Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: March 28, 2006
With Dynasty Warriors 5 and Dynasty Warriors 5: Xtreme Legends, we've taken over China and saved respective provinces more times than any of us care to count by now. However, Koei still wants us to do it all over again, one final time.
It's okay, though! Because, unlike the last two installments of DW5, the Empires rendition stars a new player: you.
Yes, you. By utilizing the general creation mode, or by simply picking a family to represent, the role of conqueror of the Three Kingdoms now falls into your lap. While this may seem really cool (and it is), it's not at all as easy as anyone would want. You've got to manage your own generals and lieutenants while recruiting new ones, and make sure that nobody gets sent into impossible odds before battle. You have to make sure that your native territories don't fall under attack, either by locusts, invading armies, or by any other potential dangers that may lurk out there. You have to plan your attack campaigns just right so that you're not overpowered and make little progress. Finally, even if your empire grows, you'll have just that much more opposition to contend with, of the stronger variety.
So, no. Taking over China? Not as easy as one would hope. For all its difficulties and roadblocks, however, DW5 Empires makes the business of managing and conquering China intuitive via its interface, and the fun steps it has you take in the process. If you want to take over a territory, you have but to select it on the map screen. If you can, then prepare for battle. Otherwise, it's time to spend some money.
Depending on the empires, family, and generals you've selected to assume the role of, you'll be able to enact any number of possible strategies, from rallying the people (and their fighting skills) to your side by distributing money, to forming a temporary alliance with a neighboring territory, to sending your other generals and lieutenants out to scout for capable people to fight for you. As your roster grows in this area, so will your military might. You can also upgrade your blacksmiths, which lead to more powerful accessories for you and yours.
After you're done with all that, and have become an attack force, you're finally thrust back into the crazy hack-and-slash action we all know and love. After all, it's easy enough to express the desire to take over a territory, but unless you have the strength, skills, and muscle to back it up, who says that you deserve to? The ensuing battle, modeled after a standard DW5 hack-and-slash scenario, will decide the fate of your current campaign. Win, and the territory will become yours. Lose, and not only will your campaign fail, but any number of consequences detrimental to your army and status as general will be suffered.
Once your campaign is over, you'll be able to celebrate in the spoils of war, and upgrade your selected general's weapons, add attributes, and find out what happened regarding the previous choices you made before your offensive, and which effects are still in place. It won't take long for an alliance to finally shrivel up, for example. On the plus side, those weapon upgrades you picked up on the battlefield will do you some good, as well as the money you've earned, and the extra firepower gained from a territory you've taken over. Once you've assessed your situation, it's time to go back to the drawing board, pore over the empire map once again, and spend some more money to ensure that you become the master of China.
It's when you're thrust back into the melee fight sequences that it's most obvious that the game's using the DW5 engine, with minor tweaks and a different battle strategy. Of course, this means that you're still running through environments that consist of dozens of soldiers both fighting with and against you at once. The music, too, is largely the same, along with the voice acting.
DW5 is the definitive iteration of Dynasty Warriors, and as such, DW5 Empires is the definitive iteration of this particular spin-off. If you like a little bit of brainwork, thought, and planning to go with your taking over China one step at a time, then look no further than this title, dropping at the end of this month.