The astute reader may notice that in my top 5 Dynasty Warriors games I left one particular qualified entry in the series off the list entirely. This was in part to leave suspense for who would have made the top spot, since a list of the top six out of six leaves little to chance. The other reason was the fact that there was too much to write about regarding the problems said entry in the franchise had. So, to alleviate any curiosity I have compiled a list of the worst sins this entry committed to the franchise. So to prepare for the upcoming North American release of Dynasty Warriors 8, I present:
The 3 worst things about Dynasty Warriors 6
3) Story Mode
The story in the Dynasty Warriors series was at times difficult to follow. Since nearly every game in the series prior to this took the position of telling the story from the character’s perspective, it made conveying the actual tale of the Three Kingdoms era difficult. Most of the time, the story in the game tried to follow the events in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel up to a certain point to which they simply couldn’t any longer. About half the games prior to this went about telling it strictly from one character’s perspective, while the other half tried covering the entire campaign. And each had their own advantages and disadvantages.
Dynasty Warriors 6 decided to tell character stories much like Dynasty Warriors 3, with cinematic cut scenes in between to show the characters and their motivations as their story progressed. This is a noble endeavor to be sure, but it suffered some issues.
First was the fact that, while Dynasty Warriors 5 took the subject matter fairly seriously and faithfully, Dynasty Warriors 6 did not. Much of the dialog is cheesy or overly dramatic, making it either unintentionally hilarious, or just boring. While the story has you play through various battles as before, some of the choices for storytelling for particular characters are unfathomable.
For instance, the battle in which Dian Wei saves Cao Cao’s life at the cost of his own is an early stage in his story mode (and he naturally doesn’t die either). He spends the rest of his story mode shooting the breeze with other Wei officers, and fighting in other Wei conflicts he did not historically participate in. Another example, Diao Chan’s crowning achievement in the book was turning Lu Bu and Dong Zhuo against each other; her story mode in Dynasty Warriors 6 takes place after this has already occurred. This is insulting, not just to the franchise, but to those who actually bothered to learn about the time period.
What makes it worse is that the story is limited to only about two-thirds of the cast, with the rest being unlockable characters only usable in Free Mode. But we’ll cover more of that in the next segment.
2) The Cast
Now let it be known that reducing the cast of characters in the game is not always a bad thing. I am all for Marvel VS Capcom 3 paring down it’s roster from Marvel VS Capcom 2 in order to present a more well-rounded and better looking game overall. And I’m not entirely convinced this wasn’t the route Dynasty Warriors 6 tried to do at the start. After all, all the available characters have redesigned outfits and new weapon styles and movesets, which likely took a good deal of effort.
The problem is that a good number of the cast do not have story modes in the initial release for Playstation 3 and XBox 360. The majority of those without stories also share movesets with each other or other characters in the cast. For instance, Guan Ping and Zhang He both share the same halberd style, and Yue Ying shares the bow style of Sun Shang Xiang. A later release added more story modes and unique weapons for characters, and this version released on the Playstation 2. I’m not sure I understand how the first next generation title of the Dynasty Warriors series can have more features on the previous generation console. However, even this version didn’t flesh out all the characters that were just clones or mirrors of each other.
What’s more, even including the mirrors/clones, the cast still pales in comparison to the previous installment, and even that of Dynasty Warriors 4. I can appreciate tight knit, diverse cast, but if the designers going to resort to recycling movesets anyway, why not go all out and include as many as they could muster? It’s clear to me that this was not a decision made ahead of time, but an effort to throw more characters in late in development.
However, this isn’t what I consider the worst offender.
1) The Renbu System
This is likely the biggest flaw in the game’s redesign. I’m not sure if the Sengoku Basara series was taking away too much of TecmoKoei’s market share in Japan, but the new fighting system seemed to be directed squarely upon the combo system featured in their competitor’s games. Normal attacks now endlessly loop, allowing to build combos fairly easily, unless enemies are blocking. Charge attacks are replaced with a Renbu attacks, which form a combo when the button is pressed in sequence. However the length of the Renbu combo that can be performed is based on the size of the Renbu gauge — which fills up by building combos. The full Renbu combo is only available at Level 3 or the fully charged Lvl. infinity. With this new system, the designers could give every character a new and completely unique moveset.
However, this system created it’s own set of problems. Generally, normal combos were only effective when enemies weren’t guarding, and only certain Renbu attacks could break an enemy’s guard. One problem is that guard breaking attacks are different combinations for every character, and some are only very deep in their Renbu combos. This makes certain characters, like Dian Wei, nearly impossible to use in certain conditions or higher difficulties. This wouldn’t be an issue, if a player built up enough Renbu ahead of time. However, the meter degrades after not attacking over time, or getting hit by enemy attacks. This means that even stocking the Renbu to prepare for such situations is incredibly difficult to do with certain characters. Imbalance between characters is inevitable, but making some that are completely unusable in a game that encourages playing through with multiple characters is atrocious. This is particularly appalling when the series up to this point managed to avoid this problem for the most part.
Worth mentioning here as well is the customization tree all characters have, which is also tied to this system. Each character has their own tree, which grants branching options as a character progresses. Among these options are Renbu upgrades that allow access to levels 3 and infinite of the Renbu bar. That’s right, Levels 3 and infinity are locked out of regular use unless the player levels up their character enough to get obtain them, or obtains a power-up that grants level infinity for a brief period of time. This puts further restriction on a players capabilities at the outset, rather than providing them the tools needed to progress.
Now, to be fair, Dynasty Warriors 6 did do a few things right. Strangely enough, the soundtrack is good — anyone who has not heard “Welcome to China” is missing out. Additionally, the scenery when played in single person mode is rather stunning on the newer consoles. The character redesigns, while hit or miss for certain characters, were certainly called for, as they were growing stale and certain characters were starting to get into a rut. I can also appreciate the amount of effort that clearly went into so many aspects of the game, but several crucial game decisions brought the game down to the lowest the series had been.
As much as I loathe this entry in the series, however, it was an entry that had to be made. In order to bring Dynasty Warriors into the next generation of gaming, it would have to shed off the baggage from the previous games first. It would take a little more experimentation, however, before the series got back on track. But that’s a story for another time…