Friday, April 4, 2014

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Ed. (PS4/PS VITA)

Tecmo Koei's long lasting Dynasty Warriors franchise has persevered through a handful of console generations, has defied the odds regarding it's niche place in gaming history, and continues to go strong here in the new era of gaming across different continents. It's no surprise to me at all seeing as this particular game series has always offered the richest content ever seen within a single game release. Just as the battles that you face within the game are grand in scale you will also find that the in-game offerings are just as epic, if not more so. Things like a well established historical record that is fully documented, shared, and grounded in a true-to-life timeline within the game's content heavy menus are just a scratch on the surface of what you'll find when you get into the latest Dynasty Warriors adventure. There's plenty of faux historic characters to play as, plenty of weapons to collect, and plenty of extras to unlock as you face off against tyrants, or become a tyrant yourself.

In DW8 (Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Ed.) you'll find that the latest story arch, or archs in this case follow Dong Zhou's forceful rise to power, and the fight against his reign of terror. With the aid of the powerful officer Lu Bu, Dong Zhou was able to overthrow the Emperor, and ultimately dethrone him. The opposing general Cao Cao, and his assisting generals saw this action as a threat to the Han dynasty, and joined forces to end Dong Zhou's rule. Of course this is where you step in as the gamer. As one of the 6 different coalition forces (LuBu, Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin & Other) you must complete your role in history by taking on the role of various leading officers. Things such as escorting persons of interest to a specific destination, and clearing out hordes of attacking enemies is a must if you hope to prevail. Luckily, as insurmountable as the odds may seem the officers you control carry with them the might, and skills necessary to take out armies.

In the beginning ...

As with any game so rich in content you'll find that PS4, and PS Vita's DW8 port comes complete with a plethora of background info as well as a hands-on tutorial that will get you well acquainted with the game's offerings. Before you take on the tutorial mode, assuming you have the time to do so you may want to check out the game's "Encyclopedia", and "Gallery" menus. The "Encyclopedia" is an all inclusive source on the history behind the Dynasty Warrior series, and includes several menus worth of information. Among the menu sources contained within the Encyclopedia you'll find a history breakdown that is divided into four sections with follow-up sub-sections. Main historical sections such as "The Decline of the Han Empire", "Cao Cao's Rise in the Central Plains", "The Kingdom in 3", and "The Fall of the 3 Kingdoms" will shed light on why it is you are doing what you are with each coalition force.

Aside from the main history write-ups contained within the "History" section of the "Encyclopedia" you'll also find info on each, and every officer that has taken part in the series thus far. Along with detail descriptions of the officers' pasts also comes artistic representations, and 3D models that reflect the actual in-game models of each character. Not only will you be able to learn the history of your favorite officers, but in doing so you'll add substance to your playthrough as you engage the never-ending armies of the empire. While details on the officers, and the kingdoms are nice enough the developers at Tecmo Koei take the background knowledge several steps further by also including details on battles that were fought, and even a glossary of terms that might not be understood if you didn't take the time to research the offerings of the game's 'Encyclopedia" beforehand. Even a detailed timeline of events is given which begins at 147 A.D., and ends in 291 A.D.

For all of those who are new to the Dynasty Warriors experience fret not. Tecmo Koei has done good to include a decently delivered hands-on tutorial that will get you better acquainted with what it is that you'll be doing in the game. Since 90% of your playthrough will be spent fighting against the odds on the larger than life battlefields you will definitely need to take on the tutorial, and pay close attention. Things like combo oriented weapon attacks, guard breaks, target lock, rage, and special mosou attacks will be explained as you take an officer of your choosing into a makeshift practice arena. During my experience with the tutorial mode I did notice that the screen was cluttered with dialogue, and that things could easily become confusing if the gamer did not read every message shown. As such you will definitely need to pay close attention to the tutorial messages, and instructions as they are given. Otherwise you will find yourself more confused than when you started.

Modes of play ...

