I decided to give Dynasty Warriors 9 another shot. Koei has been pumping out updates trying to salvage it, but this game is simply badly designed at fundamental levels.
Judged as a Dynasty Warriors game, this is by far the worst of the entire franchise. When I first thought this, I had made an allowance for age. After all, it would be silly to compare a 2018 big budget PC/PS4 release to a 2000 PS2 game. DW2 could only put around 10 enemies onscreen and it felt like the fog obscured anything more than 15 feet away. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I honestly would rather play Dynasty Warriors 2 today than play DW9. I’d rather play DW6. As overly simplified as DW6’s reviled Renbu combat system was, it was still better than the combat DW9 offers. (It isn’t just that DW9 combat is a knock-off of Arkham Asylum, it is also that it is so mindnumbingly easy even without a “counter” prompt popping up every few seconds.)
Ignoring the Dynasty Warriors name and instead judging it solely as an open world game, it is still a substandard offering. Here, it isn’t outright terrible. It isn’t brokenly bad in the way that some awful open world games are. It just takes pure mediocrity and fumbles under that low bar with hollow gameplay and poor design decisions.
First, it takes too long to get anywhere interesting. In other games, you get somewhat interesting traversal options or stumble across various encounters. DW9 is set in in mostly open hills. You can stumble across crafting ingredients, but they generally aren’t worth picking up. You can stumble across “interesting” encounters if you cut straight through rougher terrain, but even these are too far apart. It should be telling that the devs felt the need to implement an “Auto-run” toggle in addition to a Fast Travel, and then added a “grappling hook” that lets you jump over city walls rather than having to go through the gate.
Second, once you do get somewhere interesting, it quickly becomes uninteresting. This comes back to the failing of the combat system. While theoretically the heart of the game, combat is mind numbingly easy. DW9 mixes the mindless mashing of the DW6 Renbu system with Batman situational attacks/counters, and has you fighting seemingly even more mindless and fragile enemies than ever. For all the time you had to spend to get to an encounter, the encounter itself will often end in 15-30 seconds unless you are horribly underleveled.
Third, there just isn’t much interesting anyway. 95% of the combat isn’t even remotely interesting. The open world map isn’t interesting to explore. Moving around isn’t interesting. The non-story quests you can do are all fairly generic things. The crafting isn’t interesting. The story isn’t interesting. The idea that there is an epic war has been reduced to a token background story element. For everything the devs have tried to add, there is just nothing here.