Dynasty Warriors 9 (PS4)

The cover art – and even the loading screen – of Dynasty Warriors 9 seen above depicts a warrior on horseback, spear held high, leaping from a cliff into an encirclement of enemies. It’s a spectacular image. It also represents what Dynasty Warriors is, a fluent, wild, exotic story of military history, flush with flamboyant characters.

Rather than those cramped, intensely focused battlefields, Dynasty Warriors 9 is empty space. There’s item collecting, an occasional scrap, some bow hunting, and idle conversations breeding map-filling side quests. Rather than frantic combat, Dynasty Warriors 9 is hopelessly listless and lackadaisical. There’s no energy or enthusiasm for the property, paying more attention to the lack of advancement in Western game design than celebrating wartime history in a preposterously vibrant way.

In concept, the idea isn’t without merit. Settling down the Yellow Turban Rebellion – a point of history integral to Dynasty Warriors – means scanning a map, finding pockets of resistance, and walking. Traditionally, walking meant slicing though hundreds if not thousands of peasant soldiers. Now, it’s walking over and then harvesting plants.

Dynasty Warriors is specifically Eastern. It always has been, since the first entry pitted Chinese historical generals against one another. Soon, Dynasty Warriors blossomed onto full battlefields. Now, it’s just emptiness. The inspiration is no longer Chinese, Japanese, or Eastern mythology. Instead, it’s western game design.

This is more than an issue of trying something different; it’s an exchange of identity, masking the heightened glamour of historical combat for the sake of marketplace values. Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn’t celebrate the past, rather, it takes that past and tries to mine it for a short-lived contemporary design fad.


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