While "Story" mode is the core experience of DW8 you will find other modes included as well. Modes such as "Free Mode", "Ambition Mode", and 'Challenge Mode" are all a huge, and equally engaging part of online/offline offerings contained within DW8's main menu system. Story mode, being the main focal point of the game that it is will have you taking out one of 6 coalition forces (LuBu, Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin & Other) as they combat, or aid the reign of Dong Zhou. Each mission you take on in "Story Mode" will include a beginning, and ending cinematic cutscene as well as a lengthy confrontation inbetween that will have set objectives in place which must be met in order to complete the current mission. As one of the selectable officers you will accompany the main generals as an escort, or as a helping hand. Taking out other higher ranking officers, soldiers, and occasional turrets/threats will all be a part of your applied duties. Should the one you are assigned to protect die, or should you not reach a certain destination (which is marked on a mini-map) in time you will be defeated. You will also be defeated if your health meter is fully depleted during battle. Defeat in DW8 is not an option, especially if you aim to win.

To aid you in these battles against insurmountable odds you'll have at your disposal two weapons, some skills, and a special attack that runs on "Mosou". As you kill off numerous enemies with your weapons of choice, and special attacks you will find dropped power-ups (Speed, Defense, Health) that will give you a fighting chance as you continue on through the hordes of soldiers. While a lot of the combat will be dealt with on the ground in person-to-person combat you will find that each officer also has the ability to call a horse should they need it. The horse makes for easier travel, and can be a godsend when it comes to catching  up to your party. They can also be used to deal decent damage to crowds of enemies as well.  Knowing when to face your enemies on the ground, or retreat on horseback is a crucial part of winning the war at hand.

When it comes to weapon offerings you'll find all types of historically accurate, and fictionally made creations. Things like traditional Asian swords, pole weapons, and even more comical weapons of mass destruction like a paintbrush, or a musical instrument can be equipped to your officer of choice. Since the weapon offerings are so vast you will have to either pick them up from other downed officers upon defeat, or buy them from the occasional pre-mission Blacksmith. There's hundreds of weapons to collect, and use on the battlefield. They each vary in strength, and attack accordingly. Certain weapons carry with them elemental effects while others carry weapon specific basic combos. Choosing which two weapons suit your playing style best will be up to you though. You will have to factor in the officer's specific fighting style as well if you are to choose the proper complimentary weapon set. As far as "Skills" go you can equip up to four different boosts that will affect such things as health recovery, attack, defense, and even how often items appear on the battlefield. There's less skills available than weapons, but skills can be upgraded as you play. This in turn will make applied skill sets more effective on the battlefield.

Free Mode ...

In "Free Mode" you will have the opportunity to negate the storyline completely, and simply take any one of the officers in the game out for battles/skirmishes that took place in the game's "Story Mode". The selectable officers are divided by loyalty (Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin & Other), and each carry with them a changeable costume that is color coded according to dynasty. You will find that the officers in DW8 range from voluptuous females to muscular men, and even flamboyant gentlemen. By playing through Free Mode continuously, meeting set per-stage objectives, and picking up experience points you will eventually level up your officer into a formidable character which you can show off in the available online modes. Like the weapons, and everything else within DW8 there are tons of available officers to choose from. As the gamer it is solely up to you which one you want to go with though. Keep in mind that this is the sort of game that you can invest months into, so leveling up all the officers, and obtaining all of the weapons as well as skills for each officer is definitely something you could do if you have the time to commit to it.

Challenge Mode ...

Next we come to a mode with a handful of sub-modes underneath it. This mode is none other than "Challenge Mode". Being the multi-tiered mode that it is "Challenge Mode" will give you the option to test your mettle against four different challenging courses. These courses which include "Inferno", "Rampage", "Bridge Melee", "Speed Run", and "Arena" are short lived high score based challenges which will have you fighting off enemies under certain conditions. Inferno, which is exactly as it sounds will have your officer in a heated rage as you fight off the hordes of enemy soldiers that confront you within a closed in area. While the rage function is usually a limited feature in battle it is a mainstay in this particular challenge. Your goal in this mode is to use the rage effect to your advantage, and defeat all of your enemies.

