Despite being the best known Musou series, Dynasty Warriors has spanned a number of genres over the years. From a traditional fighting game to strategy spinoffs, players have been able to experience the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history in a number of ways. The latest spinoff is Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers, a tactical role-playing game that stars series’ mascot Zhao Yun as he and his friend Lei Bin awaken a magic-wielding woman named Lixia who had previously been sealed away.
Adding this magical aspect to the Dynasty Warriors world may seem out of place, but considering Koei Tecmo has always played it rather loose with their historical interpretations, it ends up fitting in just fine. After some backstory for all of the characters is given, it’s revealed that Lixia isn’t at her full strength and needs to find several orbs that have been scattered across the land in order to help her ascend to the heavens. The story isn’t exactly captivating, as it seems to be a mishmash of Dragon Ball and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but it does a good enough job of justifying why Zhao Yun is running across China and running into all of the series’ beloved characters such as Lu Bu and Cao Cao.
Similar to the Musou titles that Godseekers is based upon, the individual officers feel extremely powerful. The opening tutorial has Zhao Yun and Lei Bin wiping out an entire army by themselves, and it quickly establishes that officers, not groups of soldiers, are whom players should be worried about. It’s pretty impressive how the game manages to translate the power trip that the hack-and-slash games are best known for into a tactical setting, and it definitely helps make this spinoff truly feel like a Dynasty Warriors title.
The actual gameplay is pretty simple, and anyone who has played titles like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem will feel right at home here. The turn-based game has the player moving their various units (eventually, players can have five officers on the field at once) and attacking enemies. After everyone takes their action, the enemy does the exact same. All of the elements that make tactics game so thrilling are in effect here, as I often felt helpless during an enemy’s turn as I saw my best officer take a tremendous amount of damage while I could do nothing but stand idly by.
While it’s generally a pretty by-the-numbers tactics game, there are some really solid ideas that help this one stand out from the crowd. Officers generate energy over time, and can use that to chain different attacks together. Sometimes I would decide that it was best to skip attacking for a turn, and instead build up energy I could use in order to attack multiple times in a single turn. This adds a tremendous layer of depth, and it’s accompanied by powerful special abilities that can only be done when the player’s Musou bar has been filled by attacking foes.
The coolest feature that Godseekers offers up is called Syncho Mode, which is a special ability that allows multiple characters to take a second turn and deliver a combined attack. These attacks are generally only triggered a few times during a battle, but sometimes it’s possible to deal so much damage in a single use that it fills up the Syncho Mode bar completely. Doing it once in a turn can change the tide of battle, but managing to do it twice makes it a game breaker. When I managed to trigger it at the right times, I turned some difficult boss fights into absolute cakewalks.
Much later in the game, once the gang has successfully collected several of the orbs they’re after, their various powers can be used in battle. Each orb corresponds with a certain element (water, fire, earth, etc.) and can have a tremendous impact on a battle. An early cutscene shows the fire orb lighting a whole city on fire, and I looked forward to using these skills myself. Sadly, their uses are extremely limited and are only used in story-specific events. I had no control over what orbs I wanted to use, and they could only be triggered in specific instances. It seems like a real missed opportunity, as the game teases an awesome ability that you ultimately don’t get to play with.
While I found most of my time spent playing Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers to be enjoyable, there’s no denying that the game is rather rough around the edges. I was constantly having to rotate the camera in order to get a better look at the battlefield, and sometimes it was more difficult to find a pleasing angle than to actually defeat the opposing army. The game also looks pretty poor from a graphical perspective, as there’s a real lack of detail for both character models and the environments.
The other major issue is that the spinoff overstays its welcome. A game should always be building to its conclusion, which should be the most satisfying part of the experience. That isn’t the case here, as the final chapter in Godseekers just throws dozens of officers in the player’s way and delays the final boss fight for what seems like as long as possible. The problem isn’t that the final stages are overly challenging, it’s that they feel like an attempt to artificially lengthen a game that is already quite long, as on top of the 10 story chapters, there are also dozens of side-stories and optional battles to play.
Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers delivers a fun twist on the established Dynasty Warriors formula. There are a lot of solid ideas here, even if they don’t all get fully explored, and fans of Chinese history will definitely get a kick out of the familiar setting and characters. Even though it’s not as great as it could be and begins to falter near the end, RPG fans will still find that it’s well worth their time.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Even though it's not as great as it could be and drags on, role-playing game fans will still find that Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is well worth their time.