Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors series has followed much the same rhythm of releases since way back in the early noughties, with each mainline entry in the franchise since 2003's Dynasty Warriors 4 followed by both an Xtreme and Empires spin-off, the latter of which adds a little bit of strategic tinkering to the usual Musou mix. It's nothing particularly complex, for sure, but as fans of this genre we always look forward to the arrival of a new Empires variant as it gives these hack-and-slash action-fests a little more in the way of depth and replayability.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is the very first Empires game to hit Switch, and only the second Dynasty Warriors proper to arrive on Nintendo's console, following on from 2018's thoroughly decent Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends. We've been excited to get our hands on this one, then, eager to jump into some all-conquering action, cutting swathes through screenfuls of enemies whilst expanding our empire across the length and breadth of China.
However, what's been served up here — and there's really no beating about the bush to be done we're afraid — is a bit of a dog's dinner, a poor entry in the franchise regardless of what platform you're playing on that's seriously lacking in content and modes, and which arrives on Switch with a shoddy port that looks bad and performs disappointingly.
There are already quite a few excellent Musou titles floating around on the Switch eShop these days, with the likes of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, Fire Emblem Warriors and good old One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 providing plenty of satisfying hack-and-slash action for players to dig into. However, one problem that all of these games share on Nintendo's hybrid console is a tendency to struggle with frame rate issues during the genre's signature mass brawls. Get a big scrap going, start firing off some fancy special moves and you're in for a bit of a stutterfest. It's not ideal but it is, to some extent, understandable given the hardware that developers are attempting to squeeze these ludicrously large battles onto.
In an attempt to avoid these issues, the developer has really gone to town with downgrading all graphical aspects of Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires on Switch, resulting in a game that looks hugely underwhelming in action. It sucks a lot of the fun out of playing when it looks this rough but, we guess, it could be a trade-off worth making if the game held a solid 30fps. However that's not the case here, with a frame rate that consistently hovers around the 20fps mark and often dips lower during intense action sequences. It doesn't feel great to play and, when combined with visuals that have been rendered utterly bland, devoid of any texture detail and plagued by a ton of very noticeable pop-in, you're left with a premium-priced product that looks and feels like real bargain bin material.
And all of this is before we even start on the actual gameplay itself. Fans of the franchise will know what to expect, with your time divided between the usual running battles against hundreds of foes and extended periods of menu navigation where you'll choose how to spend your months before the next war council; training up your armies, raising funds, doing a spot of farming, ensuring you've got enough rations to go around and so on. None of this is particularly in-depth at the best of times, but it suffers hugely in this latest Empires entry because the action that it's attached to is so absolutely naff.
No amount of unlocking trinkets to buff your weapons, or being rewarded with new secret plans to enact on the battlefield, or positioning your forces around the world map, or careful consideration of your relations with other rulers can paper over the fact that most of the strategy here counts for very little when you're marching into action against such utterly dumb enemy AI — and with an army of similarly braindead allies in tow.
Getting stuck into the action here reveals a game that expects you, as a solo soldier, to do all of the heavy-lifting. No matter what plans you've made in the build up to battle, it turns out your armies haven't a clue how to organise themselves during a ruckus. Stick the game on Normal difficulty and you blaze through equally matched enemy armies with ease; up the difficulty and you'll get one-shotted by opposing generals in the most unfair and unavoidable ways possible. There's no nuance or intelligence at work here, Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is just shockingly poor for the most part; janky, repetitive and stripped of almost all of the fun that regular entries in this franchise provide on account of the fact that you're boxed into these tiny, ugly little arenas and forced to run ad nauseum between the same handful of map icons in order to thwart enemy attacks. Move from one map icon to the next, whittling down opposing forces until your army eventually gets a battering ram onto the field and clears a path to an underwhelming decisive battle.
