Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: PS4, PS Vita
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Koei Tecmo“s Dynasty Warriors series, which originally began as a one-on-one fighting game on the PlayStation, has since blossomed into a long-running action game series known for pitting the player against hundreds of enemies at once. The franchise has spun off in a number of directions over the years, from similarly themed games based on various anime licenses to the Monster Hunter-inspired Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce series, but the latest spin-off takes a sharp turn away from the frenetic action the franchise is known for. In exchanging large-scale beat“em up action for turn-based strategy, the developer Omega Force brings us Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers.
Godseekers is a strategy RPG in the vein of Fire Emblem, Disgaea, and Final Fantasy Tactics. It retells the story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms as all Dynasty Warriors games before it, complete with larger-than-life interpretations of figures from the novel and Chinese history, but works in a few original twists a more overt fantasy.
The main story follows Zhao Yun and his friend Lei Bin after they inadvertently awaken Lixia, a mystical woman that needs to recover scattered elemental orbs that grant her power. From there, the story darts through plot points that should be familiar to anyone that“s played a Dynasty Warriors game, from the revolt against Dong Zhuo to the fight to reclaim Xiapi from the fearsome Lu Bu, ever so slightly rewritten with Lixia“s quest in mind.
The core tactical gameplay does a remarkable job of translating the Dynasty Warriors style of action into a strategy game. The player is allowed up to five characters in the active roster per battle, and every character in the game has their own unique attacks that cover varying ranges measured by the grid map. Some excel at close quarters, others do more widespread damage, and still others excel or focus on ranged attacks. Like the core action games, each character also has their own Musou attacks; special skills that deal extra-powerful damage, but can only be used when a charge on the character“s own Musou gauge is full.
The most powerful technique is a special team skill called Synchro Mode. When active, it lets two or more of the player“s party to act in tandem, dealing a full turn“s worth of damage against foes before unleashing a super-powered attack that can be powered up by mashing the X button. It“s particularly useful for clearing out large swaths of enemies off of the map and a strategic necessity, particularly in more time-sensitive battles. However, it“s balanced out by the fact that it takes some set up to get more than two or three units in position to take part in the assault.
Dynasty Warriors is known for battlefields full of enemies, and Godseekers does its best to live up to that concept. Maps in Godseekers routinely see the player greatly outnumbered. Though, at least on Normal Mode, the majority of the enemies don“t pose a particular threat. Standard grunts do a small fraction of the damage that officers are capable of and tend to be fodder for building up the Musou and Synchro gauges. They only become particularly vexing on maps where time is of the essence and the mission requires rescuing a stranded officer or clearing the objective within a set turn limit.
That being said, the core story missions offer excellent variety in terms of their design and objectives. Even when missions with similar objectives occur back to back, the map designs, unit placement and specific requirements give them unique flavor. Unfortunately, the same can“t be said for the many, many, many side mission battles that become available on the world map. Though early on they“re useful for building up experience, gold, weapons, and items, the sheer number and more mundane mission designs tend to wear out their welcome.
As a better aside, there“s the Path of Destiny. Functioning as the means to unlock additional characters to add to the permanent battle roster, the player can witness entertaining conversations between members of the large cast, gradually moving along tracks that unlock as various requirements are met. Occasionally, special battles open up that -- if won -- will yield a new character for the player, and on the plus side, these missions tend to be as good as the main story missions in terms of their design and variety.
On the downside, there“s a lot of grinding to get through. The requirements for attaining a character“s next tier on the Path of Destiny generally need the player to progress beyond a certain point in the story, as well as additional requirements such as having a specific character fight in X battles, defeating Y, enemies, or leveling up the character to Z. At times it can be a slog, though the reward of unlocking a desired character can feel worth it. However, the five-character limit in battles is constraining, and many characters won“t see use outside of the monotonous side-battles.
As for the game“s presentation, the plot offers some novel takes, particularly in how key events frequently revisited in Dynasty Warriors are altered for the sake of Lixia“s story that add some surprises to the more well-tread points, and the core cast of Zhao Yun, Lei Bin and Lixia are an interesting trio together. But even with the twists brought by Lixia, the story feels somewhat dry and predictable. That“s not to say that the story is bad; far from it, in fact. However, it is hard to escape the thought that the plot is essentially Dynasty Warriors fanfiction, which may or may not be appealing depending on what you“re looking for.
But while the plot is lacking in some ways, the game does manage to retain the look and feel of a traditional Dynasty Warriors despite the dramatic shift in game genre. The map designs look like they could exist as standard Dynasty Warriors maps, and the battle camera can be set to view attacks from the perspective of an action game. It feels like a cheap shortcut to say that it looks and sounds exactly like it should, but given what the game is aiming for, it“s not an inaccurate statement.
Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entertaining game, and Dynasty Warriors fans looking for something outside of the norm should find a lot to like. It stumbles on some of its design choices, but it does more than enough right to be engrossing in bursts. At the very least, it“s a good distraction as we all wait for more news on Dynasty Warriors 9.
Matches the look and feel of a traditional Dynasty Warriors game perfectly.
Robust character growth and weapon customization systems.
A well-executed battle system translates the action series into tactical strategy.
Lots of entertaining character dialogue.
Side missions become monotonous.
Enemy turns can take forever to complete, though there is a fast-forward function.
Path of Destiny advancement requirements are sometimes a grind.
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entertaining game, and Dynasty Warriors fans looking for something outside of the norm should find a lot to like. It stumbles on some of its design choices, but it does more than enough right to be engrossing in bursts.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher