Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a guilty pleasure for me, but one I have not been able to get enough of. This is a great twist on the traditional Dynasty Warriors formula, and while the game is not flawless, it is the most fun I have had with a title so far in 2017.
What we have here is a mashup of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors and Fire Emblem. Mechanically speaking, Godseekers is probably closer to Nintendo’s tactical franchise Fire Emblem. You control warriors from the famed Romance of the Three Kingdoms storyline, with a fantastic flourish. We follow the exploits of childhood friends Zhao Yun and Lei Bin – the former a talented warrior and the latter more bookish (yet still a capable combatant with his use of ranged weapons).
Their tale quickly veers from being strictly historical as they happen upon a woman who looks young, but in fact is very old and has a variety of magical powers tied to the elements. From here liberties are taken with just how certain events occur (such as one city being caught on fire not through the actions of men, but through the magic of an orb). This obviously becomes a fantastical tale, but one that I enjoyed despite some occasionally questionable leaps in logic and the sometimes clunky dialog that comes with a game that is localized like this. If you are someone who is put off by not having English voice acting, I’ll warn you up-front that all you get here are subtitles and Japanese spoken language. Admittedly my preference is localized voice acting, but overall the translation is a solid one.
Your units move about on a map comprised of square spaces. This is a tactical game with turn-based strategy. Some attacks take place from range, others are melee, sometimes attacks can hit multiple targets and others are directed at singular ones. Instead of the usual rock/paper/scissors approach that a lot of titles use (either in character classes or elements) where one unit has a clear advantage over other, generally units are unique based more on their attributes. I found this to be a nice change of pace. Certainly your ranged characters fare better against a shield unit than a melee one will, because they can rain death from above, but the advantages one unit has over another are downplayed here. Instead of worrying about having the right unit matched up against a particular enemy, strategy is built more around knowing your terrain, stringing moves together and flanking your enemies instead of taking them head-on.
Combat is based on action points. Every turn you gain a couple of action points, and every attack you have burns a certain number. Sometimes it might behoove you to defend and build up a couple of extra points if it means you can pull off a stronger attack the following turn, and there are tomes when you are better served simply running up to the enemy and unloading a series of attacks that will wipe them all out right then. Unlike a lot of strategy games, there is no counter attacking, so combat is one-directional. You won’t be taking damage on your turn – but then again neither will your enemy. One of the few caveats I will offer is that this is not a terribly hard game. In some ways, despite the storyline that may be unknown to a lot of gamers, it is actually more approachable than many other RPG/strategy titles. I played the game through, selecting hard difficulty for every scenario once I got past the training, and only died a handful of times in total.
Of course, this is a Dynasty Warriors game, so there are some elements that this title shares with its namesake beyond setting. There is a lot of loot to be had, as you gain items – and weapons in particular – every round. Most of the time you will sell the loot, but there are upgrades to be found along the way and a couple of systems in place to help facilitate weapon improvement. One simply charges you gold to increase the weapon’s base damage, and the other allows you to merge weapons together. Since weapons can have a variety of additional stats (such as additional health, or increased strength), you can pull those stats over from weapons you don’t plan to use. Each of your weapons can only have four additional stats however, so choose wisely as the better the weapon, the more expensive the upgrade process is.
If you are someone who enjoys grinding (and I firmly fall into that category), there are plenty of opportunities to do so here. Stages are slowly unveiled on a map, and you can choose missions – and to replay missions – for increased rewards and experience, or you can focus on the primary story. However, there are a lot of opportunities to pick up additional units and gear along the way if you ‘stop and smell the roses’ – or more accurately go back and clear out bonus missions. Aspects of the grind reflect the RPG elements in Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. You gain experience which grants your characters levels. These levels increase base stats and unlock new skills. There is also a skill map, not unlike that used in a lot of RPGs like Final Fantasy X where you spend points to unlock a particular bubble on the map, and then gain access to adjacent ones. This allows you to put a customizable spin on each of your characters.
The setting is one of my favorites of all-time, so I love seeing the Romance tale getting told from a new angle, even if it takes a fair number of liberties with the source material. The characters have always fascinated me from these tales, my first brush with the Han Dynasty coming from the NES version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Zhao Yun and Lei Bin are affable protagonists and a shift from the usual suspects in these games (most often, these stories gravitate towards Cao Cao or Liu Bei and the Oath of the Peach Garden). You still take your characters and mow down hundreds and thousands of no-name soldiers, just as you would see in the Dynasty Warriors games, but instead of mashing buttons you handle your business through tactical gameplay. I for one am hugely in favor of this change to the series and hope to see a great deal more of it.