Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition PS4 Review

I said last year that I safely believed Dynasty Warriors 8 to be the best entry in the mainline series. Well, I’d like to amend that statement, because we now how the base game of Dynasty Warriors 8 built in with the Xtreme Legends add-on, dubbed Complete Edition, for Sony’s shiny new gaming console, the PlayStation 4. While the game doesn’t use the advantage of the extra power that the PS4 has to overhaul its graphics, it does make this Complete Edition the smoothest looking and content-rich Dynasty Warriors ever, and newcomers who have never played the franchise have the perfect opportunity to jump into the series during this drought of new PlayStation 4 games.

Most people already know the story for Dynasty Warriors, but, if you have been sleeping under a rock or for some other reason don’t know what it is about, then here is a quick summary for you. Dynasty Warriors takes place in China during the period of the Three Kingdoms, a time in history which was full of war between the three main kingdoms of Wu, Shu and Wei, as each one tried their best to rule over the land. Dynasty Warriors allows you to take control of a historical person from one of those kingdoms (and the option of the smaller fourth army of Jin) and tells the story of the era through exaggerated takes on the historical military and political actions of the large-scale battles during this time period. An additional story is included, which is part of the Xtreme Legends add-on, which focuses on the almighty warlord Lu Bu – the invincible warrior, while existing campaigns gain extra stages to extend the already lengthy story mode to be even longer.

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Jumping into the story mode is probably the best way to start, thanks to the detailed tutorial that outlines all the mechanics you’ll ever need to know. Once through that (which is all optional), you can jump into one of the six campaigns selected from the list. In here, you’ll play through the most important battles for that selected kingdom. Rather than limiting the story to a character, Xtreme Legends Complete Edition offers between three or four characters to pick from per stage. This offers freedom, but at the same time gives the player a chance to get a feel for each of the 82 characters that exist in this game. Everyone will find their favourite, and five newcomers join the fight for Xtreme Legends Complete Edition to extend the cast list. These new characters continue to extend the weapon system for Dynasty Warriors, as rather than being clones, each character comes with their own move set, some very wacky, such as Chen Gong’s war scroll weapon that lets him send out generic units, or Fa Zheng, who has the ability to use a (magical?) carpet to wrap up his enemies in.

There’s not much to note about how Story Mode pans out. The mission structure is simple to understand, often resulting in the player needing to kill someone, defend an area or reach a destination. Occasionally you’ll have to backtrack to base or go to a specific point to protect a commander who is in need of help, but for the most part, you’ll be fine following the green squares flashing on the mission map. One thing I did notice about the missions in Story Mode is that some offer chances to branch the story off in a different direction. Tecmo Koei calls this a “what if” scenario, which will lead to a new stage. You can see all the branching paths and what missions access these by looking at the Stage Select screen in Story Mode.

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Outside of Story Mode, you have Ambition mode, in which you select a hero and are given a task to create a home base called the “Tongquetai Tower” to welcome the emperor to your “unknown” settlement. To be able to build new buildings or improve them, players need to participate in battles, which can be selected from a choice of four when you leave the base. There are three types of missions: skirmish, raid and the typical large-scale Dynasty Warriors battles. Each battle you successfully win will offer resources, fame, or additional heroes to help your base or support you in future battles by being bodyguards. A relationship metre is in play with your bodyguards, offering better bonuses as you grow your friendship with them.

Xtreme Legends Complete Edition builds on Ambition Mode by having an additional task to complete once you have done the original objective.  This is somewhat similar to the Empire add-ons for previous Dynasty Warriors titles, except much less detailed in structure. The idea is to take over other parts of the map to remove the influence of the false emperor and become the one true ruler. Ambition Mode is a nice inclusion and gives players a very swiftly paced reward system. As the missions become tougher, the rewards get better, but you’ll often find your health getting low, as healing is only replenished in limited amounts after each mission. It’s a welcome addition to the norm, and will last you a while to see everything it has to offer.

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A completely new feature is Challenge mode, which adds various modes to test your skills. Bridge Melee tasks the player to knock as many enemies off the bridge within the given time limit. Rampage is the same idea, but killing as many units as possible. Speed run is self-explanatory, and Arena is like a boss rush mode, in which you must defeat all the generals without dying. They aren’t the most fleshed out side-content, but fans will enjoy them for a brief moment of time.

