Dynasty Warriors 7 follows the same basic premise as all the others: take control of an officer in the armies of ancient China. There are 4 main empires that you can play as — the forces of Wu, Shu, Wei, and Jin – and each has their own separate story mode. You can also play as officers from the “Other” faction in Conquest Mode, giving you the opportunity to play as officers (like the formidable Lu Bu) that do not belong to the 4 main kingdoms. The Story Mode in this game explains the story from Romance of the Three Kingdoms very well unlike the older DW titles that left you wondering about the who’s and why’s of every battle you participated in.
In this installment however, you cannot choose which officer you play as in Story Mode. DW7 forces you to play as one of the officers that took part in the actual battle. While you are joined by allies, they generally don’t do much and it is up to you to slay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand enemies. The real fight, however, is taking down enemy officers. Defeating enemy officers are the key to success in either mode of the game, and as an added bonus when one is slain they will drop items like upgrades. These upgrades permanently increase your health, attack, or defense or are a new weapon for you to use.
Players are now able to switch weapons and seals in the middle of battle, which is a new feature for both the game and the series. Seals are a new and welcome addition: they grant bonuses such as attack up, defense up, health regeneration and more. Like the other releases in the series, this game is a button masher. On the lower difficulties you can breeze through the entire game using just the base attack. Despite that it is still a very fun game and doesn’t feel overly repetitive, especially when playing Story Mode which forces you to play as different officers.
They have also changed up some characters in the game. You might find that an officer that you loved to play previously is nowhere near as fun to play in this. I ran into this problem with Pang Tong, who I felt was not as fun to play as in this game. The have also added a lot of new characters that continue the story when the “older” characters die. Some of the new characters are interesting and fun while others are just lame or silly. There is even a guy who fights with a giant paint brush. That’s right. I said paint brush. I know… dumb. A minor downside of Story mode, you cannot change your horse and are stuck with the base horse through all 4 empires.
The graphics in this game are kind of two-fold. The characters look beautiful while the landscape is of a lesser quality. The game also has problems displaying enemy units. Sometimes the enemy troops and even officers do not materialize until you are right next to them. This occasionally leads to you standing at a spot on the map waiting for enemies to appear. This can get annoying if you need to clear out areas quickly and get to the other side of the map, but you’re stuck standing there for a few seconds waiting for enemies. While this may be a little annoying it is not enough to take away from the game. The music is also very good. It gets you ready to fight while at the same time remaining in the background and not overpowering the rest of the game.
Another addition to the game is Conquest Mode. This mode is more similar to the Free Play of the older titles and in this mode you can either go it alone or bring a friend with you to fight in battles across China. You can unlock new weapons and characters as well as gain stat boosts for the character you’re playing as. You can also buy new horses (as well as a bear and elephant) to ride. Alternatively, you can ride the base horse and have a companion animal such as a wolf, hawk, or panda accompany you into battle to attack enemies. They are not really that effective but it is funny as hell to watch a wolf jump and eat a random soldier’s face off. Conquest Mode is a great 2 player experience as you and a friend race to defeat enemy officers and finish the map with more kills than the other.
Overall this is a great game and I would highly recommend it to veterans of the series and newcomers alike. The music is great and the graphics are very good on the parts that really matter. The Story Mode and Conquest Mode will take many hours to complete and is addictive enough that you’ll want to finish it. The game also has a high replay factor, making the game well worth the money.Note: Dynasty Warriors 7 was reviewed on Xbox 360. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.