DYNASTY WARRIORS: Godseekers (PS4) Review
Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is the most recent release in the Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors universe, but this entry eschews from the familiar button-mashing chaos many come to expect when hearing Dynasty Warriors. Going in a new direction, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a turn-based, tactical RPG where you control each unit's movement and actions individually then wait for your opponent to do the same. It cannot be denied Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a bold step away from Koei Tecmo flagship, but is it a breath of fresh air for the franchise or just a game to tide fans over until the recently announced Dynasty Warriors 9?
At first glance, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is more akin to games like Fire Emblem and Advance Wars than anything recently experienced from the Warriors franchise. You take control of a squad of up to five characters and move them along a gridded map to strategically achieve its objective. These objectives boil down to kill all units, kill that one unit, or run away. You cannot rush headfirst into the thick of battle and expect to easily emerge unscathed, unlike other Dynasty Warriors games. Strategy is the main focus in Godseekers, and you will spend the majority of the battle positioning your characters and managing their skills and resources. Attacks cost a resource called “energy,” which slowly recovers after each turn. Every character has ten energy, and each attack and musou (special attack) costs a different amount. Movement is linked to a stat called “mobility,” which allows character to move a certain number of squares. Moving your characters to the right position can give you bonuses to attack and defense, and as you progress in the battle, you charge the “Synchro Gauge.” This is the newest feature introduced in Godseekers and allows you to unleash a devastating attack over a large area of the map called the “Synchro Attack” after being prompted to button mash. This is where positioning play a crucial part. If you can arrange your characters in the right formation upon activating the Synchro Attack, the effectiveness of it drastically increases to the point of almost one-shotting enemy generals.
Like in past Warriors games, you start off with only a handful of characters and slowly unlock new officers as you progress through the story. Each officer gains experience from defeating enemy units. Upon leveling, you are given points to unlock stat increases and special skills from a personalized skill board that looks rather similar to the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X. The skill boards allow some customization, so you can make your favorite characters deal a bit more damage, be more tanky, or have elemental effects with their attacks. Collecting weapons is also back for Godseekers and adds another layer to tweak your characters. The best part is the ability to reforge your weapons; combining the stats bonus of two to craft the ultimate tool of destruction. Obtaining and crafting more powerful weapons can be a little addicting; pushing you to do just one more side mission. Mixing these elements along with the Synchro Attacks is where Godseekers loses its need to be overly strategic. After a few hours into the game, your main characters become overpowered and are able to brute force their way out of most sticky situations. Also, since playable characters trickle out from the story and side missions, a decent amount of grinding is needed to bring one of your favorites up to par.
Story has never really been the most defining feature for Dynasty Warriors, and character personalities tend to revolve around one trait. The latter is still seen in Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. The shifty character is still shifty, the ambitious character is still ambitious, and the angry character is still angry. A few missions into the story, one of Godseekers new features called the Path of Destiny is unlocked where you can learn more about each officer. At first, it is fun to see them have conversations about their desires and reasons to unify China, but they become silly and convoluted rather quickly. Unfortunately, the Path of Destiny becomes just a way to unlock characters than a place for interesting character development. When it comes to the main storyline though, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers actually crafts something unique. This time around, the poster boy, Zhou Yun, is the main character, and you follow him through the three kingdoms timeline. He is accompanied with two new characters created for the game. The first is Zhou Yun childhood friend, Lei Bin, and the next is a mysterious girl with magical powers, Lixia. The three of them hop from battle to battle; learning more about this magical girl’s origin. Even though it is nice to see something fresh coming from a story Koei Tecmo has rehashed dozens of times, it comes at you pretty haphazardly with major twists being telegraphed hours before they actually happen. Even though it is not the best in storytelling, it is still fun to play through to the end.
There is a surprisingly large amount of voice work throughout Godseekers, and it is done rather well. Character interactions come off as natural, and there are rarely any cringe moments. If you are looking for dual audio, Japanese VO is the only option available this time around. The power ballads and rock guitar riffs that are synonymous with the franchise are still wailing in the background. They can be welcoming to die-hard fans, but after a few hours of strategizing, it starts to get repetitive. When is comes to the cinematics, they are surprisingly well animated. The character models and texture look crisp. When going into the game, the models of your officers stay clean and animate fluidly. You have a choice to have the camera either panned, overlooking the battle, or zoomed in, following each unit’s movements. The zoomed mode (called Warriors Mode) can be a little disorienting; especially when shifting between units. Also, the graphics take a significant hit in frame rate when the camera is on enemy units. Whereas your characters moves smoothly around the map, enemies stutter step from point A to B and have significantly fuzzier textures. Overall, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an interesting take on the Warriors universe. While the turn-based style is drastically different from what fans are used to, it offers a more analytical way to enjoy the franchise. Even though the battles do get more repetitive and easier as you progress, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entry that can keep a fan of the series engaged for a significant amount of time.
Review copy courtesy of KOEI TECMO America