Combat, the meat of the game, was given the biggest upgrade in Dynasty Warriors 8. Long gone is the recycled weapon usage of characters, as each character now has its own unique main weapon and move set. This is huge; there are over 80 characters, meaning a ton of variety. Characters can take two weapons into battle and can switch between these with an easy press of R1. This can be chained into combos, as pressing R1 will initiate a mini-combo before switching over to the other weapon. Every hero has a preferred weapon, and when this weapon is used, that hero is given two EX attacks that are triggered with a specific combination of buttons. EX attacks are powerful moves that will hit everyone close to the hero – very good for crowd control.

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Weapon affinities – Earth, Heaven or Man – are a rock-paper-scissors mechanic that is put into play between all the major characters. This offers advantages or disadvantages in battle when fighting with other commanders. If your affinity is weaker, an exclamation point will hang above the enemy’s head, and this translates into doing less-than-normal damage. If your own weapon is the stronger alignment, then a blue symbol will appear that will slowly break down when the enemy is hit. Once the symbol is smashed, the enemy is put into a state where a Storm Rush can be performed – which is basically a fury of swipes at the losing commander, who can’t do anything but hover in the air and take the damage.

Battles were already hard enough in the Chaos difficulty, but Omega Force saw it fit to include Ultimate difficulty, a mode that is simply ridiculous to try and attempt from the get go. Ultimate feels like it’s there just to spite you, as everyone has so much defence and damage output that it’s only barely attemptable after levelling up characters past the original level cap of 99 to the expansion’s new level cap of 150.

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Emphasis on replayability is what Xtreme Legends Complete Edition strives for, and there is a lot here to keep people interested for a long time. It’s all about progression and levelling up. Every character has their own level, which means you’ll have to play a while before unlocking all moves and features. One thing I really liked was how the skills were handled in Dynasty Warriors 8. Skills have their own level, with higher-level skills offering more bonuses in that particular category. Now, in some games, skills would level-up from use, but not in this game. Each skill requires the player to do a specific task to level it up. One might require you to beat a general who has an affinity stronger than yours, or to beat a general when you are in the attack x2 state. This skill mechanic makes the combat more engrossing, as you no longer are awarded for brainless button mashing. I’m not saying you can’t do that, since Dynasty Warriors is a staple for brainless action, but this adds depth to people who want reward, and a lot of that goes towards all these new mechanics built in game number 8. There is a ton of content to enjoy in Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, which is something that the series has never fallen short on.

Running on the PS4, Xtreme Legends Complete Edition ups the ante and throws more soldiers on the screen than ever before, while being a much smoother looking title than its PlayStation 3 brethren. Models look slicker, thanks to anti-aliasing, and some textures have been retouched. It’s not making use of all that power, as this still looks like a PlayStation 3 game restored to run on the PS4, but if you want the best running version of Dynasty Warriors then this is the version to get. Slowdown is still a problem for the game, but it’s by no means as bad as it was previously when Dynasty Warriors 8 released on PS3 and Xbox 360. A nice video from Tecmo Koei demonstrates the graphical differences between the two titles. You can see this below.

A missed opportunity is the game’s inclusion of cross-save, but not cross-buy. This means that if you are willing to pay for both the PS4 and Vita versions of the title, then you can take your save on the go when you leave home. Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is a perfect game for this feature, with so much content to get through and gameplay that sits well with portability, it’s a shame that Tecmo Koei didn’t have a deal to get both versions up for cross-buy, or at least some bundle that makes it cheaper for gamers who want to play the game at home and on the go.

Like I mentioned at the start of this review, I had to update last year’s verdict to take into account this PlayStation 4 release. As it stands, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is one of the most feature-rich entries in the history of the franchise, and has come out at a perfect time to pick up newcomers who are looking for fun games to play on their lacking PlayStation 4 library. Haters will forever hate the series, and this game doesn’t do anything to change that, as it’s after its fans, and for those fans, you’re going to love Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, as it’s jammed with hours upon hours of content that once again improves on the series’ formula and pushes it towards its prime.

8 out of 10