By now, you probably have an opinion on the Dynasty Warriors franchise. My first experience with the series began with the excellent Dynasty Warriors 4 on the PS2. The game was a constant in my group of friends, and we’d often play cooperatively, each with our own custom character. Of course, when Dynasty Warriors 5 came out, we all jumped on that, too.
But times changed, and we grew up, and went to college, and got jobs. Some of us even got married. There was just no time for Dynasty Warriors anymore. Still, I never forgot how much fun I had with 4 and 5.
Many people will scoff at the sheer number of main series entries, expansions, and spin-offs, and even more will tell you that every Dynasty Warriors game looks, sounds, and plays the same. These people, quite frankly, don’t know what they’re talking about. Dynasty Warriors has changed quite a bit over the years, and Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition stands tall as one of the best games in the franchise’s storied history.
"The biggest change is the addition of a story mode for Lu Bu, the series’ most iconic character. “Among men, Lu Bu. Among horses, Red Hare,” as the saying goes, and Lu Bu never fails to live up to it."
Like the other expansions of the same name before it, Xtreme Legends adds new characters and content to Dynasty Warriors 8. The Complete Edition also makes the jump to PlayStation 4, combining all of Dynasty Warriors 8 with all of the new content from Xtreme Legends and upgrading the graphics, to boot.
The biggest change is the addition of a story mode for Lu Bu, the series’ most iconic character. “Among men, Lu Bu. Among horses, Red Hare,” as the saying goes, and Lu Bu never fails to live up to it. As before, he’s still the most powerful playable character by a ridiculous margin, and it’s nice to spend your time destroying people with Lu Bu instead of running away from him like a little girl.
His story mode is fairly short, but it features a number of great levels, and his ability to level entire armies unopposed is often on full display. In addition, the story mode can be split into “historical” and “what if” scenarios depending on how you play, though you’ll often have to beat the historical battles before the options to unlock the “what if” scenarios become available.
"Speaking of characters, Xtreme Legends adds five new faces to the already impressive cast, bringing the playable total up to 82. "
Thankfully, the game will tell you what you need to do to unlock the extra stages the second time around, with the requirements ranging from saving an important officer who is fated to die, to unleashing a number of pet tigers against their owner. Each of the standard story modes from Dynasty Warriors 8 – Wu, Shu, Wei, Jin, and Other, which feature characters who are not aligned with any part of the Three Kingdoms – have seen similar additions, too, and playing through each mode to completion will keep you busy for quite a while.
Speaking of characters, Xtreme Legends adds five new faces to the already impressive cast, bringing the playable total up to 82. The Three Kingdoms pick up one character each: Wei gets Yu Jin, Shu acquires Fa Zheng, and Zhu Ran joins up with Wu. The other two characters come directly from Lu Bu’s campaign, in the form of Lu Linqui, Lu Bu’s daughter, and Chen Gong, his strategist.
All of these characters are fun to play and each adds a new wrinkle to the already impressive cast, especially now that each character, and one of the weapon they wield, are unique. Characters can have up to two weapons equipped at a time, and can change them on the fly. Each weapon has an affinity – Heaven, Earth, or Man – that operates like a game of rock, paper, scissors.
"Defeat enough enemies with a Rage Attack, and you’ll be able to perform a True Rage Attack, which is capable of wiping out literally hundreds of enemy troops at once."
Go up against an enemy with a type advantage, and you’ll do less damage while taking more, but pick the right type, and you’ll be able to do more damage, break through their defenses, and initiate a Storm Rush – a powerful flurry of attacks that the opposing officer has no choice but to sit there and take.
In addition to their light and heavy attacks, each character has a number of Musou Attacks, special abilities that are capable of wiping out several characters at once, should you have the required amount of meter, and EX moves, which perform special combos if you equip a character’s preferred weapons.
The last major piece of the puzzle is Rage Mode. Attacking enemies fills your Rage Guage. When it is full, you can activate Rage Mode, which greatly increases your characters stats until the gauge depletes. It also merges all of your Musou gauges together and allows the player to perform Rage Attacks, which are even more powerful than Musou Attacks. Defeat enough enemies with a Rage Attack, and you’ll be able to perform a True Rage Attack, which is capable of wiping out literally hundreds of enemy troops at once.
"Each stage is pretty simple, regardless of who you’re playing or which mode you’re playing under – often requiring you to slay a specific officer, hold an area, protect a key figure, or run away from an opposing force (often led by Lu Bu)."
Each stage is pretty simple, regardless of who you’re playing or which mode you’re playing under – often requiring you to slay a specific officer, hold an area, protect a key figure, or run away from an opposing force (often led by Lu Bu). As usual, you’ll hack and slash your way through a number of grunts, before getting to the officers, who present a much more formidable challenge, and ultimately, the enemy commander.
All in all, it is classic Dynasty Warriors, with better gameplay and a few new updates. It’s still a simple game at its core, but the new additions add quite a bit to the gameplay and keep things interesting, but the updates that Xtreme Legends provides don’t stop there.
Ambition Mode, which tasks you with collecting resources in battle and using them to build up a small city, has seen a number of new additions in the post-game, though you are still required to complete the mode normally before you have access to it. Winning battles will give you resources that you can spend to upgrade your city, which will eventually allow you to host the emperor. Completing that allows access to the Conquest Mode, which is essentially a streamlined game of Dynasty Warriors: Empires.
