Dynasty Warriors Online Preview: Carry a Long Stick
By Vincent Haoson (Vincenthaoson), OnRPG Journalist
In the various Dynasty Warriors games I've played on the console, there was always this one nagging option that I wanted Tecmo Koei to include in this title, a player made character within the War of the Three Kingdoms era. Reiteration after reiteration of the game has presented various "game changes" and yet they haven't given me the satisfaction of creating my own "character" to plow through tons of enemies and be part of the winning nation.
It seems however, that with Dynasty Warriors Online, my wish was granted.
The game allows you to create your own hero in the tumultuous 3 kingdoms era of China. It also allows you to customize your characters to an extent and even gives you the choice of the province where your character comes from. The game has all the bells and whistles you expect in MMORPGs, with a touch of the Dynasty Warriors franchise as a neat wrapper.
The game actually feels more like a Dynasty Warriors game with an MMO twist rather than a mere online version of its console counterpart. The good thing about this is that Dynasty Warriors has already created a name for itself and has a workable game formula. However, the problem with retaining that same cut and paste formula is that the problems of the franchise have been carried over to this current version of Dynasty Warriors. I will go into more detail in a bit.
What is the game?
For those who are not familiar with Dynasty Warriors, the game takes on a micro look in the War of the Three Kingdoms era of China. Basically, this era is the "chaotic" part of the Chinese history where three kingdoms, or "empires" rose to power. Your part in all of this is as a soldier or commander in a specific army and work your way through various missions which has you facing literally hundreds of warriors. The Dynasty Warriors franchise is famous for throwing hundreds of AI controlled units right at your face and you have to mow them down in the typical Chinese martial-artsy way.
The game's latter versions also introduced lieutenants that serve as your backup and support. Depending on the version of the game, the use of these AI backups serves as more than support. They even provide the necessary help in terms of defeating units and even holding areas out of the enemy's hands.
So imagine all that and put it into an MMO setting, that's basically what DWO is all about. When I heard of the game I was actually intrigued because I never thought that there would be any possibility of a Dynasty Warriors game being turned into an online MMO. Guess I was wrong.
How the game fared
In my initial few hours playing the game, I found it reminiscent of the old Dynasty Warriors games I spent hours playing. Of course with the addition of my own character hailing from a town named Jing and enlisted into the Shu army (my preferred army ever since I started playing the Dynasty Warriors games) the game played as I expected..
I was expecting that the levelling system was also in place in DWO. I was wrong. Instead of the usual levels, you have ranks in the game. Ranking up serves as the game's "level" where each rank up opens up stronger weapons and harder quests to tackle.
The thing I liked about DWO is that you are given free reign on the weapon your character uses. Unlike in old Dynasty Warrior games where the weapons you use are exclusive to the character you are playing. Aside from the weapons you are also given freedom on the choice of clothes your character wears.
DWO allows you to upgrade your equipment, and also allows you to put an elemental attribute to your weapons and even modify its base abilities. This system is actually new and this I believe is where the MMOG elements come in.
In fact, the town where you "live" is more reminiscent of the towns you'd find in MMOs rather than in Dynasty Warrior games (the town system was only introduced in one of the franchise' recent reiterations, namely DW Strikeforce). The new game is definitely bigger, it has more NPCs and even looks better than Strikeforce. The one thing I didn't like about the towns is that the main quest NPC you need to speak to is quite littered with players, especially in the game's peak hours. I mean I have no complaints that you get to see people online but the problem is that you find it hard to click the NPC you need to talk to because a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of names are in the way of that NPC's name.
This is just the game's CBT phase; I can only imagine what may happen when DWO becomes live. Then I seriously believe it'd be harder for people to go for an "Advancement Quest".
Among the myriad of game features I saw in DWO, the game's battle system stood out the most. The game's battle system allows your character to get "power ups" during quests that will stay up only within that quest. You get to collect the Chinese version of wine skins which are dropped by the dead AI enemies and every "wine skin" you collect opens you up to a quest only upgrade or a temporary buff.
The quest only upgrades vary from buffing your lieutenant to increasing your combo capabilities to increasing your base damage and defense. The temporary buffs however concentrate more on your damage and defense output and is activated for only a few seconds.
I actually like this battle system because it means you can make your character stronger than it originally was. This helps a lot especially in your tactics if you decide to go on a PvP battle. It keeps you on your toes while adding more excitement to your battles.
As I've mentioned earlier, the game is more like a Dynasty Warriors game with an MMO twist. This means that the game also carries the problems Dynasty Warrior games have. One good example is that the game still retains the tedious recurring smash 'em up feel and you find yourself jaded after playing similar games over and over again. That is to be expected though because this is in fact a Dynasty Warriors game.
DWO also retains the "dumbed" down AI from older Dynasty Warrior games. While of course I can't say that the recent Dynasty Warriors games on the console and handheld are super smart, at least they serve as a challenge especially when they start mobbing you. However that's not the case with DWO. A lot of the grunt AIs you'll be facing will just move up on you and attack you after half a minute of staring at your martial arts display.
The game also is pretty tedious even by MMO standards. I don't know if they're going to tweak the honours you get from accomplishing missions but it took me a while (and a very painful pair of hands) before I ranked up.
Overall I liked how DWO plays. Even with all its faults is an enjoyable game. In fact I missed making all those bodies fly and racking up the K.O. count that the franchise is also famous for. With the game still on its CBT phase there are still a lot of things you can discover as the game is further tweaked. One of the things I really look forward to is going head to head with other players in an almost free for all battle royale that I never experienced in the console ports of the game.
Personally I am looking forward to DWO once it becomes commercial. Hopefully by then my arms won't come off because I kept trying to increase my combos to double digits.