Thursday, 1 January 2015

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends - Complete Edition (PC)

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition title screen PC
Today for Super Adventures I’m spending an hour or two learning about Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends – Complete Edition! You can’t even claim I cheated to put this as one of my ‘X’ games this time because just look at the logo! This is Xiest X game since… did Vin Diesel's xXx ever get a game tie-in? No? Okay then, this is the Xiest X game since BMX XXX.

It’s called the 'Complete Edition' because it combines the base Dynasty Warriors 8 game with the Xtreme Legends expansion, which is as complete as the game gets in the West until the Empires expansion makes an appearance later this year. You know, I've always assumed that the Dynasty Warriors series was firmly console only, but apparently they’ve been getting PC ports since the fourth game back in 2003. This definitely the first and only one I’ve ever seen on Steam though, along with its 7,000 pieces of DLC. So many irritatingly tempting costume packs... thankfully priced way above my impulse buy limit. I’ve never wanted to play dress-up with my video game characters so badly though.

Oh I should mention that this was a surprise gift from a friend who reads the site, so I can’t actually say anything bad about the game. Sorry about that. I’ve been a big fan of the series since the PlayStation 2 games though so I’m way past the point of unbiased criticism anyway.

(Click the images to view them at around... 1280x720 resolution.)

Story Mode, Free Mode, Ambition Mode, Challenge Mode… the game isn’t short on modes is it? It pops up some text on the bottom left to explain what each mode is about, but the description isn't being particularly helpful in this case. I think I’ll just go with the story for now, to get myself off this menu before the hypnotic drum loop drives me mad.

The Dynasty Warriors franchise is based on the famous Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is a bit of a rubbish title really considering it's more of a dramatised account of the conflict between three factions over dominance of China at the end of the Han Dynasty. Anyone hoping that Liu Bei and Cao Cao are going to get over their row in the final act and run away to get married is going to be disappointed.

Story Mode gives me the choice of either playing through one of the three kingdoms, an extra faction called 'Jin', 'Other', or the asshole warlord Lu Bu on his own. There's a big golden 'New' next to his name so I suppose he was added in the Xtreme Legends expansion, along with some extra stages for the others. Screw that though, it's been ages since I've played one of these so I'm playing through the Tutorial stage to learn the basics.

Uh… what the fuck? I can’t see those particular buttons anywhere on my Xbox 360 pad or my keyboard. I appreciate that it's hard to make messages like this for a system with configurable inputs, but I don't much appreciate their solution. I'm too stubborn to check the controls, so I'm going to keep hitting the buttons in turn until I get this fabled historical figure standing on top of a box.

I’m running this maxed out by the way, on a modern card with all graphics sliders on full. I wouldn't say it's the most ‘next gen’ looking game to hit PCs in 2014 so far, but all those extra polygons should be coming along soon enough.


Hang on, hold up a second! Sorry lads, but we’re going to pause my righteous beating of your worthless peasant hides for a minute while I try to parse what this latest tutorial box says. They're throwing out a lot of terms like "Aerial Musou Attack" here, and I'm struggling to remember if I already know what one of them is. The tutorial won't let me proceed until I press whatever it expects me to press, but I've a bad feeling this might be one of those 'get it right once, then never use it again in the entire game' kinds of situations.

I have figured out something though at least: that club he’s holding… that’s a bow with an arrow for the handle. Seriously, if I press the second attack button it springs open and he fires off a shot. It’s not really a ‘100% authentic to historical record’ kind of game.

Seems that the developers had a few Final Fantasy VII fans on staff; either that or these giant buster swords actually existed for real at some point.

You just wait until I’ve finished with this combo mate and I’ll be with you in a second. 240 kills so far and this is just the first proper tutorial battle.

Getting kills is easy when you can fire an single arrow into the sky and have a thousand rain down across the battlefield. You don’t engage enemies in Dynasty Warriors, you engage armies, and I can slay anything in my way with a couple of swings of my mighty bowclub. Well, except for that Bandit Lieutenant I'm supposed to be taking down; he's got a name above his head so we're a little more evenly matched.

Things have gotten a lot more complicated than they were in the last Dynasty Warriors game I played, with Switch Counters, and Storm Rushes, and the Rage Gauge... but I think I almost get it, and that’s good enough for me to leave the tutorial mode and start the game proper.