It's truly tedious, far less engaging and far more repetitive than even hardened Musou fans may be willing to put up with. We're used to the repetition that's part and parcel of Warriors games by now, but here all of the elements that keep you hooked in — the characters, the story, the flashy special moves — are tainted by the huge visual downgrade that makes everything look so unappealing, alongside core combat that feels sloppy and unsatisfying. There's just nothing here to hold your attention, no reason to waste your time planning and plotting when the action it all leads to is so badly executed.
Away from the actual gameplay and the problems continue. There's no multiplayer options whatsoever here, not even the series' standard co-op to fall back on, and so a Conquest mode featuring eight scenarios to muck through is all you get at release. The character creation suite is impressively flexible, and we have no doubt some fans will knock plenty of fun out of this aspect of the game, but here too we see a downgrade from past entries in the series, with a real lack of unlockable armours and outfits to play around with owing to the fact Koei Tecmo has decided this stuff should be released as DLC.
Even in terms of how Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires goes about introducing itself, things feel half-assed from the get-go. You'll get a quick tutorial to show you how to attack in battle, how to utilise your special moves and so on, and that's it. There's zero instruction on the strategy side of things. It's not hard to pick up, it's super simple stuff at the end of the day, but for newcomers it's a hugely unwelcoming start and you'll just need to sit and sift through menus — and constant loading screens — in order to get your bearings.
We could go on. There's a completely useless open-world aspect crowbarred in. You can run around massive empty environments for absolutely no reason during diplomatic strolls. There are tons of re-used assets, cutscenes from previous entries in the series and, in the end, the whole thing just comes off as a sloppy effort that's been stitched together with the minimum of effort and booted out the door with a premium price-tag attached.
It's all the more disappointing because, as big fans of the series, we've got a real soft spot for some sweet Musou action — no matter how repetitive it gets — but it's really quite impossible to recommend this latest entry in the Empires spin-off series. Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is an unsatisfying mess and, by some margin, the worst Musou experience currently available on Nintendo Switch. Die-hard Empires fans who absolutely must have this one on-the-go may be able to stomach it, but everyone else should steer well clear.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is a poor Switch port of a disappointing entry in the long-running spin-off series. This is a hugely downgraded version of the game, with seriously dialled-back visuals failing to put a stop to consistent frame rate issues during the heat of battle. With a lack of gameplay modes, zero multiplayer options, terrible AI and cosmetic customisation options gone AWOL at launch — Koei Tecmo choosing instead to go the DLC route — this is a truly lacklustre package, a bargain bin affair with a premium price tag, and a Dynasty Warriors game you can feel quite comfortable skipping entirely.
Glad I know I can skip this game. The demo really didn't impress. Not just because it looks and runs badly, either. It's just not engaging, imo.
Arent those problems of every musou game?
"Boring, repetitive battlefields full of cut and paste objectives"
Isn't this like every musou game ever?
Just thought I would pop in and add (as just reviewed the PS5 version of the game), the PS5 version also suffers with all the same quality issues, along with frame rate drops and resolution tanking.
It seems to be more of an across the board problem then just Switch (though am sure the Switch suffers further).
@PJOReilly Did the day one Switch patch fix anything at all?
@Snatcher 😆 🤣 😂
damn. was really looking forward to this one, but I guess I'll pass then. so does this mean it DOESN'T have co-op, something standard in all Warriors games?
@XenoShaun I've all the Zelda and Fire Emblem Warriors games and am planning on buying the new Three Hopes when it releases. decided on skipping this one but would you recommend Samurai Warriors 5?
(does it have couch co-op btw?)
@Fujimoto-San There is no multiplayer at all in 9 Empires. It's a shame but makes sense due to just how bad the core code frame work is for the game. It really put pressure on the main Dynasty Warriors 9 game when they added it in.
As for Samurai Warriors 5, have you played any of the earlier Samurai Warriors titles? (I actually have a review done for it on my KT site - can find in my profile, don't think community rules would allow shilling my stuff). I quite enjoyed it, but it is a much different take compared to the 4th entry, and focusing on Oda clans more so than the entire Warring States. SW5 has co-op however you have to progress through the first 4 or so battles in Musou mode to unlock it.
