Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition Review

Dynasty Warriors is one of those franchises you either love or hate. It is no secret that the series' gameplay has been all but identical from one game to the next, fostering a feeling of "played one, played 'em all" among its detractors. But Tecmo Koei keeps making them, and the contingent of fans keeps right on buying them. Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (heretofor known as "Xtreme Legends") suffers from this sameness, and is hurt even further by the fact that it isn't even a new game; in fact, it is just the PS3 version of Dynasty Warriors 8 with the expansion pack in one portable package. If you've played any Dynasty Warriors game before, you know what to expect here and if you aren't a die-hard fan, you probably won't have your mind changed by this one.

If you aren't familiar with the series, Dynasty Warriors is a beat 'em up on a grade scale. Using the Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a backdrop, you select one of four kingdoms - Wei, Wu, Jin and Shu - and lead generals to battle, working through stories that have been the same for not only the entire franchise's history, but all of recorded human history. The good news is that if you aren't already familiar with these stories, the game does a decent job of keeping you on top of what can be a confusing mishmash of names and events. The bad news is that if you have played a Dynasty Warriors game before, you know (almost) everything that is going to happen. There are some "what if" events to play through, but this tale is essentially identical to that of past games.

More good news? If you like the gameplay, the sameness of the story won't even register as an annoyance. Battles all pretty much play out the same way, so if you get into it there is going to be a lot to do here. You control a single character against hordes of nameless, faceless bad guys, and you seem to be the only one on the field with superpowers. Stringing together combos sends dozens of bad guys flying and then it is on to the next cluster of enemies. You'll do battle with other generals as well, and these guys provide more than just spear fodder with equally powerful attacks and moves. Luckily, you are given choices on which characters to play as during missions, so attacks and weapons can vary as much as you'd like them to. Also aiding in keeping things interesting are certain twists to some missions, like occupying a given area or defending a structure of town.

What really stood out to me was unlocking stages in Free Mode after beating them in Story Mode. When replaying these stages, you have access to any warrior in the game, and you aren't beholden to one side or the other. You drop in and, if you want to, you can decimate both armies without following a single rule or objective. Think of this kind of like Free Play in the LEGO games; you still have a purpose, but the game takes off the reins and lets you do what you wish. And with 70+ characters to play as and unlock, you can have a lot of fun here. If I play Xtreme Legends in the future, this is the mode I will be playing exclusively.

The mode I had absolutely no use for was Ambition Mode, a half-action/half-sim endeavor that tasks you with building and protecting a town while raising its profile and favor with the emperor by, you guessed it, fighting. I appreciate the extra carrot on the end of the stick, but the town aspect felt shallow, as if the developers only wanted another excuse to get you to keep playing. If this was a little more fleshed out, it might have been awesome. As it stands now, it feels like a bit of a waste.

If you read my reviews, you know nothing hooks me to a game like completionism, or having to do and find everything before I'm done. Xtreme Legends appealed to me by constantly reminding me of how much of the overall game I had finished. This and this alone had me testing out new things to raise my percentage, and the fact that character levels, weapons and progress carried from one mode to the next made it tempting to continue even after finishing the stories of all four factions.

As I mentioned before, Xtreme Legends is a port of a PS3/PS4 game with the Xtreme DLC in one package. Unfortunately, the translation to portable has its rough spots. This comes mainly in the form of slow down and pop-in. When battles get really heated, as they almost always do, you'll see the framerate drop significantly. Since this actually affects the way you succeed, it is pretty unforgivable. The pop-in is a more cosmetic complaint; enemies will flicker and you often can't see too far into the distance before a surge of troops or structure just pop in out of nowhere. The slowdown hurts the score, but the pop-in is easily forgivable.

Most seem to be saying that Dynasty Warriors 8 is the best game in the series, and the Xtreme DLC adds more to an already overstuffed package. The problem I had was that after a while, the battles and gameplay seems to be the same thing over and over. Swat at bad guys who pose no real threat, work a little harder to bring down named generals and just mash the attack button. Obviously there is more to it than that, but at a few hours in I was already feeling a bit burnt out. If you are interested in the series but haven't yet played one, this is definitely a great place to start, but you may want to consider the console version if you have the choice.

Final Rating: 68%. The Dynasty Warriors series continues to march in place.