Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 8: The Unpolished

So, I played about ten hours of Dynasty Warriors 8.

I like the combat in the Dynasty Warriors games - it varies between "vaguely enjoyable" and "fun", which is better than most other games. It's particularly good in 8.

And, while the battle system is always fun and polished, the rest of the game tends to be painfully unpolished and awkward.

For example, the battle event system. In any given battle, a dozen or so events will happen that evolve the battle. Reinforcements will arrive, people will attack, somebody will betray somebody. Sounds cool, right?

But these battle events are really awkward and difficult to read. Just as an example, I was told to "take the south base as a decoy", but the battle then said "objective failed" less than thirty seconds later. Exactly how was I supposed to even reach the base in that period of time? Am I supposed to memorize every battle event and keep trying over and over?

Or "intercept person A before he reaches point B" - but he's on the other side of the map. I literally cannot reach him because my last objective was on this side of the map. I understand - it's an advanced objective for a later replay. So I'm supposed to keep trying over and over.

To tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind doing that. In the other games in the series, that's exactly what I do. But in Dynasty Warriors 8, you can't restart a battle in single-player campaign mode. Why not?

Whatever the reason, it makes the already opaque and annoying events even more annoying.

What's worse is that both the map and the announcements are really unreliable. A gate in red should be impassable, and a gate in green should be passable. But that's only the case about half the time. Moreover, if you kill a gate captain or guardian officer, the gate should open. But it only opens when the announcement "you killed person B!" gets put on the screen. And that can take literally thirty seconds as other announcements such as "You got 5 XP!" play out instead. Moreover, you can't even tell whether the gate is going to open at all. So you hang around and wait, while your objectives timeout and you lose every secondary objective in the mission because you were under the impression that this green gate was going to fucking open when you killed the guardian.

The last straw was this map where you need to keep people from defecting by aiding them. It highlights three primary objective points in green - one to the west, two to the south. So I immediately go south. Strangely, the gates close on my tail and lock me in. I go to aid the two blobs to the south... but everyone still switches sides. Worse, there's nothing at these two southern blobs and its impossible to get back out to the north.

Evidently, I glitched the game, went through a gate I wasn't supposed to be able to get through.

So of course I quit out to the menu, select "campaign", select the right house, select "continue", wait through the two minutes of loading, select my officer, hit start... and FUCK me, it didn't save any of my officer's equipment or skills and his default is two level 1 bullshit weapons, one of which he isn't even compatible with.

So I stopped playing.

See, this rant has a point.

Dynasty Warriors 8's core play mechanic is actually pretty fun. But it's still got all this baggage from a decade ago - it's got this really wonky event system, this awful menu system, this incoherent level design... all the baggage is making it come apart at the seams.

They did discard a lot of other baggage. The timer is gone, for example.

But the complete lack of polish makes all this other baggage just feel awful. I could forgive the archaic baggage if the punishment for not perfectly handling the baggage was very small. But the punishment is a minimum of two minutes of loading, usually followed by forgetting all my settings, and then having to start what is frequently a one-hour battle over from scratch.

Of course, ideally you'd replace that baggage with some newer systems that didn't suck, but I can't expect too much from a franchise so set in its ways. The least I can expect, though, is for the game not to actually get worse.

And it did.

The combat is good. Much better than any previous installment. But the punishment for not reading the developer's minds is staggeringly, annoyingly high.

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