Gentlepeople of the interwebs, I am not going to confess something sordid and nor am I going to call this my guilty pleasure. I mean, I have CERTAIN guilty pleasures in gaming and I refuse to call THIS series of games a guilty pleasure. I mean, why should I when this series of games has ignited something within me that I wasn’t expecting: a desire to know more. And besides, why should anyone feel guilty of liking something? I’ll tell you something. I don’t feel guilty or uncomfortable telling people that I like any of my hobbies or interests because that would be straight-up lying to say “oh no, I’m totally into the football game with the balls in the goal and the running and the… kicking?” when in reality, I don’t care much for it at all. Put it on TV, fine. Talk to me about it in depth? I’m gonna zone out, most likely.
So yeah, I like Dynasty Warriors. What of it?
Little back of back story, this was in fact the first game I bought for my Playstation 2 when I bought the system. I bought it as a present for passing my A Levels. That’s right. A present to me. I was working at the time and I had saved up some money and we were checking out the new Blockbuster in town and it was there on the shelves and…well… impulses. I got a few games with it but can I remember which ones they were? Nope. This is the only one I remember. Why? Well… because obviously this game has resonated with me more than the others did…
I genuinely can’t even remember what sort of games the others could have been… I can’t even tell by looking at a list of PS2 games… Either way. Dynasty Warriors 2.
Now, there’s a reason as to why I’m not going to be particularly nice to this game and that’s purely because it’s the first game in the series.
“HOLD ON A GODDAMN MINUTE, WELLSY; THIS IS CLEARLY A SEQUEL AND YOU’RE SAYING IT’S THE FIRST ONE IN THE SERIES?”
Well, I’m glad you raised your voice so condescendingly at me, random strange voice that I wrote for the purpose of this review. If you’ve been reading my reviews at all in the past then you’ll know I already covered the first game which was in fact a one-on-one fighting games. It is not the beginnings of the series of DW games as we know them so let’s not count it. AND GOOD GRIEF THAT IS NOT A PARTICULARLY WHOOP WHOOP FIGHTING ANYWAY SO LET’S MOVE ON QUIIIIIICKLY NOW.
So here’s the BASIC set-up, in as basic a way as it can be because the history of China is a fairly complex one if these sets of games are anything to go by. Essentially, when we choose a warrior, they belong to one of three main kingdoms: Wu, Shu and Wei. Each one has a bit of beef with the other but they all have beef with other despots and tyrants so everyone initially fights for the greater good before going on mega power trips of their own in order to rule the land.
NOW. PROBLEMS. Dynasty Warriors 2 does not tell the story in anywhere near as much detail as it ought to. It isn’t until it gets to Dynasty Warriors 3 that we’re really treated to some forms of exposition in story-telling or historical context. As such, we’re treated – sorry, “treated” – to a series of skirmishes that are vaguely connected and only begin to tell us the story of why these characters/armies are going up against each other. It is basically as ordinary as saying EVERYONE HATES EACH OTHER, GO AND FIGHT THEM ALL. The reason that this game is not as good as it seems to be is purely based on what it’s actually trying to do. It is not a story-telling game. It is not exactly the deepest action game in the world. It is merely attempting to be a technical achievement. This is the sort of game that would never have been remotely possible on the PS1 and was only JUST about possible in the early stages of the PS2. However, that seems to be what it is: a coding masterpiece for the next generation of consoles.
This does not necessarily make it the best game in the world. It’s not. At the time, it was pretty damn special for what it was. Graphically, it was amazing to be able to have SO MUCH on the screen. That was unheard of. The secret to how they managed to get a dozen+ enemies on screen moving about at once WITHOUT slowdown? (And if there was slowdown, it was minimal for me and I never really came across it unless my PS2 was burning up like the fires of hell)
It’s called fogging.
It basically means the processor fogs the backgrounds to a point where it can handle the amount of cluster-fucking on screen. It doesn’t do it to a point where it’s ridiculously obvious but you do often find yourself wandering into foggy distances because there’s so much ready to go down that it can’t quite handle it yet. They would eventually sort that out in other games.
I mean, look in the background of this screenshot… it’s grey fog. There’s nothing else there. There’s so much else happening that it has to hide the rest. It’s almost unnerving at times though. I’m not talking Silent Hill ‘walk-through-the-fog-to-your-doom-lest-you-be-killed-by-a-dog’ levels of unnerving but sometimes the problem is that you could easily be heading INTO trouble and not know about it. It’s a bit offputting to be la-de-da-ing your way through a level only to find a group of bastard enemies gunning for you. Not that they do a huge amount aside from CONSISTENTLY ATTACK YOU FROM EVERY ANGLE BECAUSE THAT IS HOW DRONES ATTACK. From the off, even on easy, it isn’t made easy for you. If you plough through enemies towards the end goal without thinking, you’ll die. Your bodyguards will die. That’s kinda how these things work. If you’re on your own in the middle of a foggy battlefield, surrounded by ninety enemies… the chances are you will die.
