Thursday, April 15, 2010

Koei, this is what Dynasty Warriors needs!

Dynasty Warriors has problems; loads of them. But like any faithful, scrupulous fan, I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve had countless hours of fun thwacking brain-dead oriental soldiers. Koei knows how to make an extremely addictive hack-and-slasher. Unfortunately they also know how to kill one… fast. It may seem too late for this vehemently used franchise to bounce back, but all it needs is a refresher and who better to spin it to them then a fellow warrior?

Innovation isn’t something the Dynasty Warriors series is known for. As a matter of fact, it’s not known for a whole heck of a lot, except for maybe raw number of games churned out and the worst voice-acting of all time. Spanning more than 20 titles, you can only mash the same buttons so many times before you ask yourself the glorious question, “Haven’t I done this before?” That’s the biggest issue with the historical slasher; repetition. Now, all games commit to some form of repetition but Dynasty Warriors takes it to a whole different level. The best way to describe it fully is, if you played one game then you’ve pretty much played the others, albeit with slight and I mean slight variances.

Perhaps the best iteration of the series was the fifth installment, and for good reason. The major reason behind this is because you were able to move your character in any direction at any time during any attack. If you’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game or never made it to that numerical value then let me make my jargon a little clearer. Picture an angry, gussied up and most likely bearded officer who’s running toward a mob of petty soldiers. Once the officer hits a soldier, just one, with any of his attacks he’s locked into that one direction and will keep going that way until attacking is halted. In Layman’s, it’s like handing a ball off to your running back who’s facing the sideline and watching as he plows into the water boy and camera crew. Instead of making a play in an attempt to gain more yardage, our officer is forced into a direct path with nothing.

The movement change in Dynasty Warriors 5 certainly changed the gameplay for the better, but Koei still hasn’t changed the stale animations and move sets of the playable officers. This means series veterans like Zhao Yun are still rocking the same special attacks and moves from previous installments. Sure, there have been minor tweaks here and there but the skills have remained largely unchanged. This is tricky because, like a fighting game, you alienate your fan-base if you overhaul the moves too much but then you’re criticized if you don’t change enough.

The bottom line here is that Dynasty Warriors needs more useful moves and should follow in the footsteps of other hack-and-slashers that largely represent what the game already is. Take a look at Devil Kings, Capcom’s take on the DW formula. The game was largely inferior but presented some great ideas like custom special attacks. Hold R1 and tap square to do a special move like blasting out a small shockwave. Even Samurai Warriors triangle combo system built upon the conventional square system to allow more variety. While seeing old abilities is nice, Koei must expand upon this and give their fans moves that don’t suck. It’s about damn time Xiahou Yuan and Huang Zhong didn’t share the same garbage special attack.

It doesn’t help either that the game has the most brain-dead AI I’ve ever witnessed. You could literally stand in a crowd, set your controller down and a few minutes later still walk out alive. It’s nice to send droves of soldiers flying back several hundred feet every few seconds, but the challenge, if you can even call it that, only presents itself when a much stronger officer appears. I’m not asking for F.E.A.R. type AI here. If that was the case your ass would be vaporized by the first three dudes with bows. I’d like to see enemies react at least a little more realistically to what’s going on around them. Devil Kings did it right in the sense that when you vanquished a leader all their followers began stumbling around and became significantly weaker as they tried to run away. Dynasty Warriors’ soldiers just stare at you blankly, pick up their gear and take off to erratic point B.

Offering to bolster the AI does provide some challenges as it could possibly alter the accessibility of the game in an egregious way. Creating a more heavy-handed approach means it wouldn’t be as fun cutting a swath through the sieve-like defenses of enemies units. Regardless, Koei can definitely make improvements so the battlefield doesn’t look like a bunch of retards holding sticks.

All this, though, would be infinitely better if Koei actually implemented some type of multiplayer element into the fold. With the modernization of the internet to this generation of consoles, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of co-op and multiplayer games shipped with every title. Dynasty Warriors has always had a strong point with co-op and it’s a feature of every game. Why then does Koei refuse to do a standard online multiplayer approach? Allow friends to join via split-screen or over PSN/Xbox Live. The absence of this feature is completely baffling and further exemplifies my point that Koei needs to change things up.

Through all of this I’ve said that Koei hasn’t changed anything; that isn’t exactly true. Technically, Dynasty Warriors 6 and Strike Force were the complete overhauls I’ve been begging for… only horrendous in the worst of ways. Dynasty Warriors 6 changed the entire game and along with it all the characters we’ve come to appreciate. I applauded the effort for change, but they seriously took everything and, for lack of a better description, vomited on it. For instance, Gan Ning, the Wu pirate signified by his long-ass sword, tattoos, and heinous running special attack were replaced by a dude with poofy anime hair and daggers. That’s not Gan Ning. Also, for reasons I still cannot truly explain, the emphasis on striking and blowing opponents away had no real weight behind them. After a single battle I felt as though my enemies were made of foam and feathers.

Strike Force showed how anti-climactic normal fights could be and how our powerful current-gen systems still chugged while running the game. To make matters far worse, you could even morph into a super dude which looked like something straight out of Dragon Ball Z. The coup de grace though, flying. That’s right, you could fly. I’m done here.

There are so many things Koei could do to bring the luster back to such a crippled series, it’s almost endless. My advice, keep up with the times and know your roots. We don’t need a Gan Ning throwing energy beams and charging his power level to over 9,000. And we definitely don’t need any historical Chinese warriors who can fly.

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