Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce


Turn and face the strange of Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce, the most important update to the series since it began.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 18, 2010
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When it was created for the original PlayStation almost exactly 13 years ago, few could have known what would be in store for the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Hell, the series actually started as a fighting game rather than the hack-and-slash Three Kingdoms-era button masher we've come to know and (sometimes) love. Regardless of the series' origins, though, the actual path to today has been fraught with literally dozens of sequels, spin-offs and expansion packs over the years. It's not unrealistic to claim there are more Warriors games in their various incarnations than any series that doesn't have Madden or Final Fantasy in the name.

Unfortuantely, that also means there's been more than a little burnout as time has gone on. Sure, smallish little tweaks have been introduced here and there, layering in more elements of strategy or piling on more characters (including the recent crossover dogpile that is Warriors Orochi -- which of course already has two sequels), but the series hasn't really strayed far from its capture-base-and-kill-officer roots since it morphed from fighter into a means to destroy one's Square and Triangle Buttons.

Until now.

Well, that's not entirely true. Technically, things got a shot in the arm on the PSP almost a year ago with the original release of Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (and surprise, surprise, it already has a sequel in Japan), but the Monster Hunter-inspired mini-brawler was, well, on the PSP, meaning it came and went without a whole lot of fanfare. Strikeforce on the PS3 (and 360 for those keeping track) is without question a rather quick 'n dirty port, offering some new missions, characters and slightly better visuals, but otherwise remaining more or less the same with the important addition of one thing: online four-player missions.

The PSP version offered an Ad-Hoc way of doing this, but the very same problems that have kept that Monster Hunter inspiration from catching on with the same level of ridiculous popularity that it had in Japan -- namely the ability to find and play with someone in close proximity -- effectively killed the most important part of the Strikeforce overhaul. With the ability to simply hop online and get to questin' with other players, the console version ends up being imminently more co-op-friendly, which is absolutely crucial to enjoying things to their fullest.

That's right, kids, Dynasty Warriors finally has an online multiplayer component that feels just like the offline one. In fact, the transformation of the series into something that's more akin to a lootwhoring dungeon crawl is central to the whole experience. Since you're constantly finding basic raw materials that end up being used to craft hundreds of items, equipment and weapons, the discovery of rare or even ultra-rare drops becomes huge, and the best (and sometimes only) way to find this stuff is to undertake seriously tough missions with others on the intertubenets.

As you bounce from your central hub town out into the wilds to thread through bite-sized areas that make it rather apparent just how much of a PSP-oriented experience this game really is, you'll end up finding officers that you can take with you and have the AI control, as well as specific characters that can be slotted into specific areas when you first enter them. Stack enough of these characters together and you can activate stat-boosting or enemy-weakening effects upon rolling in which can help soften up the targets you're going after in that particular mission.

It's unquestionably a different kind of Dynasty Warriors experience. Thumping on hundreds or even thousands of enemies is no longer even a tertiary goal (instead, you're given a handful of side objectives like breaking a gate or killing another non-crucial officer that can mean bonus XP, items and money). If that sound blasphemous, understand that you're still going to be wading through constantly-respawning throngs, of course, but they're fodder for your weapon rather than being a distraction that prevents you from taking down a base commander or something.
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