Zhang Jiao during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. But aside from that, it's about as close to historically accurate as you can get at this point.

There's also a lot more dialogue between and during Stages. It's more like you're being told what's going on as well as participating in it this time than in previous games where you just sorta breezed through the narration and got to the battles. And they have seamless transitions from events/camp to actual game-play. Once the stage loads, after the narrator goes over what happened and what's going on, you're put into a camp and you use this to star the battle. You can walk around and talk to other characters and learn a bit about what's going on from their perspective and then when you talk to the person to star the battle, it starts right away, no extra loading screen. The same applies to any in-game events. Once it's over you don't have to sit through a loading screen, you're already playing again.

With the more narrative approach to each Story and each battle, and seamless transitions, along with the entirely new Kingdom of Jin, the Three Kingdoms Era has never been so interesting before. 10/10

Graphics/Sound or “*battle cry, guitar riff, clang* Look at those beautiful fields”:

The game is in HD, and it shows. Character expressions, battlefields, movements and buildings all look great. The only downside to the HD graphics is the awful text. If you're using an SD TV, prepare to squint when you have to read something. Thankfully, there isn't much reading to be done during the Story Modes. In Conquest Mode though, you have to read all the Scholars questions and the HD text on an SD TV can make that a chore. The sounds are nice, and the music is the same old same old but there are new tracks and remixes of old ones and they can really set the tone of the game at times. And the voices are actually pretty good for a change. Since there's a lot more dialogue than previous games, each character talks more than before and while none of the voices are superb, none of them are so-bad-it's-annoying either. And the pronunciation of names and places seems to be more accurate as well. And as a bonus, the lip-synching was re-synched for English so everyone looks like they are saying what's being said. That only applies to events and not movies, but it's still a nice touch. And the game supports 3D graphics so if that's something you like, you'll get it with this game. But really, the plain HD graphics are nice enough by themselves.

The HD graphics are nice, even on an SD TV, and while none of the sounds, music or voices are bad, none of them are great either. And that damn text gets annoying, fast but if you have an HD TV that won‘t be a problem. 8/10

Play-time/Replayability or “How much longer will this war last?”:

If you've read this far, you can see that there's a lot of content in this game. 62 characters to play as, 360 weapons to unlock, 4 Kingdoms to play as, Conquest Mode and both on-line and off-line co-op. There are quizzes you can take, conversation you can listen to and a bunch of unlockables. Each Kingdom's Story has around 15-25 stages, and the stages are HUGE so even on horseback it may take a bit to get from one place to the other. This all adds up to quite the play-time. Beating any Kingdom's Story can take you a day or two, depending on how fast you do it, and beating all of them will take a few days to a week. Completing Conquest Mode will also take a few days to a week, or longer if you keep switching characters. And maxing out every character and earning all Seals and obtaining all weapons will further add on to your overall play-time. So an initial run through the whole game can take at least one week if you're quick. There isn't much in terms of Replayability since you can't pick who you want to play as in Story Mode, even after you beat it, and Conquest Mode is the same, regardless as who you play as, but there's still a lot to do.

The sheer amount of content, whether it's characters or weapons, or Story/Conquest Mode, will keep you playing for a while. But it may not keep you playing. 8/10

Final Recommendation or “The greatest of the Three Kingdoms Era.”:

As you've seen, there's a lot in this game. It goes back to the older style of combat, in introduces an entire new Kingdom with new characters, it brings back old characters. It looks great, sounds great and plays great. On-line co-op, or offline. Older fans will get something new with Jin and all the new features. New players will be introduced to the best telling of the Three Kingdoms Era yet. If you're an old fan, you need to play this game, if only for the Kingdom of Jin, which will be new to you. If you're a new fan wondering where to start, there's no better place than Dynasty Warriors 7.

Overall Score - 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/06/11

Game Release: Dynasty Warriors 7 (US, 03/29/11)

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