Huh? Has one of my game files gotten corrupted, or does this narration really not have a narrator reading out the lines? There were voices in the tutorial I'm sure of it. They even pronounced the names right, which I'm a little sad about as I liked hearing grizzled warriors talk about their mighty leader Cow Cow.

Speaking of Cao Cao, that's who I've decided to play as, or his faction anyway. Cao Cao was one of the heroes who successfully fought against the Yellow Turban Rebellion and earned himself a bit of fame in the process. Five years later, the warlord Dong Zhuo seized the Imperial capital and took the Emperor into custody, and Cao Cao has received a letter from the man himself asking if he can come over and sort it out.

The game’s giving me a choice of one of three heroes to control here: Xiahou Dun, his younger cousin Xiahou Yuan, or Cao Cao himself. They all seem fairly equal in stats, so I guess I’ll go with the one with the best beard.

That map on the right is the stage I’ll be playing on. If there's one thing these games have taught me, it's that every major conflict of the era took place inside a perfect square. Dynasty Warriors levels aren’t necessarily linear routes from start to finish; they’re battles with objectives to achieve and bases to capture, and you can see that this one has paths winding all over the place. I'm sure I'll get given some directions when we arrive at the gates though.

Alright, time to depose a Dong.


Well Cao Cao’s gotten himself captured by Dong Zhuo and brought alone and unarmed into the heart of the tyrant's heavily guarded palace. So I guess that’s over then.

But then, with a demonstration of incredible strength Cao Cao overpowers both of his captors, the rock soundtrack kicks in (youtube link), and…

...our hero bravely runs away as fast as his expensive slippers will carry him. I hope that tiny hat is firmly pinned on.

So I guess the objectives in this battle will mostly be ‘run away’ and ‘keep running’. Much respect to the developers for making these cutscenes skippable though.

Okay now I'm in control, playing as Xiahou Dun. Just looking at the dots on the map it looks like the smartest move for me here is head north, but I have a nasty feeling that’ll take me right back to Dong Zhuo and his buddy Lu Bu, so I’ll just follow my two friends and see where they take me. We’d better hurry though, we’ve only got an hour left!

I actually wish I’d chosen to play as Cao Cao, now that I know that his death is a fail condition. I'll have to babysit the guy the whole way!

Ugh, they never want me to pursue Lu Bu in these games.

I could probably head back and take him on, and it’s probably even possible to win… but it's not all that likely that I’ll be managing it at level 1 with no practice. Or at all. Instead I need to focus on chipping away at Li Meng's health so that this gate will open up. It's the guys with the names who determine what gates block my route and which side holds a base, so those are the guys I need to give my attention to.

We’re not entirely on our own in this fight, as those guys in the background are Cao Cao’s troops. I can tell them apart from Dong’s men by their lack of health bars and…uh. Well, it doesn't really matter as there's no friendly fire in this.


So much for the unstoppable Lu Bu; close a few gates in the guy’s face and he gets bored. These guys aren’t so quick to give up, but they’re basically absolutely no threat to me here on this difficulty. I remember the average grunt in the PlayStation 2 games being able to give me some trouble on Normal mode, but these guys are just here to make my attacks look more dramatic by sailing through the air every time I swing my blade. In fact, talking about showing off, I just noticed that I've inflicted enough pain here to fill my entire Rage Gauge, so I’m going to hit the Rage button and give these guys the honour of receiving my maximum damage output for a couple of seconds.

You’d think it’d be hard to keep track of such a huge number of enemies in 3D, but it hasn't been an issue so far. I'm mostly looking out for names, and an arrow appears to point me in the direction of an enemy officer if they stray off camera.


Ow, what's up with these wooden dragon turret things shooting rapid-fire arrows into me and shoving me backwards? Oh, these must be those ballistae people have been radioing me to take care of. I don't see a health bar, so I'm guessing they're going to be like the gates, and I can shut them down by killing the nearest named officer.

Also, I just noticed that I’m nearly out of health here! These things are absolutely wrecking me, and poor Xiahou Yuan over there doesn’t look so healthy either. Looks like I’m going to have get over to Chen Gong and mash (X) and (Y) faster than ever! Those are my two basic attack buttons, and my different combos are dialled in by hitting 'normal attack' a number of times, then hitting 'strong attack' once or twice to finish. For instance (X) (X) (Y) (Y) would smack them around a few different ways, then ‘unleash a fiery shockwave’ to finish it off.

Yesss, let all the wooden scroll things scattered across the battlefield in my wake now fly to me, their true master! I will feast upon their knowledge for a moderate XP bonus! Then I'll grab those boots over there for a 30 second 2x speed boost too.

