As a big time Dynasty Warriors fan, I couldn’t do the situation justice upon hearing that Dynasty Warriors Next would be a free game on the Vita with Playstation Plus. Since getting the Vita, a hack and slash game was always missing from my arsenal of games and with a hefty price tag of around £35, I couldn’t really justify the purchase. So with the giveaway (and with the Gods obviously shining down on me) I booted Rainbow Moon off of my Vita to clear some space and dived in to bringing peace to ancient China.
Having played pretty much every Dynasty Warriors game since 4, you don’t boot up any subsequent games looking for a new storyline or a whole host of new characters. It amazes me that they can still make new games all based on the exact same thing with the exact same playable characters. Even the cut scenes are the same most of the time, with a few new lines and animations here and there. What you look for then is the game mechanics, and there’s always a little something new that is added to each game to ensure it has a place within the series and, even if it doesn’t quite work, at least it mixes things up. Dynasty Warriors 6 changed most of the character outfits and weapons to shock and awe while 7 changed them back and introduced a duel weapons system that gave each character more scope and playability. These changes make or break a Dynasty Warriors game, so I was very surprised (and somewhat relieved) that Dynasty Warriors Next quickly became one of my favourite entries to the saga.
Even through it quickly developed and drew me in, there is a bizarre opening that I would just like to address. Traditionally, Dynasty Warriors has an opening cutscene depicting one or more heroes cutting their way through thousands of soldiers in a impressive display of might. Next is no different, but initially set this up with a simulation style Sci-Fi intro. While there’s no doubt that this was an attempt to showcase the Vita as the next big step in gaming, it seems a little redundant in a game about ancient Warriors. That’s not to say that I didn’t think it was cool, just a bit odd.
After getting past the intro, the most welcome sight is the amount of options on the menu screen. Not only can you jump into the campaign but we are also treated to a conquest mode that will see you try to take over China as one faction pitted against enemies of your choice. We also see Coalition mode which allows friends to challenge and help compete missions together online. Not only do we have so many different modes to play with but Next also brings back the character creation tool! I have been missing this since 4 and I took the opportunity to dive right in to creating my own bringer of destruction. Created characters can be used in both the conquest and coalition modes allowing plenty of opportunity to try them out and level up. New Armour unlocks can also be acquired by levelling up in any mode or defeating enemy officers in multiplier mode.
It is unsurprising that the Vita, with its touch and tilt features, can add so much more to a game than a standard controller and this immediately hits you as soon as you fire up a game mode. I chose to drive straight into the campaign and among over things was also quite pleased that the game gives you a speeded up events of the story, for Dynasty Warriors veterans (like myself) it means not sitting through stuff you already know but would also give newbies a good introduction into the series. Take a hold of the controls and you will quickly find yourself in situations unfamiliar with the console versions. At any time during the battle you can be a victim of an ambush that requires you to tilt and swipe at incoming troops to fend them off, and failure to do so will result in a nice little chunk of health being taken away. Health coincidentally has also changed, moving away from the health bar and instead replacing it with a more western system of ‘the screen slowly grows red until you die’. Your health also regenerate which means less time desperately searching for meat buns and more time getting stuck back in. This can at times take some of the challenge out of the game but, boost the difficulty up, and you are right back in the danger zone. One massive bonus in the games favour is the ability to chain moves together with the break move controlled by the right trigger, at any time during your attack this can be pressed to interrupt the flow and restart any chains. This may sound redundant, but it allows you to attack relentlessly without letting up, smashing your way through literally 1000+ combos and making you feel like a total badass!
Another big addition to the gameplay in Next is duelling. At least once in every map you will encounter an important enemy officer (usually situated in their base) that, instead of normally wailing on them, you will enter a closed duel. This is essentially a test of reflexes and timing as you will have to counter enemy attacks while making sure you don’t leave yourself venerable. While these start out as a fun thing to do, they quickly become a bit painful and I found myself wishing that there was a way to choose whether I wanted to duel or not.
While this is a standard Dynasty Warriors game, different aspects of strategy are also in play. In both the campaigns and conquest game modes you are presented with a map of China and the semi freedom to choose which territories to attack next. To help you with this you can also choose different heroes to provide strategies that will effect the stats of both your army and the playable character. Once you have decided which area to attack, you can then choose who you would like to play with as well as four other officers that you would like to accompany you into battle. Relationships can be made or broken on whether their strategies of fighting skills are used and while these reward diversity, some of the tactics are just bloody useless. I found it extremely frustrating when someone would have a go at me for not using their tactic which would both increase my speed and seriously reduce my speed, all the time having others that can increase both in one go! It doesn’t reward the right decision, and then says “Hey! you haven’t ticked all the boxes, go sit in the naughty corner!”.
Overall, Dynasty Warriors Next is a great addition to the series and maybe one of the best overall. The touch and tilt controls allow things that are just not possible on the console versions. With the addition of the ‘break move’ you can really flow through the battles and change the dynamic of many of the characters. I found myself playing as characters that I had never really given time to before, as well as trying the game out as everyone just to see if it could change my opinion. As the game goes on it will get very repetitive, but play it in short instalments and Next will keep your interest for weeks. This game was definitely worth its pricy price tag before, but for free it’s an absolute gem and in my opinion one of the best giveaways Playstation Plus has had to offer for the Vita.