Dynasty Warriors 6 – Xbox 360

Review by Johnus Maximus

Released in Europe on March 7th 2008, also available on PS3, Dynasty Warriors 6 is the latest incarnation of the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” story, developed by Omega Force and published by Koei.

Set in 3rd century China amongst a backdrop of political turmoil, the game tells the stories of the leaders and warriors of the Wei, Wu and Shu kingdoms as they fight for dominance over the land.
Although somewhat exaggerated in terms of their appearance, demeanour and weaponry, each of these characters had an important part to play in one of the most turbulent times of Chinese history.

For those unfamiliar with the Dynasty Warriors series, it can be summarised as a button bashing, hack’n’slash adventure game, with a few strategic elements. If however, you are familiar with the Dynasty Warriors games, you’ll know exactly what to expect. I don’t think that this title has tried to reinvent the genre, it has merely enhanced itself for the current generation of consoles.

Lu Bu
Lu Bu – even though he wears eye shadow, he’s really really tough!

The game boasts a roster of 41 playable characters and has three different play modes: Musou Mode, Free Play and Challenge Mode.

Musou mode is the part of the game that has a storyline. You can choose from 17 of the 41 characters and follow their legend from start to finish. Each story has roughly six battles, with FMV cut scenes before and after each to keep you up to speed with what is happening in that characters story. Musou mode is playable by yourself, or with a second player, the second player is free to choose from any of the 41 characters in the game, providing you have unlocked them.
The main element of the game has always been the Musou mode, and while it is still as fun as ever, it’s a shame that Koei have reduced the number of characters who have storylines (previous Dynasty games let you play as almost all the available characters).

Free play mode allows you to play any of the levels as any of the characters, again providing you have unlocked them, and can be used to build up character levels, beat specific level goals and collect new weapons. As with Musou mode, Free Play can be played with one or two players.
Given that the game has several skill levels and a multitude of achievements to obtain, you’ll be playing Free Play mode for quite some time.

Challenge mode is the final game type, and there are five different challenges to try and beat, for both personal satisfaction and also for Xbox Live prestige:
Rampage – as many kills as you can achieve within 10 minutes
Sudden Death – like rampage mode, but with one hit kills activated
Speed Run – a time trial where you run from base to base as fast as possible
Havoc – 3 minutes to smash as many boxes, juggernauts and arbalests as you can
Gauntlet – collect as many Exp pouches as you can in 5 minutes whilst avoiding hundreds of stampeding horses.

The game types available haven’t really differed much across the series, so what have Koei done to impress the die hard fans and entice new players to the franchise?

Well the first obvious change is the graphics, they’ve had a decent overhaul to make the game look like a next gen console title. Everything in this game does looks a lot more realistic than it has before. The lighting effects have been improved, I found myself quite impressed with the levels that take place in brilliant sunlight, which makes every colour stand out, and also with the levels that take place in complete darkness, with only a few flames and the light of the moon to show you what’s happening.

The characters themselves have also had a makeover from the previous incarnations of this game, as they have new costumes and new weapons that look more detailed than ever before. For this version of the game, motion capture techniques have been used to create much more fluid character animation, and when playing the game you really do notice that the characters move in a more realistic manner.

The next enhancement that I like is that the battlefields have a slightly increased complexity and level of interactivity. The complexity comes from the different levels of elevation that the bases and roads are on, so travelling from one checkpoint to another is not always as straightforward as you might think. There are plenty of hills, bridges, tunnels and rivers to traverse.

Zhou Yu swimming
Zhou Yu – swimming down river to sneak attack an enemy fort

I also like the fact that you can interact a lot more with the scenery. For example, when you come to a closed enemy fort, where previously you had to kill a “Guard Captain” to get the doors to open, now you can just smash the doors down. Instead of toppling an archer tower to kill the occupants, now you can just climb up the ladder and chop them up where they stand.

A lot of the invisible barriers that would exist on a level have been removed, so you can now make inhuman jumps down mountain sides (which look quite funny when done on horseback). Also you can jump into rivers and swim after, or away from, enemies and this can add a whole new layer of strategy to your plans.

Another new feature to the game is the Renbu system, which basically means you have an unlimited hit combo. That’s right, you can just mash the X button for hours and hours and your character will slice, chop or smash their way across the level, albeit very slowly. Defeating enemies without being hit increases the Renbu gauge, and when it is full, you have small enhancements made to the move set your character does. At later stages (the Renbu gauge has 4 levels: 1, 2, 3 and Unlimited) these enhancements can cause quite devastating damage to your enemies.

Not everything about the game is looking good though, one thing that really stands out as being poorly made is the cut scenes. They have a really bad compression rate, and look out of place compared to the graphics used on the actual levels, there’s lots of graininess and blurring. I don’t see why the cut scenes weren’t rendered using the in game graphic engine, as the difference in quality is laughable.

Another of the features that lets the game down is the graphical inadequacy when playing multiplayer. While the solo gamer can enjoy cutting through hundreds of on screen enemies at a time, when two players are attempting the same, the enemies tend to vanish and reappear quite regularly, as if the game can’t handle the pressure of drawing that many objects on screen. As large battles do occur frequently this can get quite tedious.

It’s only really these two aspects that I think take the sheen off an otherwise well polished title. Despite it being a rehash of a game that’s been rehashed many times over (and I’m sure in a few years time we’ll see Dynasty Warriors 7, Lego Dynasty Warriors and probably some other variations on the theme), don’t let the lack of originality stop you from playing it, it really is a lot of fun.

There’s enough goodness in this game to warrant a purchase for both existing fans and newcomers alike.