Killing dudes gets me new weapons, temporary damage bonuses, XP… all kinds of stuff! If there’s some pots around here I can break them for healthy meat buns too. Not that I need any right at this moment, I just like breaking things.

And then I really need to get back over to Cao Cao, wherever he’s gone, because he’s very close to expiring here. I'm running out of map though so I must be really close to an exit now.


And that's it, I have successfully completed my daring retreat! We're calling that a win by the way.

Another history lesson appeared after the fight to explain that numerous warlords answered Cao Cao’s call, and together, they formed the Allied Forces... you know I still can’t get over how the game doesn’t have a narrator reading this out. They should've gone full documentary on this thing, and hired someone with some real gravitas to tell the story of the Three Kingdoms.

Our second battle shall be fought at Hulao gate (I don't believe they mentioned why), and I’ve been provided with different selection of warriors to choose from this time. Not those guys up there, those are warlords and faction leaders, no I mean two other guys that don't even have beards. Seems like I can’t just stick to a single hero for the whole campaign in this mode and keep levelling them up.

I can stick with the same fighting style though, as it's mostly attached to the pair of weapons I have equipped. I'd be more interested in swapping my weapons out and going through this list to try out all the other techniques, but sadly that is impossible as this list never actually ends.

Oh hang on, I was wrong, it does eventually stop if I scroll down for long enough, but holy shit there are a lot of fighting styles here to choose from. I've found flying swords, an arm cannon, a rake, a bit of cloth… there are some amazing weapons in here. They have different affinities too, like Heaven, Earth and Man, which I think works as a kind of rock, paper, scissors system. If I find an enemy in the field using the affinity I'm weak to, I'd likely do better against them after hitting the weapon switch button and whipping out my secondary sword. Or I can wait until they unleash a Storm Rush on me, and then tap weapon switch to counter it.

That weapon switch button also tends to smack enemies into the air when I press it too, so it's quickly becoming one of my favourite buttons. Sorry 'call horse', you're a good button and I do like you, but I like 'switch weapon' just that little bit more.


Huh, they've let me wander around camp before the fight this time? All I can really do here though is go up to NPCs and listen to them recite their two lines of dialogue; it’s just like walking around town in an RPG, except without the town!

Well there’s a blacksmith here who I can trade weapons with, but I’m pretty happy with the thousand or so weapons I seem to already be carrying so I’ll cut this short and go speak to someone about starting the battle already.


Well I've fought my way down the path on the far right side the map, but it seems Cao Cao and co took the central passage instead (the one with that blue line pointing to it) and they're still trapped in there, so now I guess I'll have to go back up and defeat the gatekeeper to let them through. Then maybe I'll open up the left hand passage too for my allies. I've got important objectives I'm meant to be getting on with in the south, marked with green boxes, but I'm feeling benevolent right now.

Man, I love these new wing blades. I’m swooping around so much at the end of combos that I’m practically dogfighting with enemies here.

Wait… I think I’ve just figured out now why I like this game so much. It’s like the TIE Fighter of hack and slash games, with the player racing to objectives and figuring out who to engage first and how to get there quickly while the screen’s filling up with badguys and the game’s yelling ‘mission critical craft officer, under attack!!’

Speaking of officers under attack, I need to find my way up some stairs now to take care of some archers raining arrows down on my troops. Damn, that brings back memories of the archers in the PlayStation 2 games... taking shots at me from halfway into the fog and constantly interrupting my flow. They're far less irritating in this so far, and much rarer too.

These ballistae sure look ropey from this view after the depth of field effect has finished with them. Still, it seems to be doing the job! Who’d have thought that an arrow-firing gatling gun could shred a catapult from across the battlefield?

I’m lucky I found my way to this cliff actually, as I only ended up here because I went the wrong the way after backtracking on a desperate search for pots containing pork buns. No regenerating health in this game, though I can occasionally find snacks dropped by enemies during a fight.

Hey I think blowing them up has opened up the gate!

Oh FUCK, Lu Bu was waiting on the other side! You can tell how much of a big deal he is as he as overrides the level music with his own theme when he appears (youtube link). Which is also the game's theme music. And the theme for the entire series.

"Let's leave this to him"? Uh… yeah, there's five of us here right now, but running off and leaving Dian Wei to take on the most powerful warrior in China alone is obviously going to lead to the ideal outcome! Good old Cao Cao, when it comes to tactical retreats there's no one who can match his skill and experience.