And not because of the fog.
But because you’re a moron.
Now the graphical impracticalities of fogging isn’t a bad thing PER SE given that you don’t want to be distracted by other things and you want to be focussing on the action in front of YOU. As such, yeah, the fogging is probably quite welcome all in all. I mean, what could be worse than having to control your character amongst a tirade of enemies all slogging it out to kill you and then having your eyes diverted into looking at something gorgeous in the background?
Erm… I say gorgeous but realistically, it would either have been more brown or grey or occasional greenery. The vast landscapes were, more often than not, flat and textureless with some hills thrown in for good measure. If anything, Dynasty Warriors 3 upped the level of textures but also looked awful for being the wrong shade of MUD. But enough about THAT game.
The thing that people love to hate on about the Dynasty Warriors series is the fact that the entire game seems ridiculously simple given the magnitude of what it’s trying to do. The combat mechanic do boil down to a few buttons. Primarily the square button. The square button is your friend and you could plough through a dozen enemies at a time simply by hammering it enough times. This of course will not do in terms of gameplay. How can a game allow itself to be so led by one button?
Well it isn’t. There’s actually more to it than that but for the most part, if you are speedy/tactical enough, you COULD race through the games purely focussing on the square button. Press it four times to unleash an almighty combo on everyone. That’ll do. Occasionally jump. Occasionally defend. Pick up loads of health on the way. All that stuff. Yeah. Simple.
NO. NO. NO. Do not be fooled. You cannot simply button mash your way through these games. They don’t actually work like that. You try and button mash your way through and you might as well let someone throw a spear at your face because that’s what will happen with the game. Triangle segues into all attacks as a stronger final attack. Circle is your special move (or Musou attack as they call it) and you even have a bow and arrow to shoot BLOODY ARCHERS OUT OF THEIR FUCKING CROW’S NEST PERCHES BECAUSE FUCK THOSE GUYS. I HATE THOSE FUCKERS. HATE THAT THEY STAND ON GATES AND SHOOT YOU AND THEN RUN THE FUCK AWAY WHEN YOU EVEN SO MUCH AS COME NEAR YOU SO YOU CAN’T HIT THE BASTARDS.
Ironically, they usually get an arrow to the face and die instantly. Shame.
Now, tactically, you do have to follow what is being said on the little ticker tape messaging thing that shows up once in a while. The majority of the time, it’ll be spouting out “YOU KILLED 100 PEOPLE, YOU PSYCHOTIC SCUMBAG!” and everyone’s like “HOORAY!” and “SHIT, YOU BE A BADASS!” and some people are like “I CAN’T BE LEFT BEHIND!” and then they die in a pit of agony because you inspired them to run into the heat of battle and get mauled. Yay. You should feel bad. You bastard.
Thankfully, the game’s problems and mostly slippery controls were severely ironed out in future games. The main trouble I became irked over was the way in which once you attacked someone, your remaining attacks stayed on the stay course until they were all finished. By that, I mean that if you wanted to change direction midway through a series of attacks, you couldn’t. It set you on a line and you stuck to it. It means that you would plough through one or two enemies only to turn around and be swallowed by another dozen of them that you missed. Musou attacks allowed you to change direction, no problem. The standard attacks did not. Ugh. Thank goodness for sequels, eh?
Well apparently not everyone agrees. We’re onto the eighth game (7th technically but do keep up, there are naming numeral issues here) and only certain things have changed. I won’t go into those details but the series does seem to strike a chord with people in one way or another. They are still INCREDIBLY popular worldwide but a lot of people cannot fathom as to why. Sometimes I wonder why.
But for me, after this game, I came to be incredibly interested in what the history was truly talking about. I had to check encyclopaedias for the most part but they could only say so much. Eventually, the internet became better and I could research it for myself. There was something… intriguing about the history behind the games. That they were, and are, based on real history makes them more entertaining but also the way in which the games have steadily tried to give these characters personalities which either DON’T MATCH THEM or DON’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE IN CONTEXT is actually pretty intriguing all in all.
So I like this game. I mean I don’t really like THIS one that much as I do, say, 5 or 7 or 8. This game was a technical spectacle and a benchmark for the developers. It was a test. It wanted to push what was possible without totally overdoing it. It got LOADS of irritating flaws and things. It wasn’t meant to be the most amazing game in the world. It was merely testing the waters.
It dribbled a bit.
A lot of it went on the floor.
A few people spat it out.
Fuck you, stop drinking my water, you disgusting buggers.