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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dynasty Warriors 6 - Review

Speaking of armies vs. armies, I guess now would be a good time to review Dynasty Warriors 6, albeit delayed.
Please take into account that the last game I've played was Dynasty Warriors 4. The only thing I know about 5 is that they switched the musou campaign system to "Legend of" campaigns instead of "kingdom" campaigns.

People who know hack and slash know Dynasty Warriors. Basing the game off of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" a novel written following the fall of the Han, players take control of a hero from said novel and partake in a (to a series of) minor/major skirmish(es) which will result in a modified scenario based off of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms."

It's considered by many to be the epitome of the "hack and slash" genre precisely because of Koei's continuous developments on making it more "slashable" with greater numbers of people you can wipe in a single blow. In a sense the game becomes a mindless button masher that's used to kill time, and I'm fine with that.

The overall flow of the game consists of two sides warring against each other. You take the role of an officer on one of the sides and it's your goal to kill officers, infantry and the leading officer to win the mission. There are also side missions or "targets" that generally add either a layer of difficulty to the mission or help make it easier (usually the former). These "targets" have exp and weapon rewards so it's generally a good idea to at least aim for them as finding weapons in battle isn't too common.

The game mechanics have changed much since the previous versions. Attacks their respective combos are based on a "renbu" system. The renbu gauge is a small gauge on the left of your character portrait, it starts off at 1 and as you deal more combos and longer chains, the gauge will rise and grow to 2 then 3 then infinite. As the gauge grows each level you will be able to extend your current combos with an additional 1-3 hits, in addition, your weapon range will increase slightly and if your weapon has any elemental effects, chances of it occurring during an attack increase.

Each officer also has a "special attack" or rather.... skill. These are inherent
active attacks or skills that can be acquired in battle. Rather, a character is set with a skill and you need to find a pick up to use it. These skills affect your character or your environment, such as starting a rock slide to kill enemy troops or temporarily setting your renbu to infinite.

Needless to say, the desired renbu rank is infinite, as you unlock the final tier combo as well as max out your weapon's combat abilities. The final combo is usually a rapid succession of swings or attacks that can clear crowds instantly. Unfortunately, renbu ranks are locked until the character grows. Which is a perfect segue into character growth.

Officers grow RPG style in that the more kills they achieve and mission targets they achieve, the more EXPerience they acquire and thus when a certain number of EXP is attained, they "level up." In addition to leveling up, players now have to manage a flowchart that affects passive skills. For each level, the player is given a skill point for that officer, and players must choose a flow chart path to place those skill points into. Unlike Growlanswer: Heritage of War where you set skills into a flow chart, this flow chart is preset and it's simply a matter of unlocking a path. The flow chart allows some lenience however, you can go halfway into one flow just to get a desired skill and then finish off a different branch. Technically, it's possible to cover the entire flow chart by level 50 (the max) but a little planning will definitely help out in future battles. Not everyone has every passive skill, which adds individuality to each character (along with their weapons).

I don't know how it's done in 5, but weapons do not level up. Instead, weapons are obtained by either picking up an item box from a fallen general or completing a target. Weapons are random to a degree. The difficulty of a battle will determine the probability of the stats of the weapons. In addition, weapons can have their own passive skills and/or elements attached. Of course these probabilities can be tipped to your favor if an officer you use has the "Lady Luck" skill enabled in their flow chart. Each officer has 8 weapon slots so if players are stuck between two weapons, they can store them and test them both later. Weapons come in 3 catagories: Skill, Standard, and Strength. Skill weapons generally have lower attack than the other weapon types but have a higher tendency to have elements and skills attached. They also make the player attack faster which is very noticeable once the player reaches infinite renbu. Standard weapons are well balanced throughout and all officers start with a standard weapon. The plus side to these weapons is that they increase range significantly to the point where the weapon range increases to nearly two times the original range at infinite renbu. Strength weapons are exactly what they sound like. They generally have high attacks in comparison with the others and have lower chances for skills. They have the smallest range modifiers but their high damage tends to make up for that.

