Dynasty Warriors 9 Review

Richard Walker

I've never quite understood why Dynasty Warriors has developed such a fervent following since the first game released over 20 years ago. Ostensibly a relentless button masher, there's clearly more to Dynasty Warriors than meets the eye that has passed me by, and with Dynasty Warriors 9, there's seemingly more to the game than there ever has been in the past. Going open-world for the first time, Omega Force's long-running series goes big on breadth, but in terms of depth, it's much the same as what's gone before.

Choosing a storyline from the perspective of either the Wei, Wu, Shu or Jin kingdoms (or 'Other' for those not affiliated with one of the great dynasties) and the dozens of characters associated with each, you'll then set off on a long and arduous mission of conquest. Essentially, this boils down to your chosen warrior venturing into the vast expanses of feudal China, clearing out enemy encampments to claim as your own and vanquishing the footsoldiers of the rampant warlords reigning across the land.

"Woosh! Eat my massive chopper!"

Of course, the majority of your time playing DW9 involves cleaving through vast swathes of expendable henchman fodder, focusing on the highlighted assault captains, relief captains, assassins and bandits to break the morale of enemy troops and lowering the support for the big boss fella. But there are also resources to gather, map unfogging watchtowers to climb and allies to aid.

Playing Dynasty Warriors 9, you begin to understand why it's become so popular among dedicated fans. There's something strangely compulsive about juggling ten foes in the air before smashing them into the ground or pirouetting into a crowd of enemies with a sword, watching as they fall in a rippling Mexican wave of death. It's supremely gratifying.

Where Dynasty Warriors 9 comes unstuck is in the inherently repetitious nature of the gameplay. Yeah, it's nice galloping around on your shonky horse and charging into battle, but it can soon wear slightly thin, especially if (like me) you develop a go-to combo that always seems to work. The real meat comes with the deliberately overwrought, dramatic historical narrative and the plethora of side missions you can tackle to help your army overcome the odds in battle. There's more to take into consideration too.

With DW finally going open-world for its ninth mainline instalment, there are shops, blacksmiths and other vendors to visit, as well as weapons and useful items to craft. You can buy yourself a new horse, purchase and furnish a hideaway (if you've got the yen to do so), or just focus on the task at hand, that is spreading your influence and toppling all who dare oppose you. It's this process that proves to be the most fun, watching as the map turns from red to blue, the more camps and temples you conquer and the more generals you defeat.

The game's world is 'live' too, always running in the background while you're off exploring, fighting and making your mark. Your generals will forge ahead and fight without you too, yet beyond plotting your own route across DW9's huge map, there's not much in the way of tactical depth at work, and there's very little to please the eye as you bound around on your horse.

Tigers, bears, wolves and deer roam Dynasty Warriors' forests and plains, as well as roving bands of thieves and scoundrels, but you'll seldom encounter anything that can really put up much in the way of resistance beyond the named foes in the game. Apart from so-called powerful enemies, like giant murderous bears that can knock your head off your shoulders given half a chance, that is.

"Right. Who's getting the drinks in then?"

Chances are, however, that you don't necessarily play Dynasty Warriors expecting deep and involving gameplay. But there is something to be said for the accessible, uncomplicated enjoyment that comes with unleashing a combo then carving a swathe through an entire army with a well-timed Musou flurry. The history behind the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is fantastic too, and in DW9 it plays out in the most gloriously hammy way imaginable.

There's a moment in Cao Cao's storyline, for instance, where his cousin and closest ally Xiahou Dun catches an arrow right in the eye. Instead of screaming in pain and getting upset that he's lost an eye, Dun yanks the arrow from his eyeball, exclaiming that “it's just an eye”, and therefore no big deal.

It's these daft story beats that make Dynasty Warriors 9 so much fun, even if the original story is even more extreme. The legend goes that Xiahou Dun removed the eye pierced by the arrow and ate it, declaring that it was an ancestral gift not to be squandered. Inarguably, the original story (even if it's probably untrue) is infinitely better, but the alternative version of events conjured in the game still prove entertaining.

A sprawling adventure stuffed with character and brimming with endless armies to slice and dice, Dynasty Warriors 9 is unfortunately the same repetitive game beneath all of the new features and open-world accoutrements. If you're already a die-hard Dynasty Warriors fan, nothing is going to deter you from buying DW9, but if you're hopeful that the series spreading its wings into open-world territory means greater depth, you may want to prepare for a modicum of disappointment.

Dynasty Warriors 9

Cards on the table: I enjoyed playing Dynasty Warriors 9 a lot. Yes, it's enormously repetitive and the open-world elements don't really add all that much to the well-worn formula, but there's something appealing about the whole grand historical affair and the simplistic gameplay. You'll hack, slash and stomp your way across feudal China, grinning like a loon. Then again, there's that whole repetitive, lack of depth thing I mentioned before.

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Decent enough voice acting, lovely music during the game's quieter moments, wailing guitar riffs during the not-so quiet bits. It does the job just fine, but won't exactly knock your socks off. During intro cut-scenes for each chapter, there are times when the English language version cuts off mid-sentence too. You could play in Chinese or Japanese instead, though.


Character models and buildings are very pretty and detailed, but the surrounding landscape is mostly dull and featureless, save for the odd beauty spot. DW9's world is severely lacking in the looks department compared to its competitors. Animations aren't great either and there is the occasional bug here and there too. Play it on an Xbox One X, however, and it's a different story. It looks and runs far better. Obvs.


Omega Force sticks with the tried-and-tested Dynasty Warriors combat that the fans know and love, and if that's what you're after, you'll be like a pig in muck. Otherwise, you might find it a bit repetitive and ultimately, a bit dull. The archery mechanics are rubbish.


A colossal game, there are thirteen chapters that take in the whole Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga, and 90 characters to choose from. This is more a case of quantity over quality though.


A fine achievement list that will nonetheless ask for a lot of your time. Completing all 13 chapters in every story will take a long, long time, then there are other tasks to carry out too.

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