Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires

It rocks. Discuss.

It certainly does!

But I intend to discuss the core Dynasty Warriors experience.

First of all, to the criticism that it is repetitive. Well, duh. That’s a beat-em up for you. Since Final Fight, Bare Knuckle and Kunio-Kun, they’ve been about repeating the same type of thing against foes over and over again.

However, a repetitive experience does not make for a dull one. Look at Diablo for a perfect example. Other game types depend on a gameplay device that is by its nature repetitive. People get into Guitar Hero and rhythm games, and you’re repeating the same notes in the same songs in the same way each time, practicing to get better. Same with puzzle games. Tetris is extremely repetitive, but its very nature depends on it.

Second, the criticism that isn’t exactly Devil May Cry in the breadth of its action mechanics. True, it isn’t, would it be more satisfying if it did? Probably! But can you think, other than going the Soul Calibur/VF route of making all the dozens of famous Chinese warriors fight differently with that level of depth? For what it is, Koei has diversified the fighting in Dynasty Warriors more than enough between characters.

And here’s why:

As you all know, Dynasty Warriors works on the PlayStation controller meme of square/weakest, triangle/useful, circle/all powerful/, x/alternative (if you don’t get what I’m referring to, there’s an explanation in another thread). First, you start with mashing x for at most a four hit combo. Now, like many an action game, Dynasty Warriors punishes you the farther you go for always doing the entire combo. You have to know exactly how many times you push that button or you’ll be eating cake and defenseless against enemies that know better. So that’s the first nuance.

The second nuance comes in the fact that different characters have different mobilities when in the midst of these combos and moving them around to effectively mow down the troops is essential, especially since each link in the combo has an animation that’s effective way and range depending on where you are standing. As in many beat-em ups, its helpful to study this as a form of crowd control.

However, the third comes in by integrating triangle. For every character after the first attack, if you press triangle, they do a special combo finish. As the game goes on, your basic combo goes up and you get more combo finishes. Each combo finish has a type to go with it. It can have something like a status effect, i.e. stuns the enemy, knocks them back or deflects their weapons, or they can have variable ranges when it comes to clearing space. And clearing space is crucial later on in the game when the AI gets better and actually starts to fight back more aggressively (or on the harder settings). Each character’s types of finishes and the range of types you have available makes fighting with them a different kind of balancing game, especially if you have to cover up a weakness, like an unconventional weapon/movement style, low speed, slow recovery time, slow-to-charge musou or low health.

The fourth comes in with pressing triangle all alone and jump in attacks with the square button. Both of these are usually there to help you integrate into an enemy group without getting hit, but the differences between characters are like the different aiming styles and ranges of magic spells in RPGs or SRPGs. (Think Grandia for instance.)

The fifth is obviously the musou gauge, the most crucial element of the game. You must look at the map and plan a good route to generate enough energy for that gauge and you have to use all the previous nuances in order to do that well. You also have to plan your upgrades in the planning screen to favor musou or regular attacking (all the stat increasers). A longer musou gauge means different things for different characters, but planning the right moment when you just need it is quite crucial and then controlling the musou in a movable character and your recovery afterwards even more so.

The sixth element to keep in mind is using all these aforementioned ones to keep your combos high so that the chance of enemies dropping health and such goes up, because the higher your combo at the end, the larger the chance the enemy will drop things.

There’s also a lot in the basic game engine that varies things up quite a bit. That is, the rock/paper/scissors element of what kind of strategy commander you are going up against vs. your own group, lowering/raising morale and keeping your generals alive, cutting off enemy lines and increasing your own or opening gates to get your troops through other ways. Also, there’s contending with all the unique elements of each map, such as finding a horse to get somewhere quickly, destroying a carriage before it goes off screen, catching a general before they retreat, getting around a trap and so on. In the later games, you also have elements like winning strategic points on the map that help choke troops or bring forth your own.

Though its not super strategic (and it really isn’t supposed to be), there is a lot to consider in Shin Sangoku Musou’s basic layout of its repetition. When you add the second Empires game to the mix, a game that actually makes much better on its promise of a simple overlying strategic engine, you get a lovely mix of action and light strategy.