Fuck that though, I’m not afraid of some optional mid-boss. I may only be a low level, but I’ve gotten 501 kills on this stage alone, and right now I’m at full health with two Musou Attacks to call upon and nearly a full gauge of rage. Lu Bu’s gonna be sorry he pursued me.


Wow, I am so glad that the game has mid-battle saves. You know, for the first 19 seconds of that fight I actually thought I was winning… then he decided to hit me.

Often when I lose a chunk of health in these games it's because I've gotten caught by a good hit that's knocked my hero to the ground or in the air, and every time I try to recover he's smacked right back again. Lu Bu doesn't need to bother with that.

Well I loaded my save and left Lu Bu alone this time, but the asshole won’t leave me be! I can barely even get a hit in on Dong Zhou before he comes barrelling through the crowd with his weapon of ass destruction. I think my mistake may have been when I killed his girlfriend a little earlier, but in my defence she was an enemy officer actively trying to kill me!

Next time around I just ignored the lot of them, ran straight up to the final gate, and unleashed all of my rage gauge on Dong Zhou the second I was within stabbing range. The warlord was down in about 14 seconds, including the time the game spent spinning the camera around and showing my musou powers kick in.

Dong's down, but not quite dead, and he’s very much planning to keep hold of his stolen power. I'm not sure how he can possible escape from this situation, seeing as he's surrounded by the most powerful warlords in the land, but off he jogs into the distance.

Xiahou Dun did at least manage to inflict a sick burn on him before he escaped though. I've never seen or read any of Game of Thrones, but this is what I like to imagine it being like.

I suppose we’ve got a few more battles left against this guy before our coalition can finally take the bastard down, finish the prologue, and then get on with the far more important business of fighting between ourselves.


It seems that Lu Bu just went and turned traitor to his boss (and adoptive father) and killed him off screen. What a kill-stealing double-dealing bastard. The thing is, this isn't even made up. Darth Vader was a real person who lived in ancient China, and he went by the name of Lu Bu.

Well okay it's all slightly exaggerated perhaps. Anyway, I'm done with Story Mode for now, but there's still those other modes to investigate.

The other game modes seem to start with all characters unlocked, which is nice, but pretty overwhelming. See how many portraits there are on screen right now? Well multiply that by the three main factions and then add another 22 for the other miscellaneous heroes, and that’s how many people you get to play as in this. And you can level each of them up.

If you played as each person for just 10 minutes each, you would get 14 hours of gameplay out of this game. So I won’t do that, but I’ll quickly take a look at what this Ambition Mode is about.


This time instead of a historical campaign, I’m playing as an ambitious officer from a poor kingdom within a nearby land. His goal is to get this ‘Tongquetai’ built in order to impress the Emperor, lure him over here, and then use him in his schemes for power. The game hasn’t gone out of its way to explain what the thing is going to be when it’s done, but the real life Tóng Què Tái (translated as Bronze Sparrow Tower) was a massive palace built by Cao Cao as a home/banquet hall/symbol of his power etc. at a time where he was the most powerful man in the nation.

I, on the other hand, am barely powerful enough to get a garden shed put up, so I need to acquire extra resources and personnel by playing through battles. This mode lets me construct and upgrade facilities at my camp, assign supervisors, etc… but more importantly it also lets me choose my music in the next battle! It’s got tracks going all the way back to Dynasty Warriors 3 here, so I can stick 'Bringer of War' on all I want (youtube link).


I was finding it much more difficult to make any progress in Ambition mode at first, and not just they’ve sneakily swapped out all the meat bun health pickups and replaced them with pots of gold. No, the biggest problem I had was that they give you just 7 minutes to win an entire stage. I mean they're having a laugh right? I like running around opening gates and stealing bases, but all of this ‘time limit’ bullshit is pressure I don’t need when I’m trying to chill out and juggle tigers.

Eventually though I got my head around the concept, and realised that I need to head straight to the goal without being too bothered about enemy mobile unit captains swooping in to retake my bases. All I need to care about at the boxes of materials lying around, and the dudes with names on their head who'll give me an extra 30 seconds on the clock if I kill them.

I eventually built a teahouse and put Cao Cao in charge of it, so that he'd stand outside as an NPC and give me snack-related advice, so I'm pretty much sold on Ambition Mode. Next up, Free Mode.


