Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Review: A Tactical Slash’em Up

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires successfully implements the tactical edge that the Empires spin-off series is known for, but is held back by the base game.

To say that Dynasty Warriors 9 had a troubled launch is something of an understatement. The Omega Force and Koei Tecmo title attempted to shift the template for the hack’n’slash series with a move into an open world structure, but its slap-dash implementation failed to resonate with fans. Now, the Empires sub-series has a chance to bring players back into the fold via Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires.

For the uninitiated, the Dynasty Warriors series is a retelling of the classic Chinese epic of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, reapplied in the form of an action game. Since 2004 each Dynasty Warriors release has then had an Empires spin-off, which combines the musou combat of the original game with tactical and grand strategy elements. Over the years it has turned out to be an immersive combination, but Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires faces a stiffer challenge than previous years to combine these disparate elements.


Related: All Dynasty Warriors Main Games, Ranked By Metacritic

When it comes to the tactical emphasis of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, they do work well. It adds a greater scale to the events of the original game and its take on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with the player able to select the various campaigns of the game through a big picture view that complements the core musou combat experience. On top of that, the character creation option allows the player to forge their own path through the campaigns, should this iteration of Dynasty Warriors somehow feel too realistic for their taste.

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Character Creation

The grand strategy gameplay is just as intoxicating as in previous Empires games, with the player needing to keep track of things like rations as they look to expand their region. Players should expect some schmoozing with other character to get them on side, the occasional bout of pillaging, and sending spies to investigate enemies and undermine their defenses. When everything is right, it’s then time to jump into direct action for some of that classic Dynasty Warriors combat.

Where Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires starts to feel a bit awkward is when the lumbering form of the original Dynasty Warriors 9 comes into view. When the player is, for instance, visiting allies through the Stroll mechanic, they will be thrown into an open world environment to traverse. Much like the original release of Dynasty Warriors 9, these open world sections add nothing to the experience unless the player wants to run around.

Thankfully, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires seems to recognize that the game does not suit an open world structure, and so shies away from these elements as much as possible. Fast travel is always available to ignore the dull, empty environments and there’s little to be found within the rough terrain except arbitrary enemies to kill and the occasional character to talk to, who is available via fast travel anyway.

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires Combat

Even so, there are hangovers of the original game that it’s unlikely Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires would have been able to address. Although some may find musou games to be unoriginal and repetitive, there is an immense joy to be found in a combat style that has been refined entry after entry, but Dynasty Warriors 9 certainly felt like a step in the wrong direction in this regard. Players familiar with Dynasty Warriors 8 or other titles like the Hyrule Warriors games will find Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires to be less fluid and therefore less satisfying, even if it’s still serviceable in its function as a power trip.

As such, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires does feel like a step towards righting the problems with the original game. It still suffers from the structural issues that held back Dynasty Warriors 9, and fans of more straightforward musou titles have a wealth of other games on offer such as Samurai Warriors 5, but those who prefer the tactical edge of Empires will at least find some enjoyment here.

More: Dynasty Warriors: The Netflix Movie’s Biggest Differences To The Games

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is out now for PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Screen Rant was provided with a PS5 code for the purposes of this review.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5 (Fairly Good)

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