"There’s also Free Mode, which allows you to replay story missions, cutscenes and all, with any character you choose, and provides optional objectives for you to complete and Challenge Mode, a staple of the Xtreme Legends expansions."
The idea is to conquer territory until you’ve displaced the false emperor and your character is the last warlord standing. You’ll do this by commanding troops and capturing points during battle, and while it might not be as in-depth as a proper Empires game, it’s still a lot of fun and adds quite a bit to the standard Dynasty Warriors gameplay.
Playing Ambition Mode also allows you to tinker with the game’s Weapon Fusion system, which allows you to take status boosts and effects from other weapons and transfer them to the one you want to use. It’s a cool little system that allows you to build a weapon worthy of Lu Bu himself, and the combinations you can concoct are truly terrifying. The only problem with the system is that it requires gems that can only be obtained in Ambition mode, and since each upgrade requires quite a few gems, progress is slow.
There’s also Free Mode, which allows you to replay story missions, cutscenes and all, with any character you choose, and provides optional objectives for you to complete and Challenge Mode, a staple of the Xtreme Legends expansions. There are five challenges in total. Speed Run is exactly what it sounds like, while Bridge Melee has you knock as many enemies off of a bridge as you can within a time limit. Rampage is similar, but involves killing the enemies, Inferno is a more intense version of Rampage, and Arena tasks you with defeating all of the game’s generals without dying.
"Yes, content is the name of the game in Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, and there’s enough here to keep the most dedicated fans busy for hundreds, if not thousands, of hours especially if they’re dedicated to maxing out their characters."
There’s a number of other little additions, too. Up to three bodyguards can be brought into Ambition and Free Mode, and commanded to take points, protect you, and attack enemies. It’s a fun little mechanic, like Conquest on a much smaller scale, but the bodyguards can only be trained and upgraded in Ambition Mode, and are completely unavailable in the game’s Story Mode, which is rather unfortunate, as more strategic control over those battles would be much appreciated.
Omega Force has also increased the level cap from 99 to 150, and added a new difficulty mode, Ultimate, which is even more difficult than the already intense Chaos, and should only be attempted with characters that have been maxed out. Most players will never see any of this content, but it’s still nice to see Omega Force’s dedication in catering to the hardest of the hardcore.
Yes, content is the name of the game in Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, and there’s enough here to keep the most dedicated fans busy for hundreds, if not thousands, of hours especially if they’re dedicated to maxing out their characters. What’s even more impressive is that nearly all of this content can be played in split-screen and online co-op, and all of it is scored on online leaderboards.
"There are more enemies on the screen than ever before, and the game’s anti-aliasing has been greatly improved."
But this focus on content doesn’t mean that Omega Force hasn’t taken advantage of the PS4’s hardware. There are more enemies on the screen than ever before, and the game’s anti-aliasing has been greatly improved. The character models themselves look great, even for the more minor characters, and the sheer amount of stuff onscreen at any given time is extremely impressive.
By and large, the game looks great, but there are two odd visual inconsistencies. The first is that characters, objects, and environments in the background appear out of focus, while they are perfectly visible in the foreground. This may be an intentional effect, but it does take some getting used to.
The other issue, which is one that has plagued Dynasty Warriors since its inception, is the odd framerate drop during the more intense scenes. This is extremely rare – the only time I encountered it was when I defeated more than 200 enemies at once using one of Lu Bu’s True Rage Attacks – but when it does happen, the effect is pretty extreme.
" If you’re a lapsed fan or someone new to the series, this is a great game to pick up. It has an incredible amount of content and the gameplay is the most refined it has ever been. It’s easily among the best titles in the series, and the best game in the franchise since the PS2 era."
The game’s sound design is still loveably cheesy, as character shout inane dialogue with unmatched passion that compliments the sheer insanity of the action on-screen, and heavy metal blares in the background. This will no doubt bother some people, but in a game where historical figures from ancient China shoot lightning from their weapons, it doesn’t seem all that out of place. This is Dynasty Warriors, after all. It’s a game with the subtitle “Xtreme Legends.” What were you expecting?
At this point, you probably know if you like Dynasty Warriors or not. If you hate Dynasty Warriors and everything that it stands for, this game isn’t going to change your mind. But if you’re like me, and you do, you’ll probably like Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition. If you’re a die-hard fan, you probably don’t need me to tell you that. You’ve probably already bought it and have probably already imported your save data from the PS3 version of Dynasty Warriors 8.
But if you’re a lapsed fan or someone new to the series, this is a great game to pick up. It has an incredible amount of content and the gameplay is the most refined it has ever been. It’s easily among the best titles in the series, and the best game in the franchise since the PS2 era. It’s fitting, then, that this is the game that finally gives us a campaign featuring Lu Bu, the greatest warrior of his era. It is, quite frankly, one of the few that deserves to. As the saying goes, among men, Lu Bu. Among Dynasty Warriors, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
An incredible amount of content to play through. “What if” scenarios in Story Mode are really cool. A campaign for Lu Bu, and updates to the Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin, and Other campaigns. 82 unique characters. Ambition Mode is a lot of fun and offers a ton of content. The addition of a Challenge Mode. The PS4’s hardware allows for better visuals and more characters on-screen. Gameplay refinements make this the best playing Dynasty Warriors game in years. Cheesy sound design.
The occasional visual inconsistency. You can’t control your allies in Story Mode. Upgrading items in Ambition Mode takes forever. Cheesy sound design.