Dynasty Warriors is pretty rife with spin-off material, and the results of that are hit and miss simply because of one of two things. The first is when the spin-off loses the core combat. To ensure it succeeds there needs to be a good hook in place to replace the oddly satisfying grandiose brawling, slashing style synonymous with Dynasty Warriors, and the same goes for use of history as a backdrop. If you’re going to throw a curveball in there, make sure it’s daft enough to offset any potential disconnect. Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors Godseekers has some success in creating a decent spin-off on a technical level, but is that enough to create a worthy side-entry into Koei Tecmo’s seemingly evergreen franchise?
Godseekers, now arriving on PS4 and Vita in Europe and North America after debuting in Japan in August last year, takes the form of a turn-based tactical RPG, and rather unsurprisingly, it’s a good fit as it follows a similar path to a previous spin-off, the decade and a half old Dynasty Tactics. Battles here take place in a grid-based fashion with the player moving their units a set number of tiles each turn. Setting up attack and defence before the enemy units take their turn. In a way it’s reminiscent of a tabletop game, and the historical Three Kingdoms era of China is a great backdrop for such a thing.
Despite the change in genre, Godseekers carries over much of the aesthetic and roster from the core Dynasty Warriors series. Not only are there more than sixty characters from the series, but the menu’s visual style, cutscenes, and text box chat also remain in place. The good thing here for Dynasty Warriors fans is that there’s a decent level of welcoming familiarity on hand to ease them into the different play style. Whether this sense of familiarity goes too far or not is probably something you can judge on a case by case basis, but for me, it felt like just about the right balance.
The story backdrop is also mostly taken directly from the same tales already explored in the core series, but there’s some interesting twists to that historical narrative in Godseekers.
What is new is the introduction of two characters that bring a more fantastical slant to Dynasty Warriors, but for different reasons. The game’s enigmatic lead Zhao Yun is joined by his childhood friend Lei Bin (self-professed master of lore), a character who’s fashion sense seems a few generations ahead of the historical curve (gotta love that snazzy eyepiece), and the pair discover the other new character, Lixia, a magic-infused girl who was encased in ice until the duo showed up and unwittingly freed her. From this begins an intriguing mix of fact and fiction wrapped up in the overlying mystery of Lixia’s imprisonment.
At first these characters seem a little too out of place for Dynasty Warriors, but over the course of the game, they become ingrained in the story, and Godseekers starts to distance itself from the slightly more stoic (well as stoic as twatting twenty soldiers at once with a ruddy great pole can be) main series without becoming completely alien. There’s a bit of disconnect between the history and the fantasy for a while though, and the best way to get past it is to concentrate on the actual battles.
Godseekers turn-based strategy works well enough, but you shouldn’t go in expecting anything too cerebral as the game draws closer to the story side than it does military tactics. In fairness though, what is there is not exactly a shallow experience. There’s ample explanation of the way to handle battles, and you should pick up enough to breeze through the earlier stages with little concern. Like other turn-based strategy fare of this ilk, you get selection of unit types, with ranged, close quarters, and magic being among the choices. Ranged units are of course good for picking off targets from a safe distance, albeit with a lesser impact than your close quarters units, and a major part of the game’s challenge comes from using the skills of each unit type to counter the enemy threat effectively.
Combat is simplified without being condescending, and the challenges the game throws at you offset some of that simplicity in the latter portion. For what it’s worth, Godseekers is certainly more complex than an average Dynasty Warriors title. You can chain attacks together to rack up bigger, more devastating combos (this depletes your Action Points more significantly though), and when the right conditions are met, you’re able to execute team up moves that obliterate enemy units in a swift manner. Of course, you can also upgrade the abilities of your units as you progress, granting them new moves that possess more oomph (though sadly quite a few of the upgrades feel and look no different to the starter moves).
So Godseekers is a decent switch up from the core Dynasty Warriors formula without being too far removed. To its benefit it has more chance of connecting with a different audience thanks to the reserved nature of turn-based tactical battles and a less dry plot. All the same, it still feels a bit off at times. Seeing the usual combat animations with less control over them is an odd feeling for the franchise, irrespective of it being done before. Meanwhile, as I alluded to earlier, the more fantastical twist to a largely historically-led series is refreshing, but takes some time to gel. While the turn-based gameplay is competently done, it lacks real punch. I feel Godseekers needs a bit more tension as the challenge ramps up, and a bit more variety in how battles pan out, in order to elevate it beyond being merely ‘good’.
Despite those complaints, I was pleasantly surprised by Godseekers. I’m a fan of Dynasty Warriors’ mass-melee madness, and have an appreciation for turn-based strategy, so it’s good to see this mashup work well enough to produce a decent spin-off. If there is to be a sequel, I hope there’s a bit more depth and variety added so Godseekers can stand as a fine accompaniment to the Dynasty Warriors franchise.