Free Mode lets me play any stage I’ve unlocked with any character in the game, even this woman who thinks she’s a cat. Though it doesn’t insert them into the original cutscenes, which seems like a bit of a shame. After putting up with her saying “See, I have just as much a right to be here as anybody else!” after every bloody officer kill, I’m thinking that this particular character would be more likeable with Xiahou Dun’s voice coming out of her mouth. Still, with 80 something characters they can’t all be winners.

Unfortunately completing a stage in Free Mode doesn’t unlock the next one, so I can’t really progress in it. Plus it’s kind of disheartening to finished a stage with every other character telling me I’m the greatest warrior ever, and then get all D’s afterwards on the battle results screen because in reality I'm too slow, too crap and also too lazy to do the secondary objectives.


And then there’s Challenge Mode, with its Speed Run, Arena, Inferno, Rampage and Bridge Melee challenges, each with a different variation on ‘kill everyone very quickly’ (with Speed Run taking place in the ancient Chinese equivalent of Takeshi's Castle, and Bridge Melee requiring the player to smack people off a bridge). Here I can try to beat my own personal score to unlock new weapons!

Oh also there's a Gallery and an Encyclopedia... but you can probably imagine what they're about already, so I'll shut up now.


Dynasty Warriors is one of the strangest franchise to me, because every game has the same basic gameplay, is set in the same places, stars the same main characters, and retells the same story. Well okay the first game in the series was actually a fighting game (that's why Dynasty Warriors 8 is called Shin Sangokumusou 7 in Japan), but every sequel after 2 has been a reboot. And yet people keep buying the things!

The core gameplay is how it has always been: repetitive and satisfying. You wade into a crowd, relying on muscle memory to tap out the correct series of button presses needed to send everyone airborne, and try to keep track of the dude with the name above his head, then he dies and you grab your prize before summoning your horse and riding off to the next crowd. It's not entirely brainless, especially when you turn the difficulty up and the enemy officers start putting up a fight, but separated on its own it'd basically be an 3D evolution of Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. But then the game adds in a few things to keep it interesting:
  1. The battlefield. Sure the game often gives you an indication of where you should be, but that doesn't stop you from using your initiative and doing your own thing. If you feel like it, you can ignore Cao Cao's desperate cries for assistance and go off to the other side of the map to take a base, or fight the boss single handedly. There's secret objectives to get, hypothetical story branches to follow, boxes of stuff everywhere... those that stray from the path may not go unrewarded.
  2. The ridiculous number of characters, weapons, skills and unlockables. It seems like such a simple game, but I've been playing it for hours and I've only got a few characters levelled into the teens, and I only just learned that some weapons inflict status effects. Maybe I can even level up my blacksmith and then use my vast stash of cash I've accumulated in Ambition Mode to customise a sword I picked up in Free Mode with new attributes to do better in Story Mode... I don't even know! Omega Force have been refining their formula over six sequels and countless spin-offs and expansions, and the end result is something surprisingly complex.
  3. Co-op. I haven't tried it yet on this sequel, but co-op mode has always been the secret sauce that makes Dynasty Warriors taste so good. Which is why it's pretty disappointing that co-op is LOCAL SPLIT-SCREEN ONLY on PC. Now I love split-screen, and I think it's awesome to see another PC game support it, but I've got friends around the world who want to kill Lu Bu just as much as I do, and yet I can't team up with them to help out! It's the game's biggest flaw in my opinion.

Oh also there's no profiles! You only get the one save, which kinda sucks if you're the kind of person who has friends or family. So yeah, it can have both  my little rating badges, but I'm also disappointed. Still, maybe the next one will be better! And that's why people keep buying the sequels.

I know I say this twice a week, but your comments, opinions and feedback continue to be welcome. Remember that my site is next to pointless without you guys reading it... well okay it's next to pointless either way, but I was just trying to be nice and make you feel needed.


  1. I have never played any of the games in this series -- I always get it mixed up with Suikoden -- but this looks ace.

    1. Man, Suikoden, there's another game I have to play at some point. I should get around to one of them at least.

    2. I think part of the reason I confuse them is that Suikoden has about twenty games in the series and each game has about a hundred characters. So it may take you a while.

  2. There is nothing better than the feeling of fighting hundreds of enemies whie listening to guitar solos XD
    One of my favorite series ever, proves that "repetition" isn't a flaw in a game when it's done the right way

  3. One of the best Dynasty Warriors games ever! There's even multiple endings :)


Semi-Random Game Box