Meet Flashy Pants, the character I created in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, who earned his name because of his spectacular and rather dashing pair of pantaloons.
Together, Flashy Pants and I have grown from a vagabond fighter-for-hire into a ruthless tyrant who rules all of China, suppressing the Yellow Turban Rebellion in the process. This is what makes Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires so engrossing. It lets you forge your own path through the Dynasty Warriors mythos, creating your own stories and legends. Do you want to serve under Liu Bei, fighting alongside him as he conquers China? Go for it. Feel like guiding Zhang Jiao as his Prefect, influencing his descisions before turning on him and taking his kingdom for yourself? That’s cool too. Maybe you just want to be a bane to everyone by assassinating officers all over the country. That’s possible. Our Review;
Flashy Pants was built-in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires “Edit” mode. Packed with a respectable amount of customisation options, you can change the face, age, sex, weight, height, hair, clothing, chest size (yes, you can make boobs bigger and smaller) and almost everything else you can think of using a bunch of sliders. As you can see from Flashy Pants’ skin colour and chest chains, you can make some outlandish characters but there are plenty of serious options thrown into the mix too. The only real limitation when creating your character is the colours you can use on the clothing. You only get to choose one base colour and the game fills in the rest. Your dream of black trousers with green flames won’t come true in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires. It’s not just your character you can create in the Edit mode either. You can create custom soldiers, banners, scenarios and even warhorses too.
After spending an hour perfecting the position of your character’s eyebrows, you can take them into the games main Empire Mode. Unlike Dynasty Warriors 8 or Xtreme, the core game has no set story line for you to follow. You can choose a conflict to take part in from a list that will be very familiar to fans of the series – The Yellow Turban Rebellion, The Alliance Against Dong Zhuo, Battle of Guandu, Battle of Chibi, Coup d’etat and custom scenarios. Each conflict has a different set up with the territories of China carved up amongst that scenarios particular leaders. You then get to choose who you want to play as – all of the Dynasty Warriors from Cao Cao to Zhang Fei are available but you can also start with your custom character like I did with Flashy Pants.
Once you have chosen your character, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires really starts to branch out. You are immediately met by an overwhelming maze of menus, maps and options, most of which are self-explanatory (but there is a very helpful tutorial which explains some of the finer points). The options on these menus differ based on what type of character you picked. If you chose one of the leaders that rules over a territory, you can guide the fate of that land with your actions through politics or good old fashion battle, all the while trying to balance your Supplies, Money, Troops, Virtue (a measure of your good or evilness), officers and the happiness of your people. Rule your land with an iron fist, hitting your people with mass levies and you should prepare for an uprising. Fail to bring in enough cash and your officers will start to desert you.
With Flashy Pants, I started as a vagabond, a fighter with no allegiances, no army of soldiers, no Scrooge McDuckian pile of gold to swim around in and no Leader to direct my actions. Starting as a vagabond is the most difficult but also the most interesting option in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires. As a vagabond you can complete quests for officers around the country, taking on packs of angry tigers, assassinating competing officers or rescuing caravans from bandits, all of which reward you with money, troops or supplies. These quests do not have a great deal of variety, often taking place on the same map with the exact same set up but they are a welcome alternative from the clustered battlefields you normally find in a Dynasty Warriors game. After completing a few quests, building up relationships with some officers, Flashy Pants was invited to join Zhang Jiao and the Yellow Turbans. Dutifully accepting, our well dressed vagabond joined the leaders courts and we were immediately thrown into battle.
The battles in Empires 8 are much like those in any other Dynasty Warriors games. A pleasurable third-person button masher at heart, the aim of every battle is to hack your way though thousands of enemies, capture bases and defeat officers in order to fulfil each battles criteria. Unlike the standard Dynasty Warriors games, Empires has “Stratagems” which are special abilities which you can activate on the battlefield like erecting towers which rain down arrows onto any enemies that come close to them. An enhancement for Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is the ability to activate grand-scale stratagems which require a number of your officers to temporarily retreat but offer a devastating pay off. Striking every enemy on the battlefield with lightning is a pleasing sight to behold.