The second course of the "Challenge Mode", titled "Rampage" will have you fighting off continuously spawning soldiers, and officers as you try to amass as many kills as possible within a set time limit. This can be an easy task, or a difficult one depending on the difficulty setting you choose before going in. The third course in the "Challenge Mode" carries with it an unusual yet meaningful title. Bridge Melee, is basically a short lived battle in which your chosen officer must knock as many enemy soldiers off of a bridge as possible within a set time limit. This seemingly easy task is still challenging in that a straight out kill will not get you a confirmed kill. The fourth course under the "Challenge Mode" menu is like the modes before it in that the title is appropriately called "Speed Run". Forget about fighting as your objective in this particular challenge is to get from start to finish as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for you the usual hordes of enemies, and obstacles still stand firmly in your way. In the fifth, and final "Challenge Mode" course you will be battling against officers only. While the title, "Arena" is vague it still reflects the gladiatorial nature of the battle/challenge at hand.

Ambition Mode ...

Last, but certainly not least we have a mode of play that strays from traditional Dynasty Warrior combat scenarios. In order to display your ambition, and impress the Emperor you (your officer of choice) must build a camp worthy of his admiration. To do so you must once again take your skills, and your fight to the battlefield in order to secure two very important things. These things include materials in which to better your camp with, and loyal subjects who will add to it's expansion. By battling set waves of enemies you will be able to collect the materials needed to upgrade various parts of your camp (tea vendor, blacksmith ...), and make your camp the go to camp for battles being fought. The battles you'll engage in are different from the wide scale engagements of "Story Mode", and differ mainly in difficulty. The more rare materials will require more effort to gain, and will require the aid of an assigned army to overcome the odds. Each task for gathering materials is rated like everything else in the game, by stars. The more stars that are shown in the optional task's listing the harder it will be for you to come out victorious with materials in hand. The key to making up the best camp definitely goes hand in hand with how well you level up your chosen officer.

To sum it all up ...

In total there are four main modes of play including "Story", "Free Mode", "Ambition Mode", and "Challenge Mode". Under "Challenge Mode" there are four sub-modes, or courses with their own rule sets. Every mode within DW8 with the exception of "Challenge Mode", and "Ambition Mode" can be played online, or offline. For all those content hounds out there DW8 also contains a virtual cornucopia of extras, and information within the game's "Encyclopedia", and "Gallery" menus. For those of you who are new to the Dynasty Warriors franchise the game includes a decently understandable "Tutorial". That's DW8 in a nutshell.

Conclusion ...

Before I ever began my playthrough of "Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Ed." I was hearing all sorts of rumors about the game being bad, and that the graphics were equally as bad. Of course that is not what I found when I played the game on my PS4 console though. The graphics were vividly stunning, and the game was a perfect example of what a PS4 gaming experience should be. The game was rich with content, and offered gamers months worth of replay value. There's plenty of extras to unlock, and a lot of background material to read through. The game is literally like a living, and breathing historical battle in which the player controls the outcome. Each battle fought, and each character fighting that battle are epic in so many ways. DW8 makes you feel powerful yet vulnerable at the same time like an actual soldier going to a real-life war. The fact that the war being fought in-game resembles actual Asian history makes it a unique hands-on experience that is attention holding throughout. Not one moment feels dull.

I cannot stress enough that this game is worth getting. It is by far the best PS4 experience I've had yet. If you had the choice of which version get, and you had the appropriate console to play it on I'd say definitely get the PS4 version as it looks amazing playing out on an HDTV. Even the gameplay is smooth. If you want to go the mobile route though then you can feel comfortable knowing that it carries with it the same rich content. In fact the game on the Vita is 3GB in size which is high for such a game type. If memory serves me well the game also takes advantage of the cross-save function allowing you to continue your playthrough on the go, or at home assuming you have both versions. Either way this game is a "Must Buy!!!" for any PS4, or PS Vita owner. Do not miss out on this one!!!

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