Developed by Omega Force. Published by Tecmo Koei. Released March 25, 2014. Available on PS3, PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita (reviewed).
People who say Dynasty Warriors games are all exactly the same don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Of course, they also claim it’s about mashing a single button, further damning themselves as jesters who should be ousted from civilized society, shunned and cursed for the fools they are. I like Dynasty Warriors, and while it’s becoming increasingly “okay” to admit that, the stigma remains.
Koei’s latest efforts with the series haven’t helped perceptions. Its expansions have been a little lazy in recent years, half-localized and lacking in fresh content that they are. Dynasty Warriors 8 went some way towards making amends, however, providing a deeper combat and weapon system, a ton of extra content, and some great new characters. It was, quite frankly, the best Warriors game I’ve played since the classic Dynasty Warriors 3 on the PlayStation 2.
Xtreme Legends continues the traditional DW release cycle, adding characters and content to Dynasty Warriors 8. With the jump to a new generation, the series also makes its PlayStation 4 debut with a Complete Edition, combining the base game with all the Xtreme Legends material and offering some graphical upgrades.
The most significant addition in Xtreme Legends is a full story mode for the series’ most iconic character, Lu Bu. He Who Must Not Be Pursued gets a shorter story than the main kingdoms, though it can be split off into “historical” or “hypothetical” stages by performing certain tasks in-game. Each of the existing story modes are offered a bunch of extra chapters as well, and it’ll certainly take a while to see all the extra campaign installments.
As with every Xtreme Legends release, some new characters are on offer. The main three kingdoms get one fresh face each, with Wei receiving Yu Jin, Shu adding Fa Zheng, and Wu answering the long-awaited call for Zhu Ran. With Lu Bu getting his own story, it’s only fitting his army gets a few new playable characters as well, with the strategist Chen Gong and his daughter Lu Lingqi joining the fracas.
The new characters are certainly some of the more interesting in recent memory. Yu Jin fights with a trident that can be charged with various elemental powers, Fa Zheng wields a length of magic cloth that allows him to blink around the combat area, while Zhu Ran’s fire arrows are tricky to use, yet entertaining in battle. Lu Lingqi brings back Lu Bu’s old cross pike from DW6, and is fairly decent, but Chen Gong absolutely steals the show. Not only is he an amusing character, his weapon – a command scroll – summons soldiers to perform his attacks for him, bringing archers, guardsmen, and even charging cavalry into the fight while he gives the orders. He’s a ton of fun to use.
Ambition Mode – a non-story city building game introduced in DW8 – has been bolstered with a whole new post-game mode, though it requires you having gone through the grind of completing the original mode first. Essentially a stripped-down game of Dynasty Warriors: Empires, Ambition’s Conquest mode is all about securing territory, providing some enjoyable fast based battles revolving around capturing enemy bases and holding them, while giving commands to the soldiers in your unit. While not as in-depth as Empires, I’m finding myself thoroughly entertained by it.
A new difficulty mode, Ultimate, has been thrown into the mix as well, though frankly I don’t find it much fun at all. All it does is ramp up the damage output and defense of enemies to a ludicrous degree, even moreso than DW8‘s already silly Chaos difficulty did. Archers, especially, absolutely ruin the experience, their overpowered projectiles able to shred you to pieces before you can get a single attack in. Still, thanks to a new level cap of 150, not to mention Weapon Fusion, Chaos difficulty at least feels like a playable challenge.
Weapon Fusion has been taken from the Warriors Orochi series, allowing players to transfer the abilities of one weapon to another. This allows you to craft an incredibly powerful armament, taking great boosts found on random weapons and stacking them on something you want, eventually building something that can restore health with every enemy you kill, dish out lightning, poison, or fire damage, slow opponents with each hit, or deal damage back onto attackers who hit you. You can even change your weapon’s alignment, or strengthen its base attack output.
I love messing around with Weapon Fusion, though I’m a bit disappointed that it requires a new currency, gems, in order to be used. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that gems are acquired by grinding in Ambition mode and unobtainable anywhere else. With battles giving up between 50 and 100 gems, and a simple +1 attack costing 500 of the buggers, it can take some time to get the blade of your dreams.
There are lots of other little things, too. Some of the combat has been tweaked, with characters getting one additional EX attack if using their preferred weapon, and the ability to trigger “Storm Rush” on weakened opponents more easily. Up to three bodyguards can also be brought into battle in Ambition and Free mode, though using playable characters in this fashion requires a high Leadership level – another thing that requires grinding in Ambition mode. There are now six-star rated weapons, powerful unique items obtained by performing secret objectives on certain maps. These are generally stronger from a basic standpoint, but fused regular weapons can easily cause them to be outclassed thanks to far more useful abilities than the six-star’s unchangeable pre-set boosts.
Rounding out the new content is Challenge mode, which resurrects some special game types found in previous installments. These challenges include Bridge Melee (knock enemies off a bridge to score points), Rampage (score as many kills as possible in a time limit), Speed Run (run, speedily), Arena (an endurance boss rush), and Inferno, which is kind of like rampage but featuring explosions. All these challenges boast online leaderboards.
Graphically, one can easily see the difference between the PS4 and PS3 versions, with the PlayStation 4 able to render an obscene amount of characters on-screen at once. Superior anti-aliasing is a godsend as well, with playable generals appearing far smoother than before. There is an odd visual effect that’s been added, however, which renders background characters in a hazy, blurry fashion. One gets used to it, but it’s initially quite jarring to the eyes.
The series’ biggest nemesis, visual slowdown, is unfortunately yet to be conquered. During the most intense battles, the framerate chokes and the action slows to a crawl. It only happens in the most clogged up of arenas, but when it happens, it happens pretty damn hard. Even with this recurring problem, however, the sheer amount of stuff on screen is impressive.
Xtreme Legends boasts a cross-save feature with the PlayStation Vita version, which is itself a remarkable bit of software. Though not as silky looking as the PS4 version, the handheld alternative still boasts all the content, and presents every map and battle in full scale. It can’t render as many opponents on-screen, and suffers from soldiers popping in and out of existence, but it still looks damn good – even if the map is so tiny on the screen as to require squinting. Slowdown is a little more frequent here, but not overwhelmingly so, and overall it’s great to have a proper Dynasty Warriors game on the Vita, rather than the jumped up tech demo that was DW Next.
It’s a real shame – and a greedy shame to boot – that cross-buy is not supported. Being able to upload and download save data between the PS4 and PS Vita versions is pretty damn awesome, and I’ve had fun switching between the two in order to keep the game going wherever I may be. In order to take advantage of this, however, you’ll be expected to buy the game twice, and as cool as cross-save is, it’s not that cool.
Whichever version you end up getting, however, Complete Edition is well worth picking up, even if you’ve already played DW8 – in fact, you can download your PS3 save data to retain all your progress. Xtreme Legends adds a wealth of new content, which is mixed sufficiently into the existing stuff, to breathe plenty of fresh life into the whole thing, while new gameplay balancing and leveling features give you more to do with your favorite warriors.
Bottom Line: Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is equally great on PS4 and Vita, full of new stuff to do, and introducing some of the best characters to debut in the series. It’s a great way to reincentivize the most enjoyable Warriors game since DW3, and it looks suitably pretty to boot.
Recommendation: As with most Dynasty Warriors games, you either love it or hate it, and you know which way you swing by now. If you love it, this is a most definite yes from a fellow fan. If you hate it … well, you are an object of pity in mine heart.[rating=4]