Sengoku Basara, BTW, is one of the best Dynasty Warriors clones out there if you like the action side (the overlying context of war battles is weaker though) because, typically of Capcom, the action is even smoother and the whole thing is so colorful and darn pokey. And the Drag-on Dragoon games dress up the formula (if you understand the formula, that is, otherwise you’ll find them to be too staid, I’ll bet) with insanely dark and cool plots (actual live baby eaters! slaughtering little kids! a misanthropic, bloodthirsty hero and his prejudiced dragon!)

Hopefully, Ninety Nine Nights joins the party soon, because the 3D beat-em up is a genre that needs to grow.


Man, I just ran around and mashed ‘X’ a lot.

Then again, I haven’t invested a lot of time into it (just the basic DW5 so far) yet, but I’ll have to keep all of that in mind when I get back to the series.

It’s too similiar to DW 4 Empires for me to get very excited. There are some new unlockable strategies most of which you will never use - there are tried and truth paths to victory and clearly superior versions of various ‘cards’ that make much of the rest fluff. You can give orders to generals on the battlefield now which I find not as useful as I’d thought. Generally you’ll do fine just playing as you always did and forgetting the feature even exists. Though once in a blue moon you’ll find yourself ordering someone to fall back and regroup at a base or to go to another officer’s assistance, it isn’t that often.

My reaction overall is that DW5 Empires is pretty good for what it is but it isn’t all that it could be. Frankly, my favorite bit in the DW5 series is the improved Xtreme mode from DW 5 Xtreme. Many more variables in missions that make them quite a bit more interesting and a better realized system overall. The new Destiny mode is also brilliant but I found several of the late scenarios that crop up nearly impossible to beat. This could be my own lack of skill showing.

After playing more grounded Mount & Blade it’s really hard going back to the cartoonish thrashings and powerups of a Dynasty Warriors. Apples and oranges, I know, and there are certainly lessons M&B could pick up from DW too. I love KOEI, they’ve got me addicted to Warship Gunner 2 in addition to RoTK X. But I am getting jaded on DW in a big way.

Let me preface my involvement in this thread by saying I do want to learn to enjoy this game.

That said, it’s time to hold up my end of the bargain (see other thread) by ranting about much of the inane shit in this game.

  1. No tutorial. It took my girlfriend and I way too long to figure out where to go to start a 2P game so we could start bashing on shit. Along the way, we passed various screens that looked important and made us press arcane sequences of buttons to fly through peoples’ names that all looked the same to me, being the ignorant white guy with no ancient chinese cultural context. Once we finally got things running…

  2. We just hit the ‘X’ button a lot. Kitsune’s post above will obviously help me on this point when I take the time to read it properly, which I hereby commit to doing. But this is a lot of work, and I’m not sure it’s worth it. The game had plenty of opportunity to teach me the different attacks and to reward me for using them. It didn’t lift a finger to do so.

  3. I do believe the AI takes the cake for being the most blatently dumb AI I’ve ever seen by a wide margin. Yes, I seriously mean that, and we all know that’s saying a lot given some of the games on the market. But in many (most) instances, the groups of enemy and friendly troops simply stood there looking at each other. Seriously. They didn’t fight. They didn’t move. They often just stood there. Watching their enemies. Watching me. I mean, this is supposed to be a war, right? Or at least a battle to the death between sides? Is this some sort of ancient Chinese warfare I’ve never heard about till now? How is it conceivably possible to maintain any assemblence of immersion when the world primarily exists for me to wade through waves of cardboard cutouts oblivious to enemy presence, except for an occassional mini-boss? Is there a setting somewhere I have to flip to have the units (enemy and friendly) actually doing something useful?

  4. The music is horrible. Thank god for the custom soundtracks – that might yet save my sanity. Their lame-o cheeseball heavy metal music would have made ears bleed back in 1995, when it was at least somewhat contemporary. I mean, who chose that music? Did their manager pat them on the back for a job well done? Was this series released in Japan/Asia, and if so, did it have that same music or is it something that someone thought Americans would like? Beacuse if so, it speaks loudly about that person’s opinion of us.

My girlfriend has played the series before, and for whatever reason she recalls having more fun in previous incarnations. Whether she was wearing rose-colored glasses in the past, or whether this one is truly a step back as she maintains is something I couldn’t really say, as I haven’t played the series before. But I am most definitely not impressed.

