[23 March 2010]
First things first. This is my first Dynasty Warriors game. However, even without prior experience with the series, I was aware of a few staples such as its loose retelling of Chinese imperial history and the presumption that the franchise has become stale after a large amount of regular entries. Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (previously released on the PSP) was generally well received by fans and critics, who often stated that, despite the tried and true core hack-and-slash mechanics, this title has brought a few welcome innovations to the series, the most striking of which is an online multiplayer element. With a release for next generation consoles, the developer has provided new weapons, special abilities, and a graphical upgrade from its portable predecessor.
The plot of the game is fairly standard “fake” history concerning a number of tyrants that must be defeated. The player progresses through a variety of cities while also maintaining a series of missions and side quests. Missions actually become fairly difficult and require players to prepare in the major hub world of the game to upgrade weapons, obtain Chi powers, organize an inventory, and summon the additional help of up to three assisting characters. These characters can be AI-controlled or replaced by online players in multiplayer mode. You can also switch between these characters before starting a mission, which provides the ability to level the characters independently. As usual, each character has its own strengths, weaknesses, and weapons of choice. Thankfully, if these supporting characters are controlled by the AI, they still level assuming that they accompany you on missions. You’ll be finding yourself traversing different towns, stocking up on equipment and stats, and completing a few side missions to access the major story missions. Each mission also contains special objectives, which provides a ranking and some amount of experience. Rinse and repeat, and you have the core experience of Strikeforce.
While this may seem very repetitive, there is a surprising amount of content in this game. Strikeforce has a ridiculous amount of weapon varieties (though I suspect much of this variety is merely cosmetic). There are also Chi upgrades to gather in order to craft your character in the way that you choose, including upgrades like higher strength, defense, double jumps, and specialty damage. Orbs can also be infused with weapons to improve their stats and provide specialty damage—not to mention a number of officer cards to collect that can assist in your missions or upgrade your hub town to access further content. Depending on what objectives are completed in missions, fortune tellers appear that allow players to play a mini game, though this is hardly an incentive to be a completionist. The stalwart, easy to pick up, hack and slash gameplay remains the core mechanic of the game with the addition of a “hyper gauge” meter that fills up based on the damage that you do. Once filled, you can engage in a “hyper break” which is basically a super saiyan mode for your character that generates extra damage and triggers the special abilities that you have assigned. What we have is a very robust back end leveling and inventory system with a casual pick up and play mentality.
This seems to be a trend with portable role-playing games that have very simple battle mechanics. While the major draw of the game falls into the back end inventory and leveling system. In fact, there are quite a few attributes of the portable Strikeforce that are retained in this version. For instance, all of the missions have a time limit in place for completing the stages. These range from 10 minute short sittings to 30 minute investments of time. Though this may not be the preferred experience for marathon gaming sessions on a home console, it becomes the equivalent of great junk food for your time if you want to complete a quick mission if you find yourself with only free moments for spurts of gaming.
But before you decide on whether or not to purchase this game, I must say that multiplayer is essential to the experience. Just like other multiplayer based titles, having the AI control the supporting characters is only half the experience of the game. Some of the later missions are surprisingly tough and having real players assist you online is necessary to the full enjoyment of Strikeforce and in order to avoid unnecessary annoyance. Without the online functionality, this game would not hold up on its own. Plus, the game does allows voice chat and texting while in game. The publisher has announced free downloadable content in the form of additional quests in the future. So, if you enjoy the repetitive nature of grinding through tens and tens of enemies, then this is definitely something to look forward to.
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce functions great as a casual game. That may be a loaded term, but it does have a very simple ease of entry for new players of the franchise, such as myself. From what I can gather, dedicated fans of the series will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of customization available in the game. I cannot say how fresh and innovative Strikeforce may or may not be, but there is definitely something to be said for proven, simple gameplay. Though Strikeforce may not be as ingeniously addictive as some of the more popular casual games, the spectacle of destroying armies of soldiers and level grinding does have its charm. If you and your friends have been interested in revisiting the Dynasty Warriors series, I suggest that there is no better game than Strikeforce to dive back into the franchise.