First of all, I would like to say that the only other game in this long-lived series that I have played is Dynasty Warriors 4, and that was a while ago, so think of this little piece of writing as a first impression of a long-lived series of games based on a very tumultuous and fascinating part of Chinese history. Now, I liked Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires. There is something very appealing about single-handedly taking on entire armies and plow your way through them like an unstoppable tank. I’m Achilles! Or possibly Bruce Lee.
The co-op mode is one of the most fun ones I have seen in any game yet to date — though that might just be because when we played DW4 the TV we had at the time was far to small to be able to handle the split screen. The only thing that annoyed me a little bit is that although there were two people playing, only the one whose profile was signed in at the time gets gamer points and achievements, not the person holding controller 2. I’m pretty sure that the technology is available to make it possible for me to get my points and badges. Just store everything player 2 does on the hard drive (anyone owning a 360 without a hard drive isn’t going to care about achievements anyway), and then when I sign in to my profile, let me access that data and upload it. Of course the game will not let me do that. In order to get any credit at all to my gamer profile for the many hours I’ve spent playing this game, I am going to have to do it all over again. Alternatively, we’ll just have to buy a second 360 and hook it up to the TV upstairs, buy a second wireless adapter to that second 360, and buy a second copy of the game, and then we can do the online multi-player co-op mode, and I can get my achievement badges and points that way. Makes perfect sense… right? No, not really.
Apart from that major drawback, major in my mind at least, it’s not a bad game. The Empire mode, with the policies and assignments, is well done and at the same time very simple to figure out and master. The many options, along with the random natural disasters and the ability to search and recruit new generals from conquered regions is all fun. As far as strategy games goes, this is a good one, though perhaps a bit limited.
In addition to the strategy elements, there is of course the fun hack-n-slash part. Whenever your ruler moves to invade a neighboring province you fight the battles out with a maximum of three generals and three lieutenants of your choosing. In single-player mode you control one of the generals, in the co-op mode we played Player 2 takes control of one of the other two. You are placed at different starting points on the map, and then have to work together to achieve the objective of the battle. The objectives are simple and very consistent: Beat up all the enemy generals, take all their supply bases, and take control of their main camp. The game play is similarly simple, a number of simple button combinations that leads to a number of similarly simple but very cool looking attacks that make your enemies literally fly across the battlefield. It’s fun.
Long story short, if you’re after a strategy game that lets you chop, hack, and slash at your enemies, a game that is exactly what it seems to be, no more and no less, then this is a good choice. However, if you want a game with any form of story whatsoever, or with voice acting that raises above the abysmal, you should probably look elsewhere.