However, the combat in Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires suffers from the same niggling issues as every other Dynasty Warriors game. On any difficulty less than Hard, every battle can be won by mashing the attack button, running to the next battle, bashing the attack button, rinse and repeat, not having to pay too much attention to what else is happening on the battlefield. There are very few officers that will put up much of a fight and make you sweat. Opposing soldiers appear out of thin air before your eyes. The AI in the game is hit and miss with your own soldiers running into walls, stopping and running into the same wall again. The new grand-scale stratagems also create their own issues. Going toe to toe with Cao Cao, reducing him to the last shred of health only to watch him vanish because his leader has activated a stratagem is frustrating.
While the combat can be quite shallow, the Empires mode is anything but. You can help build an empire or tear it apart, get married, have kids (although this does feel a little tacked on), recruit a team of highly skilled officers, forge alliances and invade then execute those that won’t join you. Each game of Empires mode will have a different outcome, lasting 50 game years or until one leader unites all of the territories and brings peace to the country.
If you don’t have time to delve into the intricacies of the Empire mode, you can set up a quick battle in the “Single” mode. Selecting between Invasion, Quest, Defence and Event battles (each of which have their own objectives), picking your own team of Dynasty Warriors and those that you are to face off against and the map of your choice from the 22 that are on offer, you can bounce straight into a battle of your own design.
Visually, the game looks almost unchanged from Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends on the PS4. Obviously hampered by the fact that the game spans a console generation, the game looks sharp but lacks textures and looks washed out at times. There is also some incredible slow down when attacking towers with particular weapons (most notable when using the throwing knives), grinding the game down to a few frames per second.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires offers something that the core games are sorely missing – customisation and the possibility to make your own way through the Dynasty Warriors world. The Yellow Turban rebellion doesn’t have to be doomed to failure. Lu Bu doesn’t have to see his castle flooded. You can change the events of history and mould them however you see fit. The Empire mode has enough depth and variety to please the fans of the series and is accessible enough for newcomers alike, offering a wealth of replay value. Unfortunately the game suffers the same pit falls as most other Dynasty Warriors games, often reducing combat down to a thumb-achingly repetitive and occasionally boring slog.
Developers: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is set to release on the PS3, PS4 (Version reviewed), Xbox One and PC On the 24th of February in America and on the 27th in the EU.
Note: There are online aspects of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires which we were unable to test prior to release as we were unable to find another player.
Full Disclosure: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review copy of the game by the publishers.
Dead or Alive 5 is back for one last bite of the cherry with “Last Round”. The series has had it’s up and downs over its 5 game history (including 3 previous versions of Dead or Alive 5 and a hand full of spin-offs) but Last Round is a high point for the series, even with its inherent flaws. Our Review;
Let’s get this out of the way with first. Massive breasts. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has a roster full of them, jouncing across the screen at every possibility. They are always covered by some scantily clothing, strategically hiding the fighters nipples (and relative modesty). The odd and often hilarious aspect is that the boobs in Dead or Alive 5 are far from natural and bounce around as if they were made from jelly. It’s hard not to crack a smile of disbelief when a character is attempting to deliver a serious monologue and her mammary glands are swinging uncontrollably like they are a pair of deflating balloons.
Fortunately, the game play is anything but wobbly. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is one of the tightest, most accessible and well designed beat-’em-ups I have every played that will please button mashers and calculated fighters alike. All of the traditional moves are there – tech-rolls, counters, high and low punches, kicks and throws. It’s really easy to pull off impressive combos and with some practice, you can learn some juggle combos that can be devastating. Like any good beat-’em-up, each character in the 32 strong roster has a different move set which require a different approach to make the most of. For example, Jann Lee, who is a master of Jeet June Do, is one of easier characters to use as he is fast and has basic combos which are difficult to interrupt. Alternatively, Brad Wong uses the Zui Quan (or Drunken Kung Fu) discipline and spends a lot of time lying down with a few moves which put him into an alternative stance. Using Brad means being more patient and mashing buttons will mean you miss opportunities to unleash brutal attacks.