Admittedly, the strategic layer does look interesting, and I like strategic metagames that give game instances context and importance. So I appreciate it on that level. But of course there was absolutely no in-game tutorial, so I had no idea what I was doing. Hopefully the book will teach me what everything does, because the game itself sure wouldn’t.

But from what I can tell, for my tastes at least, the action part of the game is just plain silly. I laughed out loud on many occassions (at it, not with it,) despite wanting very much to either have the game impress me, or at worst, to at leaset ‘appreciate it for what it was.’

I used to love the DW series and didn’t mind the repetetiveness because that’s their nature. But come on, you gotta give us something new.

Gee, I dunno, I’m going to have to look into that. Hey guys, you think Koei, the Japanese company ever released this game in the language and country it was originally made in? I’m not sure it would appeal to Asians though, I mean its only based on the most popular epic story in all of Asia renowned, beloved and reinterpreted every year in multiple forms. What do you guys think, should Koei give it a shot? I think it just might sell if released in Asia!

Hey, what do you think these games might be like if they were aimed towards Asians and Japanese entirely and the translations were just an afterthought? I wonder how that might change the gameplay!

Koei should definitely give a try!


The heavy metal music is great and perfectly fits the mood of the game which, you know, is supposed to be lighthearted and silly. All the “flaws” you cite are intentional. There really isn’t much to do or figure out, that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Clearly you expected something different though I don’t know where you got those unrealistic expectations from. There were many iterations of Dynasty Warriors all of which played the same and got similar reviews, after all.

I enjoyed the Dw series , but they haven’t fixed any of the problems with the series since the first one. Is the camera better controlled in this? Can you now finally block or dodge an attack?

Also after playing one of them thru, I’ve seen the majority of the levels. I’m going out on a limb here, but does the first level involve the Yellow Turban Rebellion ?

The biggest problem with DW is the Chinese cultural context.

Xiahou what? Chun who? Is that guy a friend or an enemy? Who’s daughter?

I’ve long wished someone would make a DW clone with the typical fantasy genre. And western names, so I can understand and remember them.

Oh, and better.

Isn’t that pretty much what Drag-on Dragoon is? Uh…Drakengard or whatever in the US.

Oh! And I forgot all about Ninety Nine Nights :) I wonder how that’ll do tomorrow when it’s released in Japan…

Sort of, except Drakengard features no allied army, even -worse- AI(it’s possible) and unlike the occasional scripted ambush or peppered goals in a typical DW campaign map, Drakengard often just tasks you to ‘wipe the map clean’.

You do get to ride a dragon and deal with elves and fairies on occasion though.

Eh, bad music is bad music, even if it’s intentional.

WoW. I’m pretty damn familiar with Koei, and am fully aware they’re a Japanese company. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that every iteration of every game was released in asia first. I mean, MS is a USA company, and they do some Japan-only stuff…

Anyway, looks like your sarcasm bomb has a hair trigger. You might want to look into that.

Yes it does. Its targetted toward us, just like The Lord of the Rings is targetted toward the West first. Its based on our history and literature and our preferences for gameplay. Its not like it’s Mario Kart or Metal Gear Solid.

And I was pretty sure when I replied you knew something of Koei. I just replied that way because I don’t like you. At all.


One thing that annoys me about Koei is there stuborness to keep each “new” dynasty warriors game at 50 bucks. I wouldn’t mind spending 20 dollars for each new one. But the price for a brand new game on upgrading the game before it seems too much imo.

The best way in my book to play the Df series , is to play 1, then skip the next 2 ones. That’s how I enjoyed Df 5 alot when it was first released.

Don’t get me wrong I do like the Df series, favorite character is Xialon Dun ( guy with eye patch I think). But there is alot they can do to make the series better.

Hmm… May I ask why, or are you just in the business of making general personal attacks?

I haven’t, to my knowledge, ever been unkind towards anyone here, including yourself. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit caught off-guard by that.

Oh, you KNOW what you did. glare


By his tone, you’d think I pissed in his gas tank while sleeping with his grandmother. But I usually remember those kinds of parties.

Dude, you were SO hammered that night, it was awesome.

And for the record, that lady was a GILF if I ever saw one.