For as long as there has been civilisation, there ha been conflict. In the strive for progress, humanity has always formed allegiance with those of similar mind, whilst simultaneously combating those who stand atop a clashing viewpoint. Admittedly, it is far from a perfect system, yet it is by far the most consistent fact of history. But, as they say, time heals all wounds, and as the clock turns our memories of the past fade. The gaming industry however takes this concept with a grain of salt and utilises these bygone eras for the sake of content. Is it right? That’s up for debate. Is it fun? That too works on a case by case basis, but we can all agree it’s a far more uplifting topic.
Set in a chaotic era across the country of China, warriors of all creeds seek the same thing; power. The added benefit of which being uncontested control of an entire country. Anywho, with your position as game player, you are granted the helpful ability to choose which historical figure to fight as throughout your military campaign. Said choice will change your starting position, dialogue and, most importantly, fighting style. But, at the end of the day, your purpose will always be to win. So the fighting style factor is by far the largest. Should you really want to invest yourself in the world of Empires, you can opt to instead create your own custom character and truly stand out amongst the somewhat historically accurate denizens of China.
Being a Warriors title, this game features the crash bang combat you have come to know and love over the years. Completely throwing the concept of physical capability out of the window, you are free to eviscerate armies of hundreds with little more than the swing of a sword, or firing of an arrow. Enemies will crumble by the dozens before you as you carve your way towards your goal, which is more often than not a tactically crucial stronghold of your opponents. The higher ranking officers however pose more of a threat and can deal some severe damage if you aren’t careful. I state this because it is very easy to lose track of your health and status when most enemies can barely scratch you. So be warned. That being said, you are still by and large one of the strongest people to exist within this universe and a little strategic gameplay should serve you well in besting your foes.
However, this is not a mainstream Warriors game, it carries with it the Empires subtitle, and thus adds another crucial gameplay element to the fray; micro-managing. Ok, I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound fantastic on paper, but for those of us who enjoy a little tactics in our RPGs, it’s a pretty nice aspect to have. Outside of the battlefield, you are tasked with ensuring that your army is powerful enough to seize the victories you seek. Though a time limit is present, its 50 year margin provides you with enough leniency to take your time, even if each action requires a month to complete. In this vein, you are given option focused on amassing numbers, improving individual troop skill and, perhaps most importantly, seeing that they are rested and fed well enough to actually fight for you. Said options are also further divided into to what can be be classed a s “good” and “evil” options. Whilst the “good” option will require more time to bear fruit, they will also endear you to troops and citizens alike, boosting your approval rate as Emperor. Conversely, “Evil” will bear fruit far quicker, whilst having a negative effect on your appearance, making you come across as more of a tyrant. So choose what fits you best and build your army. Additionally, kill two bird with one stone and weaken your opponents forces by pilfering one of their higher ups. Based on your overall prestige as a commander, some truly fearsome warriors may shift their allegiances and provide you with a nice little boost to your strength. Plus it’s kinda cool being able to talk a berserker into following your command. Now that’s power.
Progressing through your campaign, you will no doubt find yourself in control of a castle/fortress that you “forcibly liberated” from a contending Emperor-to-be. Along with the benefit of being a castle, this locale grants you the option to delegate some tasks to your most trusted of peons. This allows you to define what you believe to be the most crucial factor of your campaign, such as training your troops, providing a nice little boost over the course of a year.
Hopping on over to the visual elements of Empires, the game is on par with its similarly numbered counterpart. Whilst not revolutionary, they are by no means detrimental and serve their purpose by allowing plenty of troops to populate the screen at once. This however, also has the effect of making some moments of gameplay a touch too chaotic, causing you to be swarmed by lackeys. Though admittedly you can always just swing your weapon to destroy the majority of them immediately. So annoying, but not aggravating. Supporting these aggressive maeneuvers is a multitude of screams, bellows, explosions, horse calls and every other sound one would expect to hear in the chaos of a battlefield. Dialogue wise, the game receives no vocal localisation and retains its original Japanese performances (just as one would expect from a game release in Japan…despite its Chinese setting).
At the end of the day, Empires is a game for those who enjoy the backend of war as much as the frontlines. Though actual combat is the same as that of its mainstream counterpart, the management portion is by far the most important. This has the effect of staggering actual battle phases, providing you with a more realistic passage of time and what it means to be in charge of an ever growing force of warriors. So if unceasing, unbridled and largely unfair combat is your thing, stick with Dynasty Warriors 8. If however, you wouldn’t mind taking a strategic breather in between the slaughter, Empires may be more your speed.