Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition Review: The Longest Game Title Ever

out of 5

The late, great comedian, Mitch Hedberg, had a joke that went: “Rice is really great when you’re hungry and want to eat 2,000 of something.” Tecmo KOEI’s Dynasty Warriors series is kind of like that. Any of the games is really great when you’re bored and want to kill 2,000 Chinese soldiers, all on screen at the same time.

And that adage cannot be more evident than with the newest version of the long running franchise, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, especially on the Sony PlayStation 4. DW8XL–which is what we will call it to avoid typing that complete title ever again–is an updated version of Dynasty Warriors 8 that hit shelves last year. In the Complete edition, five additional characters have been included, and even Lu Bu finally gets his own storyline There are even new levels added to the classic storylines giving just enough reason to give this version a shot.

If you have even played a Dynasty Warriors game, you know the story. The game follows the classic Luo Guonzhong tale of war between three factions fighting for control of China–known historically as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Players are tasked with choosing one of five factions and playing through their part of the narrative. There are options to create anachronisms for some compelling “what if” scenarios, but in the end, if you’ve played through one Dynasty Warriors game, or if you are a student of Asian History, you know how this all turns out.

DW8XL features upgrades and new additions to round out the title. Perhaps the most impressive is the new Ambition Mode, which allows the player to choose an established character and build up a Tongquetai tower, which will entice the Emperor to visit and bless. Before the tower can be built the character has to start with a camp and a few allies and build it all up from scratch. New allies, fame, as well as materials for buildings and weapons can be attained through missions and the character’s levels, weapons, and skills all grow. At it’s heart, Ambition Mode is a world-building sim that even goes so far as allowing the player to begin subjugation of neighboring lands, and before you know it, you are managing an empire. It’s a glorious addition to the series and the mode I have played the most so far.

Free mode and Challenge mode join the Story mode and the glorious Ambition mode to give DW8XL an incredible amount of content. There are now over 80 playable characters and more weapons than should ever be in one game. And now, the EX weapons, which are character specific–like Lu Bu’s halberd–unlock a special move. In DW8XL, the secondary weapon also gets an EX move, which usually proves to be as devastating as the primary weapon’s move. In addition, new Mushou and Rage powers have been added to each character, further separating them from each other. There are also options to select the colors of the garish costumes the characters wear and so much more customization opportunities. But when talking about a game that has told the same story eight times now, modes and content aren’t the only selling factor. What truly matters is how the game plays.

DW8XL on the PS4 is a revelation. The character models and locations, while not much better looking than the stellar PS3 version of DW8, take a back seat to the sheer amount of on-screen insanity during each skirmish. The PS4 pushes those bounds by throwing enemies at the player in fully rendered, lag-less brawls. And the enemies aren’t coming in waves of six or seven at a time.

In one battle midway through Lu Bu’s story, there were well over 500 fully rendered enemies bearing down on me all at once! And not just simple foot soldiers; we’re talking captains, flag bearers, guardsman, archers, and even tigers! It was insane and the game didn’t skip a beat at all. The FPS remained steady, and there was zero lag. It was intense and beautiful. Tecmo KOEI and developer Omega Force have taken a classic, beloved franchise, and on the second version of this numbered entry, made it simply incredible to play, for long time fans, or players new to the series.

The game is an exact replication on the PS Vita, with the number of enemies on screen pared down considerably due to the obvious processing constraints of the smaller handheld system. DW8XL has cross-platform play between versions, so saved Ambition and Story campaigns (as well as other saved modes) can be uploaded to the PSN and shared between systems. Truly, the Vita has little difference in graphical prowess and the only difference is in the number of characters onscreen at once. That says a bunch, and makes for a pretty powerful one-two punch between sibling systems.

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is the perfect game to play when you are hankering for an intense button-masher set during China’s historical past, playing as characters dressed in flamboyant, sometimes garish costumes, developed by extremely talented Japanese artists, voiced by primarily American voice actors, and set to synthesized metal guitar riffs. If that’s your thing, then this is the game–and franchise for you.

Tecmo KOEI has written the book on how to make the same game over and over and still keep it fresh and unique. I’ve been playing Dynasty Warrior games for well over a decade now on seven different gaming systems. There is something inherently mind-blowing and pulse-pounding fun about playing a Dynasty Warriors game, and DW8XL is no exception.

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition was reviewed on PS4 and PS Vita using a code provided by Tecmo Koei. It was released for PS4 and the PS Vita on March 25, 2014.

Shop for Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition for a discounted price at Amazon.com.

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