There comes a time in everyone’s gaming careers when you just want to play something satisfying and mindless, Dynasty Warriors 8 is just that.  Whilst playing DW8 you can become very therapeutic, if you take it for face value then  it’s just a button masher with well designed combos and other-the-top dramatics but the essence of the game runs a little deeper than just smashing X constantly with the odd Y thrown in.  DW8 is nothing short of awesome gameplay coupled alongside a well planned storyline and well-designed visuals.

When you first jump into the game you’re greeted with an over-the-top CGI sequence that sets the pace for what’s to come; a bad guy featuring an eye-patch in true Japanese style, the menu is reminiscent of old-school, coin-op, arcade games, I guess they really dig that style in Japan but to me it just feels outdated and a real lack of imagination, maybe it’s just me but I believe we’re in the 21st century so menu design should show that.

There are several modes to play through, the Story Mode is what I spent most of my time on but the game also gives you a Free Mode where you can fight until your hearts contempt, and then there’s Ambition Mode where you can develop your base and try to get the Emperor on your side.  The story itself is broken down into 5 segments, You can start as Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin or start Other which is a stage select / online mode.

Each campaign segment will last around 6-8 hours depending on how you play, I enjoy making sure everything’s dead so my playthrough on the Wei section lasted around 8 hours, during which time I only achieved two achievements for 20 gamerscore, if you’re looking for an easy achievement game that requires little effort then DW8 isn’t for you.  The difficulty can really impact how you play too, you can choose from five different difficulties; beginner, easy, normal, hard and chaos.  On normal mode I found I got destroyed pretty quickly and during the earlier levels if you die then it’s game over and you have to restart from the beginning of the level, my tip for you is to start on beginner or easy mode and get all of your weapons levelled up and then try the harder modes, in chaos mode you basically take a handful of hits and then die so it’s worth sifting through the easier modes first.

During play the combat feels extremely smooth without any drop in framerate, the game was actually clever enough to slow down the gameplay when to many enemies were on the screen instead of loosing frames, this is a very clever function that more developers should look at introducing, okay so the slowdown was mildly annoying at times but it’s a lot better than loosing framerate with chops and screen tearing.  In fact DW8 is probably one of the most polished games of recent times, the only real issue I had was with one of the earliest bosses who just seemed to be massively over-powered and constantly hit you while you were down similar to how a sneaky Street Fighter player would do to you in an arcade, I put this down to a bug and will probably be fixed somewhere along the line.

The great thing about Dynasty Warriors is the open-world feel that it has, you can effectively play the game how you like, you don’t have to memorize long combo sequences either, you can mash the buttons all you like and still feel like a pro when wiping out hordes of enemy combatants, like I mentioned before, sometimes you just need a senseless game that requires little thought and yet somehow still feels amazingly rewarding.  Even the loading screens are filled with story so getting bored is almost an impossibility unless you don’t care for the story, if that’s the case then just jump onto Free Mode.

Before each level you can choose from a maximum of four characters and from there you can pick two weapons and four skills, I found myself always equipping a battle-axe as I felt that weapon was the most rewarding and it could afflict a huge amount of damage, but the choice solely remains yours, with around 35 weapons to choose from there is pretty much something for everyone.  The characters you choose from change on a level-by-level basis too so you find yourself trying out new characters every level, a total of eight new characters have been brought into the game.

Weapons also now have a new feature called affinity, which are 3 elements (earth, man and heaven), when equipping your weapons you can’t have two weapons with the same element attached, these act as a triangular relationship (think rock, paper, scissors) so if you find yourself struggling to take health from an opposing general then change your weapon and you should find yourself doing more damage.  This is a pretty cool feature and helps encourage weapon swapping.

if you love button mashers with a purpose or just fancy some mindless game play then Dynasty Warriors 8 is for you, it offers an extreme amount of replayability and excellent value for money, especially when most games only really offer around 8 hours of single player gameplay for the same price.  DW8 is a game of beauty and while it doesn’t appeal to everyone I’m convinced that fans of the franchise will enjoy it the same as newcomers.