Great and I bought the CE edition as well.
@SwitchForce There are more fixes coming through for the Switch version which should nip hopefully most of the technical issues - if that is your only real bug bear.
The way content is played out however, probably a marmite situation. I quite enjoyed my time with the game, but there is a lot to dislike (along with a lot of different things to like).
@XenoShaun Haven't tried with day one patch yet, but I'll give it a whirl and add an update if it's improved the situation.
@PJOReilly Would be good to know. Hopefully some of these terrible technical problems get fixed. But shame that won't make the core gameplay any more fun another case of potential squandered.
Bought this game on Xbox and it was the worst Warriors game I have ever played. Needless to say I won't be buying it again here. The Open World has literally nothing in it except empty space and maybe a few bland trees here and there but that's it.
I don't recommend this game if you're a fan of this series.
Not really a fan of Dynasty Warriors. I think the series stopped being good after Dynasty Warriors 3. I'm more a fan of the other Musou games though just not Dynasty Warriors right now. The Empire series itself never really click with me either. I would just stick with Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi, etc., and many of the other theme Musou games.
This is mostly the reviewer hating on the game without understanding what an emipres game is and the compromises needed to get this kind of game into the Switch.
The reviewer also clearly fails to understand that emipres games are not just hack and slash like standard Warriors games. You need to stop and think about the political aspects and other things inbetween battles. Actually do some research and learn. Not just jump blindly into the game and complain when you fail due to a lack of preparation.
The review this ends up sounding like - "I hate this game but since my job demands I review it, I can put all of my hate into the review"
Whatever happened to the high standards of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition? I know it's an enhanced port of the Wii U and 3DS versions, but the Switch wasn't that big of a jump from the Wii U in terms of hardware, and there was just so much more going on in that game than any current Musou game, including Age of Calamity.
I suppose that this is a bit of an indication that we should be looking more towards the spin-offs; games that were made with the Switch hardware in mind. Dynasty Warriors is most definitely something to play on other platforms, unless Koei Tecmo reassesses their quality and slows down development.
I pity the players who paid £89.99 for the digital deluxe version
And this is why you never preorder things.
@the8thark I've played all of the Empire games and I actually mentioned in the review that I understand compromises need to be made for musou action to run on Switch. I don't know what else to tell you.
I stick with Hyrule Warriors - played through Age of Calamity and just started with Definitive Edition - great games and a lot to do
Jaysus that's blurry. Looking at this game is the equivalent of having my glasses steam up after wearing a mask, good lord.
That demo was TERRIBLE! One of the most rough things I have seen on Switch so far!
And is it just me or are the Switch games becoming less and less impressive, even first-party and second-party ones? I mean: Luigi's mansion 3 looked soooo impressive but everything looked far below after that. Take Xenoblade chronicles 3 for example: Sure they can get much more juice out of the Switch?!
If I could like balan wonderworld I can like anything!😅
Why do they keep trying to put Musou on Nintendo platforms? And why does Nintendo keep partnering with them to make Musou Nintendo themed games? Nintendo hardware will always be the very worst hardware to play a Musou game on since the series' main gimmick is its enormous battlefields with ridiculous number of NPCs at any one time. Of all the series that you can do a "this should be on Nintendo hardware", Musou seems like the worst choice this side of a hard simulator or RTS.
That's aside from the fact that it's basically become Japan's CoD.
@XenoShaun no, the only warriors games I've played are the Zelda and FE ones. wanted to pick up and try Samurai 5 but was holding off on it. I'll def take a look at your profile and read your review on Samurai 5
The Switch can't do these games so why do folks even buy em? At this juncture I'd expect this to sell so far below port cost that no more of these things will ever come out.
“ There's a completely useless open-world aspect crowbarred in. You can run around massive empty environments for absolutely no reason during diplomatic strolls. There are tons of re-used assets…in the end, the whole thing just comes off as a sloppy effort that's been stitched together with the minimum of effort and booted out the door with a premium price-tag attached.”
