Author Topic: Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires (Switch) Review  (Read 651 times)

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Offline John Rairdin

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Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires (Switch) Review
« on: February 14, 2022, 04:30:25 AM »

Because we all know Age of Calamity ran too well.

When Dynasty Warriors 9 released on Xbox One, PS4, and PC back in 2018 it sought to introduce new openworld concepts to the series. It was met with a mixed reception with its expansive world causing some performance issues on those systems. Naturally when it was announced the spin-off, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, was coming to Switch, I was curious to see what steps would be taken to get that demanding world up and running on handheld architecture.

Like the rest of the Empires series of Dynasty Warriors spin-offs, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires places a strong focus on strategy over straightforward hack and slash combat. After choosing or creating your own leader, you’ll take actions each month as you work towards uniting the entire map under your rule. While this will ultimately come down to large battles to claim territory, most months will be spent developing your economy, training and positioning your military, seeking diplomatic talks with other leaders, or simply touring your land and building up relationships with your officers. It’s a pretty satisfying loop once you come to understand the flow and can be approached in a myriad of ways. Every few months you’ll be asked to make a general plan for what you’d like to accomplish over the next set of months. Planning well so that you can meet those goals in the months that follow is rewarded, but you won’t be outright punished if plans need to change to deal with an unexpected move from an enemy. Most of this is done via menus, but it is when you actually start engaging with the openworld of Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, that things start to run into trouble.

There’s just no beating around the bush here, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is one of the ugliest Switch games I’ve played in quite a while. Grass sprouts from the ground comically close to the camera. Shadows draw in so late that I often feel like I only catch a glimpse of them before the camera passes them by. Trees pop into existence in full view of the player and remain as 2D billboards until coming into very close range. Fine details are essentially nonexistent even in your immediate area. The open fields look hilariously sparse and towns constantly flicker between level of detail settings. When in combat enemies often fail to draw in until you’re already standing among them. As a result, battlefields look entirely empty outside of your immediate surrounding and carry with them no sense of scale.

All of this unfortunately doesn’t even result in smooth performance. Just walking through the open world generally causes a sustained drop below the 30 frames-per-second target, and combat often hovers at around 20 frames-per-second. It’s disorienting and uncomfortable to play. There are occasionally moments where the target frame rate is achieved, but it tends to be when absolutely no trees, enemies, towns, animals, or any complex geometry are on screen. For comparison’s sake, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, also ran into performance issues, but these were temporary drops caused by a busy scene. Whereas Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires just runs at 20-25 frames-per-second 90% of the time.

Beneath all of that, I do like the gameplay that it is attempting to present. Battles are all about controlling key positions that can create siege weapons to eventually break into enemy castles. Unlike traditional Warriors games, it feels like there is legitimate value to which positions you focus on taking. You also can’t really lone wolf these battles. Your other officers and their armies are key to managing the huge number of events taking place on the field at any time. Positioning your army in the months leading up to a planned attack and watching everything fall into place is extremely satisfying. It’s just that final step of actually fighting the battle that sends it all crashing down.

Interestingly it is the fact that this is part of the Empires spin-off series that somewhat redeems it. Were this a straight port of Dynasty Warriors 9 with its strong focus on openworld combat, this port would be unplayable. However, given that more than half the time you’ll spend in Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is in menus, the performance issues aren’t quite as forefront as they would be otherwise. The strategic elements are engrossing and quite honestly a perfect fit for handheld play. Even wandering your territory to build your relationships can be done entirely in menus, removing the need to engage with the openworld. Unfortunately you’ll still need to take part in battles, which should not be a downside in a Warriors game. If you can laser focus on the strategy elements, and maybe favor diplomacy over direct conflict, there is a playable though still rough experience here. But if you’re looking for satisfying Warriors combat, there are plenty of better options already on Switch.