Dynasty Warriors is one of those games that for some reason, just wouldn't be DW if the formula was drastically changed. In your mind, you might believe or say, "duh, you believe that because there's been seven iterations of it (not even counting the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games)." But I digress, Koei got lucky, found a machine that worked, and now presents a yearly or biannually, a new machine that looks relatively the same, but with a new coat of paint - all the while removing, let's say a sick stereo system for a better radiator. Terrible metaphor, but you get it: they did this when they presented us DW 5 after an amazing DW 4.
DW 7 is absolutely no different than its predecessors other than the fact that for some reason Tecmo Koei / Omega Force saw it fit to remove Versus and Free Mode from the game. One change I see fit was the removal of individual story lines of characters in place of a kingdom story line. Players choose a kingdom and play the different battles that kingdom experienced historically, thus only using characters that actually participated in the battles. Therefore, removing the weird instances in which you're playing Sun Ce and for some reason, after you've technically died, you're participating in a battle that you have no right being in.
I think it's safe to say many of us played a PS2 iteration at least once and got the hang of it fairly quickly, so I won't waste this review to the technicalities of the game. Rather, I'll list some nuances in the game that differ from previous titles.
1) You don't have bodyguards and you can't make your own character. My opinion - not cool. I enjoyed naming my body guards lewd and vulgar things so I could express guffaws when they killed someone.
2) You don't equip items (only weapons), instead, you equip "Seals" which are learned from holding a weapon and gaining experience when you defeat an enemy officer. It's analogous to Final Fantasy VII's Materia or FF9 ability learning system, or actually, any Final Fantasy game now that I think of it.
3) You won't equip saddles - kind of like the above point. Instead, you equip Guardian Animals which I think is by far the coolest aspect of the game. For instance, you can have a tiger that beats the shit out of people, or a falcon that screams as it flies through the air, or a fucking panda. I mean really, nothing beats a panda.
4) Conquest Mode is added (not sure if it's in DW 6 because I didn't play that one) and it's wonderful. It really conjures the feeling of satisfaction once you've actually conquered all of China. Oh, wait, I didn't explain. Conquest Mode is pretty much exactly what the word implies. You select a character; start at a certain position, and pretty much conquer your damn way through China. This mode, allows you to find rare treasures (a.k.a. weapons) and beef your characters up. Also, this is the only mode I play since it's cooperative (all that really matters to me).
5) The Jin dynasty has been added with Sima Yi as its head demagogue. That's probably a little too harsh and maybe inaccurate but you get the point.
6) You can control siege weapons. In a nutshell, technology that I question, existed in ancient China, but you never know - I mean, the Chinese invented paper and gunpowder, they can literally do anything.
7) Any character can use any weapon. There are only 2 gender specific weapons. In addition, characters can equip two weapons in battle.
8) Lack of versus is probably the dumbest idea to hit Koei given that it has online capabilities - like really? Really?
This review is getting rather lengthy and you're probably bored, so I will get to the point. DW 7 just lacks in visual and sensory quality compared to American games. No seriously, officers and your own characters say the same damn thing all the fucking time. It's like Koei only thought that people in ancient China had one badass tagline.
Characters have so little variation in animation, especially when it comes to weapon choice. I mean, not all Chinese generals had the same fighting style right? But apparently, Koei believes so. It reduces the character uniqueness to zero; however, certain characters have specific weapons they are masters of. For example, Sun Shiang Xiang, is the master of battle hoops so when she has this equipped, she can perform her "EX ATTACK!!!" (get excited) in which you simply press triangle once more in the combo chain after, what is it, five squares and one triangle. That goes into my next complaint, so very little combo functionality. Why is the circle button, only used for Musou? How about they make Musuo attacks in which you hold the button to perform it, so you can utilize the circle button in combos (AT LEAST!). God, I hate doing the same move over and over when you first start the game. It's honestly a travesty that there's been seven iterations and no real experimentation with the combo input, but then again, Japanese gamers are like vociferous ravens when it comes to these musou games, so why change anything!?
Next, the graphics are pretty, but once again, the utilization and attention to detail is just awful. For instance, the first siege machine you use is a catapult that shoots large pieces of flaming matter. Your objective, break down a wall. It takes four to five hits and after each hit, the wall shows no sign of damage until that magical fifth or whatever the last number may be, the wall comes crumbling down - with little to no particle effect. It's really sad when you compare this game to Unchartered 2, Killzone, Crysis, and that new shooter that everyone's clamoring about, Battlefield 3 (the list goes on-and-on).
Yes I trash this game, but it needs a trashing because there's no real thought that goes into it - only superficial and surface ones. However, I do like it, I will not lie, it's quite addictive and co-op is magnanimous, but it drives me when I see that there's no "real" progress so to say. For me, DW is an ambivalent experience only when I play by myself, but with co-op, all those negative thoughts fade away.
If you've liked all of the previous DW games and have a friend you can play with (which is all the time since it has online capabilities) then buy it when it drops below $40 on amazon. If you really like the DW games, then there's no point in persuading you to wait.