Dynasty Warriors 9 is intended as a fresh start for the series, a big numbered entry in a franchise that hasn’t changed a lot in the past decade and a half. It’s technically ambitious, an open-world China you can explore rather than a series of segmented maps. It’s an opportunity for big change for developer Omega Force, and an opportunity for new players to jump in and get the core experience of the franchise rather than a spinoff or variant.
So, um, about that opportunity.
If you were looking for a developer to make a game that could be described as “technically ambitious,” you would probably go to many other teams before ending up at Omega Force, the crew responsible for somehow still not figuring out how to reliably show its enemies on screen in the same game it’s been making for almost two decades. And you’d be right, because Dynasty Warriors 9 runs about as poorly as you’d expect.
If you were looking for a developer to make a game that could be described as “technically ambitious,” you would probably go to many other teams before ending up at Omega Force.
We’ve been testing the game on a standard PS4 and hear that it may run slightly better on beefier platforms, but “slightly better” than the single-digit frame rates we regularly saw doesn’t really cut it either. It crashes often in all sorts of situations, be it managing inventory, fighting officers or just walking around. When it does run, it looks sparse and muddied in an early-Xbox 360 sort of way, and it does it without any of the visual flourishes that have made Omega Force’s games look polished for most of this console generation.
These problems can, of course, be patched. But what’s harder to patch is the design of the world itself. A connected world is an interesting idea, but it really feels like Omega Force just heard that people like open-world games but didn’t know what makes them interesting or how to implement them. Nothing is between forts to see. Collectible resources are sprinkled about without any thought or real motivation to track them down. All the hillsides and paths look the same, and when you do get to a destination, it’s not an interesting tactical arena in the way Omega Force’s best recent games have managed. You run on your horse for a few minutes without seeing anything, hit one named enemy when you get there a few times, then turn around and run on your horse for a few minutes without seeing anything again.
There are towers to climb to reveal the map because someone told Omega Force that open-world games needed them, but you’re looking out at nothing and it reveals very little. There are lots of fast-travel points, which certainly helps, but only in the sense that you’ll waste slightly less time between brain-dead fights that don’t seem to matter very much.
The music is, well, standard Dynasty Warriors music, so you likely know how you feel about it. The English voice acting is straight-up awful, which will make you grateful that there are other options. We don’t know if those lines are delivered more convincingly, but… well, not knowing is an improvement. The menus are about as convoluted as could be managed by an experienced team like this, and there’s inexplicable lag in these menus when trying to accomplish even minor tasks.
Even a weaker Warriors game is often saved by being simple fun with a friend, and that’s become a real selling point for the franchise. Dynasty Warriors 9 contains no multiplayer functionality. We get it; the game runs abysmally as-is, so it would probably stop altogether if it attempted network connectivity or split-screen rendering. But it cuts into the game’s worth in a way that’s made worse by how little it otherwise manages.
With all of Dynasty Warriors 9‘s problems, there are ideas here that, if executed well, could have been fun.
With all of Dynasty Warriors 9‘s problems, there are ideas here that, if executed well, could have been fun. An open-world China with actual life and personality could have given the series a sense of place. Adjustable moves and elements could give your character a custom feel, rather than the off-the-shelf sort of approach of older games. The ability to approach objectives from multiple angles could, combined with actual in-game mechanics to back up these ideas, make for the sort of dynamic problem-solving of something like Breath of the Wild. And maybe Omega Force can think about that when it goes back to the drawing board for its next release.
Please play really any other Warriors game. There are ones that are quite good! But Dynasty Warriors 9 is a huge step back for the series, with motivations entirely in the wrong place and tons of “areas” and “content” with nothing to make any of it meaningful.