Graphics:
6.5
Gameplay:
8.5
Sound:
7.6
Control:
8.3
Replay Value:
8.8
Overall Rating:
8.0
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Koei Tecmo
Developer:
Omega Force
Number Of Players:
1-4
Genre:
Action/Strategy
Release Date:
November 24, 2015


I haven’t played a really good Dynasty Warriors game in a while. A few of the spin-offs were decent but in my estimation, this series hasn’t been especially impressive since the early days of the PS2. However, despite my lingering reservations heading into the Vita version of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires – the first franchise spin-off to launch for North American Vitas – I have to admit, I’m pleased with the result. Yeah, they had to scale back the graphics from the PS4 version so the game would run smoothly on Sony’s portable, and there’s still that element of repetitiveness and some minor camera issues but for the most part, this is really fun and rewarding game.

Due to the downscaling of the graphics, this isn’t the best Vita game you’ll ever see. There are unfortunate low-res textures and mediocre character models, along with outdated visual issues like pop-in and clipping. The PS4 version wasn’t exactly a graphical tour de force to begin with, so lowering the quality for this iteration puts a damper on the experience. Yes, graphics do matter. Even so, I’d much rather have an average-looking game with consistent frame rate, and that’s no easy feat when there are a ton of characters on screen at once and the action is blazing fast. Developer Omega Force did the right thing in toning down the graphics, even if it’s still not perfect (special skills can still make the frame rate chug).

The sound is a little better thanks to a wide assortment of hard-hitting special effects that lend a sense of urgency and explosiveness to the combat. The soundtrack, much like some of the more tedious battles, can be very repetitive and the voice performances range from poor to average. But these are minor flaws because you’re always so focused on the gameplay, which continues to demand your attention at every turn. A game’s audio should reflect the goal of the product; in this case, the battlefield sounds should dominate and that’s precisely what they do. The score and voices are basically in the background, complementary without being impressive or even necessary. And the Vita’s great sound lets this high-impact title really pop in your hands.

I think I was surprised at how well Dynasty Warriors fits on a portable device. Granted, the developers had to limit the technology involved but that optimization is appreciated, and the depth and fantastic action steal the show. You’re out to conquer the whole of China and that’s no easy task. You have to recruit new soldiers into your ranks, build a functioning and thriving facility, and continually press forward into enemy territory. The best part is the balancing and pacing. Let’s face it; we’re not always sitting in our living rooms playing on a handheld device, so it’s important to have a flexible game. This one lets you sit for a few minutes, tweaking and fine-tuning your army, and also encourages longer play sessions with intense, involving battles.

At the start, you create your hero, which gives that character a more personal bent. In the main series entries, the story typically had you switching between several different characters, so you never felt attached to any one fighter. This way, with your customized hero leading the way, you start to build that all-important emotional attachment. You can select their design, armor, and skill set, and then work to improve every facet of that very personal character. This is where the role-playing feel comes into play, which I always appreciate. Dynasty Warriors has been utilizing RPG elements for a while but this is a first for me: An entry (or spin-off, whatever) where the RPG and strategy aspects actually stand toe-to-toe with the action.