Are you truly a benevolent ruler or simply a usurpative scoundrel? Empires allows you to use different strategies and tactics not seen in other DW titles to unite the country in any way you see fit.
This took a bit longer to review, for as many Dynasty Warriors games that I have played, I have never played an Empires title.
Empires is a huge time sink. It will frame a campaign in a certain time period for you, and then you must unite the country in the way you see fit. This can entail serving a leader, starting out as a leader of your own kingdom, or even stealing a kingdom away from someone. You and your chosen character (DW regular or Custom) can choose to level up specific types of fame to help you accomplish your goals. There are six types which include Brave, Orderly, Wise, Kind, Affluent, and Evil. They can be leveled up numerous ways like training troops, equipping items, and finishing quests or particular battles. Leveling these up increase notoriety, which will grant different Strategems to use in battle, in political discussion, and affect overall relationships with other characters.
The core battlefield gameplay hasn’t changed since the other titles, but like DW: Next, this too uses a base system. In order to win the day, you must capture bases connected by supply routes in order to have access to the enemy base. You don’t have to do it alone either with an online mode available for friends to jump in. As a leader, commands to other units can be issued, allowing for bases to be captured in your stead (There’s even a trophy for winning a battle without swinging your weapon). In order to win most large battles you can either defeat the enemy commander or deplete the base of reinforcements to win the battle. Winning battles can all win you some of each of the three currencies in the game: Food, Intelligence, and Gold. Food will replenish troops and allow you to train them. Intelligence is usually used for diplomatic missions, such as forming a treaty or coaxing another kingdom into attacking a mutual enemy. Gold lets you new weapons, items, outfits, and animals.
I played through the game on three different time periods. I don’t think I really figured out how to play it right until the third playthrough. Starting out, I always created a custom character. You’re then allowed to either make them a ruler, a servant, or a free officer. Starting as a free officer, you have the option of attacking any kingdom you want, but only in the smaller scale battle type: skirmish mode. These battles will inflict small damage on enemy kingdoms, but won’t gain you any territory. Once you win a few of these skirmishes you can form a vagabond unit and hire other officers to join you. From there, you’ll have the option of trying to join a kingdom or fighting a battle and raising your own flag to form your own kingdom.
If you immediately raise your own flag, you’ll have a difficult way through the game as you will need to constantly upgrade and win new territory. The more conniving way to play is to begin by serving a kingdom and dismantle it from the inside out while getting promoted through its ranks. I would generally sit and tax a kingdom until I could afford all weapon upgrades, and then eventually defect to another kingdom, taking the territory I was in charge of with me. I would also make sure to always object with the ruler during twice yearly war councils and make sure the leader was doing the absolute worst thing for the kingdom. As an evil type character, I could insult my benevolent leader and they would usually bend to my will. After doing this a few times, I ended up revolting and taking half the map in a single battle with my sworn brother Lu Bu. As an evil character, I had access to the best strategems (poison gas was my favorite), but all the other characters in the game hated working for me. To quell their fears, I would throw annual parties.
The game includes character models dating back to DW4, and music dating back to DW2, which is just great for any fan of the series. Running into an up-res’ed DW5 Sun Quan always blew my mind. Customization is pretty deep too. My one character was a Diao Chan clone that happened to also use the new weapon type siege spear. It may or may not be a jet turbine engine attached to a spear. Completely ridiculous and completely fun. If you have online mode enabled, online created characters can randomly drop into your game as enemy or friendly NPCs. I was surprised when Manti Teo joined my kingdom, but he brought a ton of troops along, so I wasn’t complaining.
Both Strategy and Tactics are equally increased in this title. It’s great being able to order allies to rescue others, or attack from a different direction as to trap an enemy. The way I played, I felt like time was evenly split between the battlefield and off the battlefield tasks. That was my play style though, and you could tilt in either direction of more strategy off the field, or settle for diplomacy through a sword.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
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