Horses are now found and raised in this game. Horses can be found either by picking up a saddle from a fallen enemy officer or through the "gain saddle" skill from a previously mounted horse. Almost every map contains a "saddle box" but one can't really count on those. Because of the very few ways one can obtain saddles, chances of them dropping are higher than those of weapons.
Because horses are now raised, one cannot simply find the Red Hare anymore. After a player picks up a saddle, in the post-battle/results screen, the obtained horse is shown in a similar system to weapons. It has a name, stats, and "description" which would determine its growth build. Horses only have 5 levels to gain and they obtain experience simply by participating in battles, and killing enemies while mounted on said horse. Needless to say, killing while mounted will tend to net much more experience than relying on the fixed exp given for participation. One CAN breed specialty horses however, if a horse's description is one that gives the highest stat growth then, there's a chance at level 5 that it will become a "king."

Now for what I think of it. Unlike the other reviews, I'm going to stray from the "formula" a bit. There are some things that I like, don't like, and certain things that make me think. Dynasty warriors by the 6th one in a sense has become much simpler. Before, players had to press a combination of the speed and charge attacks to initiate combos. A different number of speed attacks followed up by a charge attack would have different combo attacks and added a bit of variety into the game. Now, normal and charge attacks are separate entities so any combination of normal attacks followed by a charge attack won't change what the combo looks like. It will be the same charge attack. I like this and dislike this in a few ways. First, I think it's nice that charge now has it's own separate combo attack that is dependent on the renbu gauge. Yes, it does make the game look a bit more monotonous and simple but there's a clear distinction between which attack is for single enemies and which attack is for crowds. Another thing that 6 has which has made my day are the grapple attacks. If the player holds guard and then normal attack or charge attack while not under attack him/herself they will do a simple strike that will attempt to grab the enemy. Not only is it guaranteed damage, but it's a lot of guaranteed damage and it can be used against guarding foes. Let me make that bigger for dynasty warrior vets.
GRAPPLE ATTACKS CAN HURT FOES THAT ARE GUARDING. Why is this such a big deal? Dynasty Warriors is one of the most annoying and painful games in terms of "difficulty." In earlier versions as well as the orochi versions, the enemy's guard practically makes them impervious to attacks. There's no way to even break the guard or hurt them besides using Musou, a move that has it's own separate gauge that grows as either enemies or players are hit, or having an element that breaks guard. The result tends to be that games would take 30 minutes longer than they should because generals refuse to attack and simply guard forever. Dynasty Warriors 6 fixes that by allowing players to grab these nuisances.

There's a hint of complexity to the battlefield that I noticed on the harder difficulties that I wish was embellished a bit. I noticed this from the dynasty warriors 5 site that featured certain types of command points that served different functions. Basically, in dynasty warriors 6 there were times where I had to plan out my attack. It sounds stupid considering this is supposed to be a mindless, button mashing hack and slash, but I noticed features of the game that intrigued me quite a bit. The first thing that caught my attention were the officers who went into battle with other officers. I realized that even on "normal" difficulty they weren't useless. The minimap on the right side of the screen does a very good job in indicating bases owned by which side, and officers who are bulls eyes colored in their proper colors among clouds of blue or red depending on the density of the troops of a certain side. In general, one side will win if they have more officers than the other side. So two blue officers will be able to kill one red officer assuming they haven't been surprised or facing a hero. Non player controlled heroes also have a large effect in battle. Many are able to kill other officers pretty quickly and so they were always a priority for me.

In addition, if ally officers are around 30-50% health, they tend to hang back in ally forts to restore health or if they are near an enemy camp/fort, they will attempt to overtake it. The AI isn't stupid, but it occasionally makes some awkward "decisions" like trying to overtake a fort alone filled with 5 or so officers. Other times, I wished that the AI would wait for a bit so that I could clear any heroes first before they initiated an attack.

What I really wanted in the game was officer/squad commanding. Occasionally, missions have either a "no ally officer can die" or a certain number of officers must survive target which involves the player to be constantly running from one side of the map to the other. There are also times when I would need to be at two places at once. If I was given the ability to command, I would try and focus more officers on the path I wasn't going. Essentially, Dynasty Warriors 6 is a good game as is. It's simple and has some complex elements that shouldn't really bother players unless they were playing on Very Hard or Chaos difficulty.

Hm..... there's something about the last 3 paragraphs that really bother me. I'll probably revise it later. I can't seem to articulate it at the moment.

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