Dynasty Warriors Online is an action-based MMORPG. The latest in a frighteningly long series, this free-to-play release from TECMO KOEI GAMES is significant for being the first in the franchise to be released online. Like its mainly-console predecessors, DWO is set in the “three kingdoms”- a fictionalised ancient China ravaged by a three-way civil war.
The franchise, which started out as a simple two-player fighter on the very first Playstation back in 1997, has always been based on enjoyably ridiculous violence between colourfully designed characters whose costumes bare a vague resemblance to the ancient orient.
Dynasty Warriors Online may have evolved to include RPG elements, but it remains faithful to this tradition. Even as a lowly recruit you’ll find yourself slaughtering enemies “en masse”, often by happy accident: the enemy hordes, numbering perhaps 50, will often obligingly (and even comically) form a crowd in front of you, so that even a casual axe swipe is likely to take out a baker’s dozen of the enemy.
The combat engine allows endless variation on your method of slaughter, but to get you going there are initially just the basic attack and super attack buttons to master.
To begin with, you will have to make do with the re-spawning mobs; before you are granted full access to the online festivities, you are compelled to complete several solo missions, although this is something of a misnomer for what are essentially extended tutorials. Veterans of earlier Dynasty Warriors games may chafe somewhat at this, perhaps wishing they could dispense with the lessons; the good news here is that if you bash your opponents in the first tutorial with sufficient ease and grace to impress the NPC, he’ll allow you to skip some of the classes and go straight to the rank of Guard (the rest will have to earn their stripes by acquiring 200 XP). You then have free reign to fight other players – and it is here that the game really shines.
When playing, say, a PVP match, both you and your opponents will likely have multiple NPCs fighting for you; disposable and anonymous, they nonetheless make for a frenetic, crowded battlefield. Think about this: an online battle between two teams can involve up to 24 players… and that’s before counting the endlessly-re-spawning NPC hordes. Sounds like an action game, right? Well, the game’s console origins are immediately apparent, for example in the Street Fighter fonts, the bright, flashing energy bars, etc.; indeed, the game at times comes dangerously close to falling between two stools.
DWO does indeed have all the familiar and essential role-playing elements; you can tweak your attack styles, strategies, alliances and appearance to your heart’s content, and there are also some interesting options for strategic and co-operative play. But is this really an RGP, or simply a fun online beat ‘em all ?
So those who enjoy the emphasis on RPG fundamentals found in Path of Exile, or the WarHammer series, may find that the relentless combat of DWO is not to their taste. But a great many others will fall in love with the game, and once you’ve experienced the intense thrill of an eight player PVP match, you will too.
About Tecmo Koei
Well, the developers Koie (now a brand within the Tecmo Koei Games Company) know their fan-base very well by now; they have, after all, been around since 1978. And this huge company is no one-trick pony; indeed, their very first releases were historical strategy games. But this is a DW production, and as such the core appeal is the combat; both the developers and the fans of this mammoth franchise wouldn’t have it any other way. So to answer the above rhetorical question: yes, there are plenty of genuinely inspired RPG elements here, but this is first and foremost a combat-based game.
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