The Last Round version of Dead or Alive 5 includes all of the additional fighters that were included in the DoA 5+ version on the Vita and the Ultimate edition for PS3 (including guests from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series) and includes 2 additional character. The first addition is Raidou, the McGuffin from the original Dead or Alive who returns with some cybernetic upgrades. His slow but powerful attacks are devastating but are easily countered. The second additional character and a débutante in Last Round is Honoka. Clad in her school girl outfit, she kicks some serious ass, borrowing moves and stances from other fighters and combining them into a deadly mix.
As well as two new characters, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has two additional arenas to fight in. The first is a remastered version of the classic Crimson arena from Dead or Alive 2. This area starts on a rooftop but can transition into a dirty back ally. The Crimson arena has a lot of destructible environment features lining the walls of area like cars, neon signs and trash cans. Pinning an opponent against the walls and bouncing their head off of a car door is great. The other arena is The Danger Zone, a fan favourite from the original Dead or Alive. With an electrified floor which propels you into the air when you take a fall, this area is perfect for some huge combos and some damaging transitions.
Boasting a 1080p resolution with 60 frames per second on the PS4, Last Round does look better than the PS3 original. The effects in The Danger Zone area are particularly impressive, a shower of sparks and embers flying high into the air after each fall. There are some impressive water and light effects on show too. The game also uses something called the “Soft engine” to make skin look softer. Personally, I still think the characters look a little plastic but there is a definite improvement over the original.
The other addition to Last Round is a hand full of new costumes. 31 new outfits and hair styles are exclusive to the current-gen Last Round edition and almost all of the DLC from the original (including the Santa’s Little Helper pack and the Warrior Orochi 3 outfits) are included totalling 400 unlockable outfits and hair styles.
All of the game modes from Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate make a return in Last Round including the enhanced training missions and the tag match mode. The “History” mode makes a return but is unchanged from the original version (neither of the new characters or arenas are included) which details the lead up to the Dead or Alive 5 tournament, the relationship between all of the fighters and their progress through the tournament itself. The history mode is long but has a plot which is as cheesy and shallow as a terrible martial arts film you would find in the bargain bin at a £1 store. Characters often fight over the smallest of things like a spilled drink or simply walking into a room. It’s also worth mentioning that the first half of the history mode might not make much sense to anyone who didn’t play Dead or Alive 4. A lot of the previous events in the Dead or Alive series are left unexplained but have a bearing on the plot.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round does have an online mode but unfortunately, I have been unable to try this. Each time I have tried to find a match, the game has failed to find me an opponent. I am not sure if this is because of a glitch or a lack of people playing the game online.
Remastered editions of previous generation games are all the rage at the moment and often make a good case for a re-purchase but unfortunately, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round doesn’t offer much of an incentive to double dip. As good as the game play is, the additional characters, arenas and costumes don’t add much of a reason to buy this unless you have yet to play Dead or Alive 5 or are a huge fan of the series. It would have been nice to see a few more fighters added to the roster as well as their inclusion in the “History” mode.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the definitive edition of an already well designed and accessible versus-fighting game. There are very few reasons to double-dip on this version if you already own the Ultimate edition but Last Round looks great on the PS4, the history mode will keep you busy for hours (even though it is corn-balled and glib at times) and, most importantly, it is enjoyable. The sexualization of the characters will make some people uncomfortable but if you can get passed the almost-bare, bouncing bosoms, new players will have a blast with Last Round.
Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is available at retail now for the PS4, PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One and Xbox 360. The game will also be available on PC via Steam on the 30th of March, 2015.
There is also a free-to-play PS4 version of the game available via the PSN Store which includes a small selection of fighters called Dead or Alive 5: Last Round Core Fighters. Additional Fighters can be purchased as DLC.