For a series that’s been around for over twenty years, Dynasty Warriors is always iterating on itself with each new entry. While whether that’s usually enough to keep things fresh is another topic entirely, new additions to this rehash of Dynasty Warriors 8 certainly add more things to do to this self-proclaimed “Definitive Edition.” Despite combat still feeling stale and repetitive after a few hours, taking the core of Dynasty Warriors 8 and adding things like an increased level cap and updating certain combat mechanics truly do make this the definitive version of Dynasty Warriors 8, and compiling the entire package onto Switch makes this the most comprehensive musou-style game to date.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition wraps a lot of game into a single package: there’s a Story mode, where you can follow the stories of each of the four families (Wu, Shu, Jin, or Wei) as well as an individual story centered around the infamous Lu Bu; Free Mode, where you forge your own path with any of the game’s 80+ characters; Ambition Mode, where you build a camp and try to recruit the Emperor to your cause; and Challenge Mode, where you participate in battles using special conditions and you try to set new high scores.
No matter which mode you choose, as you play, you level up characters and acquire new weapons by defeating hordes of enemies, picking up dropped loot, and gaining experience. For those familiar with games in the Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors series—or, to a lesser extent, Hyrule Warriors or Fire Emblem Warriors—the general gameplay loop should feel familiar. You start on a battlefield pitted against literally thousands of enemies, and it’s your job to maul your way through the masses and win the battle by meeting certain pre-determined conditions. Some battles will have you defending a certain point or officer, while others have victory conditions set to defeat a certain enemy or capturing a particular base.
While this seems simple from a macro level, there is quite a bit of strategy and nuance involved in how these battles can play out. I mistakenly thought “I’ve played several games in the series before—I know what I’m doing!” and mindlessly ran into battle while casually listening to a podcast or watching a show on TV, and the consequences were dire. Not closely reading my officers’ dialogue and having the sound off led to my (or, really, Lu Bu’s) untimely demise, as I would either die in battle or miss a critical objective and fail the mission. Many times, you’ll need to route an enemy in order to open a stronghold gate, or take down a siege weapon that’s harming a payload you’re charged with protecting. Failure to observe and act upon these objectives can result in immediate mission failure, so keen attention to the task at hand is crucial. Though frustrating when faced with defeat, this nuanced approach to mission design ultimately makes for a deeper and more rewarding experience, and this holds true throughout the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
Of all the game’s modes, I felt particularly drawn to Ambition Mode. Choosing any character you like, building up a camp, and taking on smaller, bite-sized missions to acquire resources to grow your settlement puts a new spin on the Dynasty Warriors franchise I’d not experience before, and it was particularly refreshing. Dynasty Warriors is already a somewhat tactical game, and adding a base-building mechanic on top of that felt right and makes sense, and I would love to see this feature expanded upon in future titles.
The nuts and bolts of the gameplay in Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition is ultimately fun, but it does become stale after a few hours—even fewer for veterans of the series. One new addition since I’ve last played a Dynasty Warriors game (though the feature has been present since Dynasty Warriors 7) is the ability to equip multiple weapons per character, even ones that a particular character normally wouldn’t use. For example, Yue Jin usually wields dual hooks, but you can equip him with a lance or a crossbow, if you so choose. A character won’t be as effective with another weapon as they are with their natural weapon type, but the ability to experiment with weapons—as well as swap between primary and secondary weapons on the fly—is a fabulous addition to the series and is one way to mix up the otherwise, at times, stale combat. Other additions to combat include characters having access to a second EX attack, the ability to view only enemy generals’ health bars, and other minor updates from the base Dynasty Warriors 8.
One notable omission from this entry is the ability to create a custom fighter. Again, I haven’t played the series in a while, but I remember enjoying creating my own custom character and assigning them iconic weapons. With a roster so large already, it’s not really needed, but I do miss its inclusion here.
Visually, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition doesn’t look much better than the original version did on the Xbox 360 or PS3, but then again, graphical prowess has never been at the forefront of the Dynasty Warriors series. Still, the game looks and runs great, particularly in handheld mode, and the game appears to run at a steady 60 frames per second in either handheld or docked modes.
One of my favorite features of the game is the absolutely massive soundtrack on offer. It doesn’t contain all songs from past entries, but to load up songs from Dynasty Warriors 4 or 5 is a real treat—it really brings me back to childhood days of playing the early games with one of my best friends. At any rate, the music selection is fantastic, and being able to choose your favorite track to battle to is great.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test out any multiplayer components, but if past games in the series are anything to judge by, it should be equally as serviceable as playing solo.
Overall, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition truly is the definitive way to experience Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends. Though combat does get repetitive, the ability to equip and swap different weapons on the fly—as well as the sheer multitude of game modes to choose from—more than makes up for it to make Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition truly one of the best musou-style games on Switch.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition was provided by the game’s publisher.