• The rumble you hear in the distance is not thunder… oh no… what you can hear is Koei’s unstoppable machine that is the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Koei have been spitting out Dynasty Warriors games at us for some time and just to confuse you Empires is actually the third game under the Dynasty Warriors 5 name. Previous incarnations of Dynasty Warriors have been concentrated solely on a hack and slash formulae and gamers have either loved them or hated them. Koei with DW5 Empires have looked to change that mould and Koei maybe taking a nervous but certainly taking a brave step have introduced a huge amount of tactics and strategy into their latest offering, and it is this offering that we get to play on the Xbox 360.

    Empires physical gameplay still includes you taking control of a Chinese Warlord and pitting you against hundreds of enemy soldiers on the screen at any one time using the hack and slash style to dominate the battlefield. But Empires shakes up the game by removing the many individual character story modes you played through that existed in previous versions of Dynasty Warriors, and in essence has rolled them all together in the Empires mode. You still have some story lines to choose from but these choices are nothing like any previous versions of Dynasty Warriors you may have played with the older versions being all about individual characters in that dynasty.

    Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires

    In Empires you have six scenarios to choose from and from picking a scenario you are then asked to choose a Warlord to control the plot of land you are assigned. Once you have your Warlord choice ticked you can then assign generals and lieutenants to that area forming the basis of your initial army size with soldiers being assigned to you and your commanding officers. Your objective within Empires is to control 100% of the landmass by 100 game turns or what equates to 25 years. During your domination of China you can form alliances with other Warlords albeit eventually you are going to want to take their land too. And on your rampage across the lands you can also recruit/capture more commanding officers, which in turn will give you an increased gamerscore unlocking achievements.Â

    You also have 75 policies to choose from which you can execute between battle phases and it is these policies that have changed the Dynasty Warriors age-old formulae. In a nut shell Empires is giving you total control with your choices and is no longer just an attack, attack, attack game. Now you have control over government choices, product development, diplomacy and battle tactics to name but a few of the policies available to you. This is the cool part to Empires and allows you to make decisions and rejoice when you have made the right choice and… well… in turn also meaning you have to live with the consequences should you make the wrong choice.

    The battlefield themselves are the same as in any other Dynasty Warriors game, but for anyone who has never seen a DW game… you begin your battle starting at a certain point on the map and your aim is to rid the battlefield of any opposing commanding officers and in by doing so you will gain control of that territory. As you rampage through the land you will face hundreds of soldier units looking to stand in your way but your Warlord and commanding officers are like Gods, and a very simple button mashing method is all that is needed to obliterate anyone looking to stand in your way. Enemy soldier units will do little to hinder your path and will almost just stand still allowing you to rack up multiple hit combos as you wipe out an entire unit of thirty plus men without even breaking a sweat. The enemy commanding officers however do at least this time offer some resistance but even these individuals are not hard to beat and therefore the battle side of Empires, which should have been fun to play through quickly became boring and painful. My advice here is for you to look to defeat the enemy officers quickly causing the other enemy units to simply give up and thus allowing you to conquer that territory. You can of course play through each territory slowly looking to conquer each base as you go, but then the time needed to do this will be extensive, so… you have been warned.

    When you do win a battle you will take that territory and you will have also captured a number of enemy officers who you can then recruit to increase the size of your army. Most officers will simply agree to join you, others will at first refuse and need to be bribed and this is what goes back to the policies side of Empires where a certain manufactured object might just be enough to entice them to your side of the fence. And so the formulae continues… consulting with your officers on what policies to execute, balancing your officers across all your territories to ensure you have adequate protection, through to you choosing which neighbouring enemy territory you wish to conquer next. This process being repeated throughout your campaign takes some time so… be, fully prepared to spend a fair amount of your time on this game with the weight of content and gameplay you need to chew your way through.

    The looks and feel to Empires has to be stated as bland. This game is available on the PS2 as well as the Xbox 360 and well to that it really does not look like a HD Xbox 360 game. Once again I find myself saying the game is nice rather than saying the game looks fantastic. Now I am all for seeing a growing title library on the Xbox 360 but… I am very tired of seeing what constantly looks like rushed ports or badly done games. Gamers want new fresh games and at a constant release pace – yes of course we do… but we own a Xbox 360 and a machine sold on its power to produce beautiful games, so I would much rather play a game that took a tad longer to be released but looked perfect than a title rushed out just for the sake of it.

    In summing up even though this version of Dynasty Warriors has been opened up with more strategy based gameplay, the game is pretty much the way it has always been so thus raises the question whether Koei need to move on and look at something else? The game is enjoyable, but then it is also damn frustrating and somewhat confusing in places. I have a love hate relationship with this game and would advise that a rental would be in order so you can do the ‘ole’ suck it and see to discover whether you agree or disagree with me before purchasing said title.

    Score: 5/10

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