For a second I thought you were talking about Pokémon Legends Arceus. 🙃
@Greatluigi Then go play Popeye, I think you may like it.
Removed - foreign languages
@Fujimoto-San I play Samurai Warriors 5 and really enjoy it but that's only cause I love the Japanese Sengoku era stuff. If you're playing it to see if it looks good or ran good or if there are variety in missions or extras you're probably gonna be disappointed.
@sword_9mm I play a lot of these Musou games on multiple consoles and a majority of them ran better on Nintendo systems. Of these the PC versions are usually the worst ones, avoid those if you can or if you had really good graphics card or fast processors as they tend to struggle or crash on medium or low end PC.
Ouuuch. I only play Samurai Warriors (and orochi since it has both rosters) and the Licensed Musou games, but it's never good when the flagship starts listing to starboard. I am enjoying Samurai Warriors 5 (and I loved AoC) so I am not as worried as I would be otherwise, but perhaps K-T are spreading too thin. Hope they keep the new art direction in the Samurai line.
@Specter_of-the_OLED nah that game looks really bad I may like bad games but I have standards.
so the graphics is an important factor here, but not in arceus? smh
Oof, emphasis on the 'Nasty' part of Dynasty eh? Sorry.
Anyway, I really like the Berserk musou gme on PS4 as it's the only one of these I've played that has actual blood. Not that I'm a gore hound, it just helps to elevate the sense that you're partaking in a massive medieval battle, as opposed to batting around a bunch of plastic npcs. These games are still mindless fun regardless though.
@RubyCarbuncle using wrong false game analogy doesn't give one credit here. It's not out yet you claim to played Switch. Xbox is a dying console that ranks bottom already.
@SwitchForce I'm referring to the Xbox version as in the original DW 9 which I made very clear and I don't particularly care what you think about Xbox. My point is I can't see it being any better here on weaker hardware. I made no claim of the sort.
Thanks for the review. I will delete this off the wishlist
@PJOReilly @the8thark I honestly agree with that here. You clearly based the review off of your hate for the game and not an honest review of the game or it’s genre. In fact I have read many of your reviews and find they are all pretty much the same way and very seldom do you ever base any off of a genuine review of how the games are but your own personal preference. Reviews are I. The product and everything about how it performs and does and not on your personal fe fes.
Koei Tecmo. Just look at the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection mess that was never patched.
@Specter_of-the_OLED same here man, love me some samurai and sengoku era stories. might buy when it goes on a sale.. though physical games hardly go on sale, ha ha
I'm just bored of these kind of games. We sure get a whole heck of a lot of them on the Switch, but it's all kind of the same thing: button mashing through endless enemies over and over again. I got Persona 5 Strikers to fill my Persona fix, but eventually like Age of Calamity, I just got bored of the endless fights.
After the demo, I canceled my preorder. I've been playing them for years. Best one was WO3, SW4, DW8, DW8E, and well Sengoku Basara 3 lol. DW9 I was okay with. SW5 was absolute crap.
@Dirty0814 Reviews of anything are fundamentally subjective in nature, all of them should be taken with a grain of salt when choosing to make your own purchases
@Dirty0814 @the8thark No offense, but considering that you two aren't giving much reason to actually question this review and that other people are also expressing their disappointment with the demo even as fans of the genre, it seems that you are more biased in favor of the game than the reviewer is against it. Suggesting stuff like "doing research and learn about political aspects" in a game that isn't even that deep to begin with is absurd and shouldn't be needed to get more enjoyment out of it. Honestly I don't see how that would help with the gameplay and performance flaws either.
Who in 2022 still wants Dynasty Warriors 9? Literally everything I've ever heard about this game, even from fans, suggested it was not good. It's not like the Switch has been lacking for Warriors games and they literally just announced one last week.
@the8thark what should the reviewer do? Pretend to like it, lol?
bought this because i can play it in handheld mode
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