If you haven't played a Dynasty Warriors game before, here's a quick summary of how it plays: hack, slash, hack, slash, slash, hack -- repeat hundreds of times. Laugh maniacally.
Sure there are always dozens of characters to play, some strategy involved and tonnes of extras to unlock, but Dynasty Warriors at its core has always been about the sheer brain-busting coolness of taking on everything in your path, mowing down dozens of enemies with one strike and ending up with a body count in the hundreds. And to that end, Dynasty Warriors 5 delivers the best action in the series -- until the next upgrade arrives at any rate.
Dynasty Warriors 5 ups the number of enemies on screen at the same time, gives you 48 characters to choose from, tweaks the bodyguard system introduced in game number 4 and adds some new strategy elements, but for the most part it sticks with the tried and true formula of the series thus far. In fact, it's even taken away some elements (namely the strategy gameplay) that appeared in the last version of the game, Dynasty Warriors Empires.
All of this means that if you're a Dynasty Warriors fanatic, you may find little here that you haven't experienced with previous games, save for marginally prettier graphics. If you're a newbie who likes the sound of the whole one-man-army thing, then Dynasty Warriors 5 is as good an introduction to the series as you're going to get.
For the uninitiated, Dynasty Warriors 5 takes place during the Three Kingdoms period of Ancient China (roughly around AD 220-280), where three large warring states arose trying to unify the country under their own banner. Most of your time in Dynasty Warriors 5 will be spent in the extensive Musou Mode, where players choose one of the faction generals (from Wu, Wei or Shu) and play through that general's specific storyline. There are only 18 generals to choose from initially, but that can quickly expand to the full 48 after a few play throughs. Each general's campaign can take several hours to finish, so there's plenty of gameplay here if you're persistent.
Battle takes place in large open maps -- traversing from one edge to the other of one of the larger maps on foot could take more than five minutes -- with hundreds of troops on the map at the same time. Controls are once again simple -- Square is attack, Triangle is a special attack, X is for jump and Circle is to trigger your area-clearing Musou attack. Combos can be achieved by pressing Square a certain number of times before hitting Triangle, with better combos unlocked by finding upgraded weapons.
The bodyguard system introduced in Dynasty Warriors 4 has been scaled down somewhat, with this latest version now only letting you have one bodyguard fighting side by side with you at the one time. The new bodyguards accompanying you, however, are much more able and aggressive than the 'stand back and weakly thrust at an opponent' types of the last game. Bodyguards can now also be used to launch double musou attacks, something that was only previously possible in a two player game.
And while being a near-unstoppable fighting machine is where most of the fun in this game lies, gamers will still need to play smartly to finish most missions. All-out attack is only advisable for some levels -- most of the time you'll be required to ensure the safety of certain generals or locations, which will have you running around from point to point stamping out bushfires to ensure a successful mission.
Dynasty Warriors 5 also continues with the previous game's RPG-lite aspects, including gaining experience points for your character and the ability to equip them with different weapons and magical items. These new weapons and items can be found scattered throughout the game's many levels, with a few (such as each general's ultimate weapon) having some pretty complex requirements having to be met before they're unlocked.
With such a strict adherence to the simple hack and slash principles that made it a hit in the past, Dynasty Warriors 5 suffers from the same drawbacks as every other game in the series so far. The main complaint some gamers will have is that Dynasty Warriors 5 is far too repetitive -- with only a limited combo system, you'll find you're pressing the same buttons over and over again, regardless of which general you're playing. Another issue the Dynasty Warriors series has never seemed to fix is its camera, which will often have you fighting and defending enemies that you can't see off-screen.
To its credit, Dynasty Warriors tries to break up the same-ness by including a comprehensive Challenge Mode, which features time and location-based objectives for you to try and complete. There's also a Free Mode, which allows you to play missions as any character, and a light Encyclopedia Mode, which gives players a brief background on the history and real life figures represented in the game. The gradual visual improvements of each Dynasty Warriors iteration continues on with number 5, with all of the character models fairly well detailed. The environments still look fairly bland and nondescript, however.
If you're a Dynasty Warriors fan, then chances are you've already purchased this latest version. If you're a casual fan, then the minimal improvements in 5 probably don't warrant a purchase. But if you're new to the series and feel like boosting your ego by single-handedly taking on an army of hundreds, then Dynasty Warriors 5 is for you.
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