It is quite common in the gaming industry for a series to continue and continue. Once a company has had a success with a game, you can count on a sequel being planned somewhere down the line. Koei Tecmo are no strangers to the Dynasty Warriors series, given that it's in its sixth iteration now, with as many similar series based around the same gameplay concept. But has the series continued to move from strength to strength, or is it just a case of a tired rehash?
It's a difficult process to be involved in when creating the next in a series, especially with one as long running as Dynasty Warriors. There is a fine line between similarity and repetition, one that few developers have managed to successfully achieve. On a personal note, I returned to the series after quite a hiatus, so it would've been possible for the game to have vastly changed - this is not the case.
To help those that may be new to the Dynasty Warriors series, or even the Warriors range - which includes Gundam and Samurai - it is important to know how the game itself plays. As always with this series, Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires is played through a third-person character on a battlefield. It is your job to try to capture bases by defeating all the enemies within a base, until the ‘boss' of the level arrives. Defeating this character will force the enemy troops to flee, and you will win the battle. This has not changed from game to game, and it's not likely to change anytime soon.
For fans of the series, there is enough similarity for this entry to be worthwhile - the vast collection of playable heroes from throughout the series are here, and for the most part their character models are detailed, if not generic. It is hard to not feel disappointed though, and for someone who may expect a bit more it may not be worth bothering.
As already mentioned, the character models are obviously improved, but this is mostly all that has been improved. The environments of the levels are sorely lacking in the polish and shine we've come to expect from this generation of games. It's disappointing since it seems like little effort has been put in - almost as if Koei are just riding on the success of one of their most popular series.
For those that don't know, the ‘Empires' part of the title denotes a different play style than the original Dynasty Warriors 6. Namely, Empire Mode, where you choose a character - be it a custom created character or one of the plethora of story characters - and work to help your chosen empire to take control of the country. This mode allows you to play as a ruler or an officer, who will help take the empire to full control of the country.
This is the only mode that is provided with the game, so for those hoping for even a thread of a storyline will be let down. That said, the Risk-style empire mode does add enjoyment and a little strategy to the game, though you do feel a lack of empathy for all the characters involved. Ruler mode allows you to make decisions on where and when to attack, as well as when to use your special powers which are activated through cards. As an Officer, you choose who to take up service with, and aid them in their fight for China. You have limited decision making abilities, but once you rank up within the empire you are soon given the chance to make suggestions for actions to your lord. It's an interesting mode, which adds a little more to the tired game.
The majority of the gameplay, however, takes place in battle - which has not received much revamping. Gameplay has not changed for many years; it is the same Dynasty Warriors as it always was. This, obviously, is where the problem lies. Much of the games success was based on using one character to button-bash your way through hoards of enemies, taking out capture points. With Empires, the addition of the strategic element of having the bases linked together does add a little more, but still there is nothing new here worth noting. Koei seem too tentative to add anything new to the game, whether it's for fear of upsetting diehard fans or that a risk maybe not prove successful.
However, the typical Dynasty Warriors gameplay is here - tapping no more than two buttons repeatedly will see you complete most levels with ease. A number of abilities are provided to you, as well as the series staple, more powerful Musou attacks which are activated after building up your Musou meter. There's also the option to level up and upgrade your characters through new and better armour, weapons and horses - as well as purchasing upgrades which improve your characters skills. In truth, the combat becomes stale rather quickly, and no amount of unlockable abilities can fix this.
The custom characters you can create are a series of stock options, which you can mix and match to create your character. As you play you unlock various other clothing options, but not much that will enthral. Regardless, it's a decent enough feature with little problems, and is always nice to have a more personal aspect in a game.
In truth, there's not much else to say about the game. There are few improvements here, leaving just a tired rehash of a once enjoyable game. Had Koei tried to add a little newness, or a little more depth to the gameplay, and the game could've been as enjoyable as past iterations. We're in a totally different generation to when the original was released and, arguably, there's no room for simple hack and slash games like this. Even taking a leaf out of Creative Assembly's Viking: Battle for Asgard in how you can integrate a number of large-scale battles without the need for menus and repeated sentences would be preferable.
It probably sounds as though I'm down about Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires, which isn't entirely true. The game is still as enjoyable as it always has been, and diehard fans will still enjoy this addition as every other, but for those wanting more you may want to look into alternatives. It's all well and good resting on the laurels of a successful franchise, but without regular innovations into a series, even the most popular games become stale. Anyone who's played a Dynasty Warriors game will be able to pick up and play this one and notice little difference, and it's about time Koei did something to change that.
Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.