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Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires Xbox 360

Published by Koei
Developed by Omega Force
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires, an introduction.

The Dynasty Warriors series has always been very popular with action game fans. Set in Ancient China the Dynasty Warriors games, which are based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, are essentially hack 'n' slash mass combat action games. Dynasty Warrior 5: Empires  adds a whole lot of strategy to the basic Dynasty Warriors game play and it's an addition that makes it the best Dynasty Warriors game to date.

What's the game about?

Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires offers a choice of Free Mode, Empire Mode, Encyclopaedia, Archives and Edit Mode. The Free Mode allows you to drop into one of 25 battles ranging from the Battle of Bei Ping to the Battle of Jian Ning. In each battle you have the choice to invade or defend. Free Mode allows a second player to play against you in a split-screen format. Edit Mode allows you to create your own officers that you can then use in the Free Mode. These officers level up with the experience they earn in battles and it's quite addictive attempting to improve the custom officers you've created.  Archives allows you to check out all of the officers, troops, weapons, items and policies in the game. Encyclopaedia gives you quite a bit of  background on The Three Kingdoms and the officers within the game. Of course the main mode is the Empires mode, which we'll talk about in a moment.

What's good about the game?

This isn't a game quite like Empires on the Xbox 360 and if you like mass combat action games as well as strategy titles it's a game you're highly advised to purchase. The game's main mode is called Empire Mode and it's here you'll get a richer and more satisfying experience than has previously been available in a Dynasty Warriors game. There are only two scenarios initially available, Yellow Turban Rebellion and A Gathering of Heroes. Four other scenarios, Dong Zhuo, Divided Land, Battle of Guan Du  and Flames over Chi Bi can be unlocked to make six scenarios in all. Regardless of the scenario you play in though, the basic idea is to conquer all of the 25 territories that China has been split into.

Empires Mode mixes turn-based strategy elements with real time combat. Each round has two phases which are the Strategy phase and the Battle phase. In the Strategy phase you can carry out various actions such as consult, delegate, assign and station. To carry out these orders you need order points. To begin with you'll only have one order point but as you conquer more territories you'll earn more to use each round. Consult allows you to listen to what your fellow officers have to say and you can choose to go with the policies they suggest. Each policy costs a certain amount of gold though, so you have to be careful. Delegate allows you to choose one of your officers to make the decisions for you in a turn (they only use up one order point at a time though) and Action allows you to pick policies (which also uses up your gold) of your own choosing. These policies can improve your production in your territories to increase your gold income, acquire new troops, give charitable aid and much more. Finally you have to choose a territory to attack with the station option. Stationing your troops doesn't use up any order points. During the Battle phase you will attack or defend depending on whether you chose to attack a territory or whether you are being attacked by an enemy force. You may have the option to help an ally or you may have requested assistance in battle for a joint attack as a policy in the Strategic phase. If you don't want to play out the battle you can also skip the Battle phase altogether. Prior to a battle you'll get to decide which officers are taking part. The battles are just what you'd expect from the Dynasty Warriors series with each officer having their own special attacks and musou attacks. The idea is to take over the various enemy bases and prevent them from taking yours within a given time limit. The difficulty of the battles depends upon the difficulty level chosen at the beginning of a scenario (there are five difficulty levels in all to suit every ability level). After a battle is completed your officers will receive their rewards and may even level up. What makes the Empire Mode so interesting is the sheer amount of random events that occur. Territories may suffer earthquakes for instance, which affects the amount of money they generate. These random events ensure no two play throughs of a given scenario are ever the same.  You can make temporary alliances to protect your interests and you'll also have to make sure your resources are replenished to enable you to carry out all of your tasks. Whilst the Empire Mode will please strategy fans it's worth pointing out that everything has been kept simple and even those gamers who aren't used to strategy games will have no problem understanding what needs to be done.

Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires has 1,000 Gamerscore points up for grabs. There are 36 achievements in all and they range from giving you 20G for unlocking officers in the game (in multiples of 10 from 10 to 250) to completing each of the six scenarios in Empire Mode. You get 70G for each scenario you complete except for A Gathering of Heroes which only yields 50G. 

What's not so good about the game?

Naturally if mass combat action games aren't to your liking you may find the battles in Empires to be a little repetitive. Given that the series has arrived on the Xbox 360 it's a little disappointing that the game doesn't take advantage of the Xbox Live service and that the only multiplayer options are for split-screen play. It would have been great to have played the Empire Mode online but sadly it's not an option.

How does it look?

It's been pointed out in a few reviews that the graphics in DW5: Empires aren't really up to the standard from what you would expect with it being an Xbox 360 game. This may be the case but the graphics are fine in my opinion. Naturally everything looks a little sharper when playing the game on a HD display but even on a standard TV the game appears to look slightly better than the PlayStation 2 version.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All of the cutscene dialogue in Empire Mode is subtitled. All dialogue during the Strategy phase is subtitled and all important dialogue during the battles is also subtitled meaning you won't miss out on anything worthwhile. All objectives and victory conditions etc. for battles in the Free Mode are shown in text. The information in the Encyclopaedia section is all in text  meaning you won't miss out on anything. In fact it's fair to say the game is deaf gamer friendly with only captions not being present, although this doesn't cause any problems at all.

Final thoughts.

Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires is a great introduction to the series for Xbox 360 owners and the fact that it's a rather inexpensive game only serves to make it more appealing. The additional strategy elements in the Empires variant of Dynasty Warriors 5 really add to the game and make it a better overall experience. Some may point out that the graphics could have looked better on the Xbox 360 and indeed they probably could have. However, when you balance this against its lower price tag and the fact that the Xbox 360 version was released alongside the PlayStation 2 version it more than makes up for any deficiencies with the graphics. In all honesty though the graphics are fine. Now if only Koei would release a Romance of the Three Kingdom's game and a Dynasty Tactics game for the Xbox 360 I would be completely satisfied.

Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10

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Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires is easily the best Dynasty Warriors game to date. The strategy elements that have been included in Empires combine really well with the mass combat action and make for a more complete gaming experience.