With fear of potentially having Dynasty Warriors lovers cursing my entire namesake, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I had never played a Dynasty Warriors game until I picked up Dynasty Warriors Next. Every time I saw my friends playing it, it always looked like a bunch of enemies standing around while my friends mashed buttons to slaughter them; unfortunately, I looked at it shallowly. I went into this critique thinking that I’d be bored out of my skull trying to see what the game had to offer; hoping against hoping, I wanted to see what my friends found so enticing about something that looked so incredibly simplistic from my ignorant standpoint. Needless to say, for the sake of this review, Dynasty Warriors had its work cut out for it to get past my initial, blind belief of what I thought I knew.
The story is fairly simple: take different groups of characters all around China to overtake enemy territories. This simplicity is almost welcome, since this game is all about the gameplay. It started somewhat simplistically, running from location to location fighting off hundreds of enemies to claim each area on the way to conquering the base. Then the game blatantly diversified, as it threw in interactive events like ambushes and duels. These events each had a brief disclaimer for how to deal with them, but each one initially still felt surprising, leaving me with a slight sense of panic as I executed the information that I had just processed. And all of these spontaneous events revolve around the touchscreen, used to cut down enemies, arrows, or parry attacks in a duel. Duels took the longest for me to familiarize with doing, but after a few failures, swiping and block breaking became as natural as mashing the square and triangle buttons.
The soundtrack to this game assimilates with the gameplay incredibly well, since hard rock and button mashing go hand in hand. Graphically, however, I was the most surprised. It could be that the sheer horsepower of the PS Vita is still a bit unfamiliar to me, but seeing facial movement during attacks and special abilities surprises me. The sheer amount of enemies on-screen was awe-inspiring, and the game almost never hiccupped. The ability for this game to bounce between button-mashing goodness and interactive diversity really countered my initial and unfounded misconceptions of the Dynasty Warriors series.
Next also features different gameplay modes. As expected, it starts with a Campaign Mode, but it extends out into a Conquest Mode, a Coalition Mode, and a Gala Mode. Conquest Mode is where players go online and play invasive chess against each other in sections of China by invading each other’s territories until one player is cut off and is forced to surrender. Coalition Mode is a cooperative mode where up to four players can Ad-Hoc their Vitas together and fight against the CPU. Finally, Gala Mode is where players can play all of the different interactive modes that are interlaced and unlocked in the Campaign Mode.
My biggest issues with this game are with the camera and the enemy AI. The camera always feels too close and stiff, so looking around for enemies is a chore in close-quarters combat. On top of that, any named enemy has some sort of frustrating ability to juggle the player like in a fighting game. I would frequently be yelling at my Vita because some random lieutenant would come up behind me while my combo count is through the roof and would toss me back and forth with some guy named Wang Dong. Frustrating, but I could still get away most of the time, but the camera never helped like luck did.
Dynasty Warriors Next is a game that takes the functionality of the PlayStation Vita and accentuates it, and it brings the player an experience that’s really worth having. Though the camera and the back-stabbing AI are issues throughout, the sheer diversity of the gameplay and the pace of it all, including some of the fastest loading I’ve seen on Vita games so far, puts this up with Wipe out 2048 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss as a must-own game.