Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires Makes Me Nervous

Especially after 9 in general.

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires

At the Tokyo Game Show 2020, Koei Tecmo unveiled a one-two punch in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Dynasty Warriors, the company’s tentpole series. Those punches came in the form of a Dynasty Warriors mobile game and Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires. And unlike the legions upon legions of faceless mooks that I mow down in a heartbeat, these announcements make me a little bit hesitant.

To be fair, whatever Dynasty Warriors game was announced following the, uh, “divisive” Dynasty Warriors 9 was always going to be met with a great deal of trepidation. The mobile game leaves one feeling perhaps less nervous and more indifferent. I don’t think anyone is going to be nominating any DW game for GOTY, not even me, and this is especially true for any kind of mobile game.

Announcements like these are historically greeted by groans from longtime fans of long-running franchises, such as the likes of Mario or Diablo. This one does make me a little curious, however, as Koei Tecmo and Omega Force, the publisher and developer of the DW games respectively, will be working directly on the game, so there is some potential here. It could, at its worst, be an okay tapper to play on the toilet or, at best, a much better version of Dynasty Warriors Advance from the GBA.

Dynasty Warriors 9
Dynasty Warriors 9

But the big fish here is the Empires game, which could be the series’ shot at redemption in the eyes of fans. Dynasty Warriors 9 was a critical mess (and yet somehow a PlayStation Hit) and personally, I often find the Empires games a great deal more enjoyable than the main games. I also have a bit of an emotional attachment to them. While the infamous Dynasty Warriors 3 was the first installment I ever played, it was getting a copy of Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires that sent me down the rabbit hole of falling in love with the franchise, the source material, and the entire damn company.

For those less familiar, the Dynasty Warriors: Empires games are sort of expansive side-games of the main series Dynasty Warriors titles, of course known for their 1-vs-100 style battles. The Empires games, though, are much more based around strategy and tactics, not unlike Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms series.

They are sort of a simplified hybrid version of both DW and RotTK, giving the player control over a historical or fictional faction as you try to unify China. It’s up to you to decide what tactics and policies you would like to enact every “turn.” At the end of that turn, players have the option to invade other territories or, should the moment arise, defend. It’s rather simple and quick, thereby making it somewhat addicting.

Which is why I’m not sure if I can forgive them if they mess it up.

Dynasty Warriors 9
Dynasty Warriors 9

Luckily, it’s already been confirmed that Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires will not be receiving the much-maligned open world that made DW9 so empty and lifeless. Rather, it will be using much of that world and the characters to simply bring refinement to the established Empires model. This is an enormous sigh of relief. My favorite part of the announcement, however, is that Empires will be on nearly every console including the Switch, which is the perfect format for the scale of that series.

But all that doesn’t quite clear out the butterflies. While I have no real hangups about how the game will play if they aren’t changing too much, there is a giant red flag on some smaller things like the character roster. For those who noped out of DW9 after playing just enough to hate it, you’ll be surprised to hear there is not one, not two, but three season passes for the game.

The Empires games usually come complete with whatever roster the game is attached to, but with this recent addiction to season passes, this might not be the case. While the mobile game can easily give way to in-game purchases, the Empires game could have just as many. So for a smaller game, you may wind up paying double for all the missing content.

And this is all without even mentioning the actual #1 reason I clocked out of DW9 – the voice acting. As I and many have noted several times before, Dynasty Warriors has a very strange relationship with its English dubs. While Dynasty Warriors 3’s horrible dub is hilarious and adds to the immense amount to the already over-the-topness of the story and characters, DW9’s voices were lacking so much of everything.

The actors who had played most, if not all, the characters for the past several games were not involved (possibly because of the 2016-2017 voice actors strike) and the folks they got to replace them made me want to stop running hearing.exe. It would be a treat if they brought back some of the previous voice actors. Or, if some actors have moved on to bigger things (looking at you, Matthew Mercer), at least get ones that know what a conversation sounds like. Relatively small thing, but it was a deal breaker to me because there were a lot of characters, a lot of talking, and a lot of cringe.

If folks need their “Warriors” style fix, there is Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity a little over a month away and there’s also the hope for a potential Persona 5 Scramble release in the west sometime soon. But do I have hope for these most recently announced true blue Dynasty Warriors titles? Absolutely, and I wish them all the best. Am I hyped for them? Well, forgive me if even my “Love This Mediocre Series To An Absurd Degree” ass is a bit tempered.

Just let me make my own ancient Chinese dream team to conquer the empire within ten turns using cheap tactics and give me the option to do it all handheld and I think I’ll be square.

Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires releases on PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Steam in 2021.

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