by Chris Priestman
reviewed on X360
The danger of presenting a much more true and linear story is that the replayability of the game may suffer. However, with the new Conquest Mode these fears are alleviated. In fact, the Conquest Mode is much more replayable than anything ever offered in the series before it. Essentially combining Free Mode from the earlier titles in the series with elements from the Empires off-shoot series, Conquest Mode has you take any warrior through any of the battles in the timeline to build their stats and unlock extra goodies. It is another very solid game mode that proves that less is more, as only two game modes are offered this time around.
Much like the Story Mode, Conquest provides a seamless experience. Rather than using a menu for pre-battle organisation, Conquest Mode swoops down on to the warrior in a fortress from which allies can be spoken to, weapons and items bought, and even your knowledge tested by a scholar. Once you are ready you can then open the fortress gates and run right into battle. The streaming of the whole battle from before its initiation to the aftermath is a much more compelling experience that makes the earlier titles look weak in comparison.
Outside of the battlefield, you become somewhat of a conqueror with the newly introduced map of China in Conquest Mode. There are many segments that correspond to a battle, which will become part of your land after a successful battle. Some segments are actually cities that need to be overtaken and others are character specific ‘legendary’ battles, which encourage a bit of variation in your character choice. Slowly conquering all of China is very satisfying, and being able to build up your characters, visit cities and decide your own path in this way is an excellent direction for the series.
The process of going through the battles is very nice as they are, but the cities and fortresses really lack presentation. They are only inhabited by a few people who stand on the spot. Because of the lack of substance, it really just feels like more effort should have been put into these areas to make them feel more alive. It is the odd absence of quality like this that lets the game down overall. Conversely, quite outstanding in the Conquest Mode is the ability to buy guardian animals. The usual crop of tigers, horses and elephants are back, but more importantly there are pandas, wolves and falcons. You can even ride a bear! Yes, you read that correctly, you can sit on the back of a bear and charge into battle. Epic doesn’t describe the feeling.
Although I have covered many of the improvements of Dynasty Warriors 7, I have only touched on some of the disappointments. I mentioned the mediocrity of some of the game’s presentation, but unfortunately this isn’t exclusive to just its looks. When it comes to the crunch, Dynasty Warriors 7 is still very much the same old Dynasty Warriors in terms of its core gameplay. The charge-based fighting mechanics have been refined, though, and although the game does get repetitive with its button mashing, it can be mixed up for a change. Being able to switch between two weapons in real time means that there are many more moves to play with and some interesting combos. You can also change and upgrade weapons in mid-battle so you actually have a whole arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Fortunately each officer does have a weapon of choice that will have extra attacks and will be used in their unique musou move – which, by the way, are spectacular. Having all this choice is very welcome and it will entice you to try out each weapon as well as the unique attacks tied to each character. Oddly enough, although there were not enough changes to the hack‘n’slash formula to excite me initially, I soon found myself sinking right back into the familiar gameplay and loving every moment of it.
What really alleviates the problem of lack of change to the core mechanics are the more varied stages. In battle, you are given objectives as before but not fulfilling them has more of a consequence this time around. Battles are not a repetition of each other that require the player to merely kill the main general or protect their own. Instead, you are often required to complete a number of tasks that will lead to victory. You are even given a choice of how to approach a situation at times; an example would be a fork in a path, where one path leads to an ambush whereas the other allows you to surprise the ambush party instead. Although these changes are not huge, they at least feel like much needed tweaks that are able to make the game as addictive as usual and certainly more enjoyable than before.
Bow Down To The Mighty Lu Bu!
As we approach the end of this review it becomes necessary to touch the new online co-op mode. The reason I've not spent more time describing it is the simple fact that you will struggle to get on and find someone to play with - and that’s after you have actually found the option to turn online play on in the first place! This anticipated addition is a huge disappointment as it seems that is has simply been tacked on and hidden from the players. Not to dwell on that though, Dynasty Warriors 7 does bring a much more refined experience for fans and one that they will certainly appreciate. In all honesty, the lack of fresh changes will probably not attract new fans to the game, but there is no reason why anybody could not find some enjoyment from the experience.
The greatest part of the overhaul is certainly the strength of the game’s Story Mode, which cannot be found anywhere else throughout the series. It is this that I would suggest brings the title up to a new level and one that makes this feel like the first ‘true’ Dynasty Warriors experience. It is even tempting to forget the rest of the series as they were merely rehashes of the gameplay that was introduced way back in 2000. Now with the gameplay refined and the story delivered as it always should have been, this easily becomes the Dynasty Warriors experience upon which the series should be judged.
Story has been vastly improved like never before, mission objectives provide good variety, lots of replayability
Textures and animations are still last-gen, core gameplay is still repetitive