With the game officially launching in the west in less than a month, Koei finally released the demo for Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires…. properly, i saw plenty of people that managed to get it via the Microsoft Store by fenagling with the regional accounts, but even those versions made available for non-english speaking territories had english in it.
Whatever, the demo is out now pretty much everywhere on consoles, and it includes the tutorial for the basic combat and the battle of Changsha, but NOT the Diplomacy phases and political managerie.
Make sense since they want to showcase the revamped Castle Sieges, by letting you play the battle of Changsha on the invading or defensive’s side, and also the revised Edit Mode, it’s an Empires game after, and you will be able to carry over the created officers’ data to the full game.
And yes, Edit Mode it’s pretty damn good and detailed, plenty of options and detailed ones if you care, my only gripe with it is that there are no basic weapons set, you must choose which character’s action moveset to equip on the Edit officers.
Now, in terms of gameplay… YES, it’s less garbage than regular DW 9. It is.
I’m honestly kinda surprised they managed to get something better out of it since it still uses the shit Flow combat system from DW 9, my guess it that Omega Force couldn’t be arsed to even revert to the classic Charge one this time, despite them doing so for the Empires version of DW 6. But then again, it would have required more work or a “Dynasty Warriors 6 Special” equivalent, maybe they couldn’t/would throw away much of DW 9 systems as they wanted. I’m no developer, after all.
I would be more mercyful if they didn’t put themselves into the shitpit, but yes, they did manage to make combat slightly better, so enemy officers don’t feel utterly trivial to deal now, they have a more sensible armor gauge, deal more damage and aren’t just easily gamed until the prompt for the instakill appears so you can instakill them regardless of them having more than 1 health bar.
Officers having a type with a rock-paper-scissors relation helps, and in general named enemies are more adept to their task and especially at holding their ground and providing a time consuming obstacle as siege weapons travel or long-range units like catapults do their jobs and try to chip away at the castle defenses from afar.
I would comment on the fact that the characters that had their choice/unique weapon cut and resold back as DLC in the base DW 9 have now those baked in, alongside the “DLC” characters, ….but you simply can’t tell from the demo as you can play as 5 officers (plus the ones you create in Edit Mode): Zhao Yun, Cheng Pu, Dong Bai, Xin Xianying and Cao Xai.
You can’t tell since Zhao Yun somehow survived the “weapon purge” in the base game, the others are new playable characters introduced in DW 9, and this Empires iteration has no exclusive new playable characters to it, so you just can’t tell from this demo.
I’m also surprised that Defensive Battles do feel different enough, and there are some rules specific to these and how exactly the castle defense is organized and what it needs to have in order to be kept unaccessible. It’s not incredible, but its something with some rhyme and reason, something they actually though about, which they arguably should have do in the base DW 9.
But i’m digressing.
In terms of older gameplay systems, as said before the Stratagems from DW8 Empires (and hence DW 7 Empires) are back, and while the “connected bases” system is gone, the bases themselves operate in classic Empires fashion, as in you need to kill enemies inside to capture them, with officers often deploying or entering as the last defense.
But it’s so utterly sad that it took the Empires treatment to have a DW game feel like an actual DW game, with actual battles going on, objectives and shit. It’s amazing they somehow managed to make Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires look good in comparison, and it was shit. It really was shit and lazy, real lazy.
And in terms of looks and performance, it’s better than base DW 9, but it’s not saying much, and i opted to play in “Action Mode”, as in the mode that opts for a more stable framerate, it’s still based on DW 9, so it still frankly quite embarassingly cheap to look at, even for a Tecmo Koei game. I also encountered the same old graphical glitches like officers “fazing-teleporting” through what should be solid wall surfaces or up inclined terrain, btw.
Ah yes, they also ditched the english dub altogether, i would complain as they did this with DW 8 Empires, as base DW 8 had english voice acting… but it’s DW 9 english voice acting we’re talking about, i won’t be missing it, it’s that shit.
Good riddance, i will gladly take the japanese dub only.
So yeah, going from the demo the game itself looks more fun to play than base DW 9…. but it would have took some real effort from Omega Force to somehow make that worse, here they tried to make the best of the shit combat systems and shit game they made, so an Empires spin-off version was never gonna “fix” Dynasty Warriors 9 as a whole. Especially not since they clearly don’t care much to anyway, and i have the suspicions that long-term there’s gonna be very little variation in terms of battles and types.
Just a hunch.
Omega Force and Koei really will need to go back to drawing board HARD with Dynasty Warriors 10, and actually reflect on what they’re doing, what the fans want, but i feel the complete slum and disarray the main Warriors series are (let’s not forget the absurd bullshit with the “weapon sharing” they did in Samurai Warriors 5, probably to avoid making more than 15 movesets, despite having only 27 playable characters)…. won’t be changing any time soon.
In a way i’m looking forward to the game releasing so we can actually move on from Dynasty Warriors 9, hopefully once and for all.