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Koei took what was great from Dynasty Warriors 5 and before and what little was good about Dynasty Warriors 6 (the epic failure) and created a solid, fantastic new addition to this amazing series.
Pros: Almost every single character from Dynasty Warriors 5 (with the exception of Pang De and Zuo Ci) was brought back, most of the characters' appearances and weapons were brought back from Dynasty Warriors 5, there are many new characters, the capability to use different weapons for each character, the fact that you have 2 weapon sets that are interchangeable in battle, 2 unique musou attacks, the same leveling system as Dynasty Warriors 6, the battles are a little more structured and strategy-based, there is more interaction with the characters, it is very easy to change the difficulty, and the addition of a new kingdom named Jin as well as many new characters in said kingdom.
Cons: There are only two main modes, the story mode is based more on kingdom so there are no unique stories for each character, the weapon ratings are weird, there is no musou rage, there is no morale meter, and you cannot give orders to anyone.
I felt that this game was fantastic. I want to say up front that I am a major Dynasty Warriors fan. I have read around in the comments and reviews and have heard many people say that this game is very "deja vu" and "same old, same old". Well, they are not wrong. This is a very traditional hack n' slash, go defeat all the enemy commanders, Dynasty Warriors game. If you were hoping for different, then you will be very disappointed. However, for those who don't mind, or even like the style of the series, then I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this game.
To start off with, most know that Dynasty Warriors 6 was a disaster because they took many characters out of the game. Most also know that most of the characters they kept looked like Japanese rock stars instead of Ancient Chinese warriors. On top of that, most know that many of the weapons were changed completely. Most of that was thankfully corrected in this game. Most of the characters were brought back and their appearances and weapons were brought back to normal. There were a few exceptions, such as Sun Quan's appearance, Sun Jian's appearance, Liu Bei's appearance, Diao Chan's weapon, and Zhou Yu's weapon that were the same as Dynasty Warriors 6 (this is just to name a few of the main ones). In addition to characters being brought back, there are many new faces added to each roster. These include Cai Wenji and Jia Xu for Wei, Ding Feng and Lian Shi for Wu, and Bao Sanniang, Guan Suo, Ma Dai, and Liu Shan for Shu.
Speaking of weapons, you can change any character's weapon at any time. So, if you don't like the fact that Cao Ren uses a flail, you can change it to sword. Or, you could have a sword and then change it during battle to say, twin axes. There are certain weapons that are special to certain characters, such as the flail with Cao Ren. They have a unique attack that they can use only with that weapon, but you don't have to use that weapon if you don't want to. My only complaint with this system is the fact that they rate how good your character is with certain weapons. The way it works is that one star is for really inept to 3 stars being a master with the weapon. What I don't get, is how they have special attacks for their prefered weapon, and yet they only have two stars. That doesn't make sense. You can gain seals from using different weapons and legendary weapons give you the seal of "Flail Master" or "Sword Master" (it's based on what the weapon is) that you could equip. Or, sometimes you can gain mastery over a weapon through the character leveling system. However, it still doesn't make sense that the character's preferred weapon is only considered "competent". Also, the sword is a weapon that most characters are masters at. I like the system a lot, but based on what I just said, it does need improvement.
There are two main modes in this game: Story Mode and Conquest Mode. There are 4 story modes based on each kingdom. The good news is that the narration, events, and movie clips have made the story more understandable than ever. The bad news is that for each battle you are given a character to play instead of you being able to choose. One interesting thing has been added to this game that I have never before seen in any of the main Dynasty Warriors games. Most of the time after the narration is over and you are given your character to play, you are set in a camp where you can walk or run around and talk to people before the battle. You have a specific person to talk to before you start the battle and after that you join in the fray.
Battle-wise, it is as I said earlier, it is a typical hack n' slash game. However, there are a few things that have been changed, removed, and upgraded. The battles are not based on getting bases anymore, rather it focuses more on following orders and defeating commanders and generals now. There is a bit more strategy involved, rather than getting a map and just defeating enemies to win the battle. There are times where you have to defeat certain enemies, break down walls with catapults, perform surprise attacks, and meet up with different allied generals in order to win the battle. Unfortunately, there is no morale meter, so you have less of an idea how your army is faring against the enemy and you do not have any control of your generals anymore.The leveling system for your character is based on attaining skill points and unlocking new skills for them. One of those skills is a second musou attack. This game took out the musou rage in favor of giving each character two unique musou attacks. The first is a ground based attack and the second is either another ground based attack or a mid-air attack, depending on who you play.
The Conquest Mode is a mode that is very similar to the Empires games. You are given a map of China and you choose a character to play. The whole map is covered in hexagonal icons that you have to go and unlock. These icons include battles that range from defeating an enemy commander before they escape, helping an ally, or full blown story battles (there are 5 for each kingdom) and treasure battles (attaining ultimate weapons or special mounts). There are also battles in which you are able to unlock characters. These battles also ask for a difficulty which ranges from Beginner to Chaos before you play, therefore making changing the difficulty very easy to do. You have a fame system that gauges how many battles you have participated in, and there are bonds you can have and grow with other characters. There are many cities across the board you can unlock and talk to people. Sometimes, if your fame is high enough, you can receive money from people, which you can use to buy or forge weapons in order to gain seals. You can create bonds with other characters by unlocking them, have them become your sworn ally, and have them join you in battle. They act very much like bodyguards did in previous games and certain characters will have unique things to say to you based on who you are playing. Examples of this would be if you played Da Qiao and have Sun Ce join you, you will hear unique responses to you because you are playing Sun Ce's wife. Another example would be how Ma Chao would not be too thrilled to accompany you if you are playing Cao Cao, because Cao Cao was responsible for Ma Chao's father's death. In general, the interaction with the different characters is great, and very entertaining at times.
I left this aspect of the game for last because it is the biggest change to the series. The fourth Kingdom of Jin. This kingdom is basically an offshoot of Wei (the other kingdoms being Shu and Wu) that was founded by the Sima Clan. This kingdom eventually destroyed Wei, Wu, and Shu and unified the land. Sima Yi is now the leader of this kingdom and is no longer in Wei's roster. The new characters include Sima Yi's two sons, Sima Shi and Sima Zhao, Deng Ai, Wang Yuanji, Zhong ***, Zhuge Dan, Xiahou Ba, and Guo Huai. The addition of this kingdom explores new viewpoints of the story as well as introducing new battles. This kingdom has only been talked about in the in-game encyclopedia before, but now that the kingdom and it's characters have been introduced, you can play battles that led to the end of the Three Kingdoms era and unite the land under one banner.
In conclusion, this game is a VAST improvement from it's predecessor, and worthy of being called a Dynasty Warriors game. Is the game perfect? No. It does have some issues, but I truly feel that the series is back on track and is heading in the right direction.
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