Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers (PS Vita Review)
When KoeiTecmo first announced a new Dynasty Warriors RPG back in early 2016, the community responded with a resounding “Huh?” While the idea of more Musou goodness was great, most of us were unsure it would translate into the turn-based strategy role-playing format that they were promising, especially given how much Omega Force have perfected the 1 vs. 1000 feel of their flagship franchise over the past 15 years. Not that Koei Tecmo were unfamiliar with this style of game, with past releases such as Dynasty Tactics, Kessen, Saiyuki: Journey West and the Eikestuden series (after which this new Shin Sangoku Musou title is named in Japan), but it has been a while. Since their last outing Fire Emblem has quite confidently cornered the market. That said, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a pretty well-crafted addition to the SRPG catalogue.
If you’ve come here looking for a hack’n’slash with a huge battlefield, you’ve come to the wrong place. While Dynasty Warriors primarily focuses on constant action centred on your chosen character single-handed cutting through entire armies with no recourse, Godseekers invites a more reserved and tactical approach. After deploying your selected warriors, which are unlocked as you progress through the story or through individual character-focused side missions, you and the enemy take turns in moving all your units with the aim to wipe out the opposing forces. Units are divided into five different archetypes, from the standard attack and defense types that speak for themselves, to critical-based technique types, speed types that enable battlefield control, and a spirit type that has support utility. Some of the more familiar and frenetic Warriors-style flair bleeds in to Godseekers, though: each unit has their own attack list with various effects, including high damage AoE musou attacks that require a portion of a gauge that builds during battle; the Synchro system, which rewards players for good troop placement and combo hits with more damage-dealing potential to multiple enemies; and even a story related mechanic further down the line that allows you to manipulate the whole battlefield at once.
While Omega Force are, for better or worse, known for re-using their own assets for multitudes of spin-off titles, I feel that the DW8 set is put to its best use here. The battlefields are portions of familiar DW8 maps adapted to a grid-based format, and each unit attack is animated by a different charge string from the action counterpart – and instead of feeling lazy, it sort of just fits. My biggest issue with the art style, though, is with the two new characters added to Godseekers, Lei Bin and Lixia, whose aesthetic absolutely does not fit with the rest of the cast. Their addition is so out of place that it hardly seems necessary for them to even be there, aside from to respectively incentivise a McGuffin hunt and be the resident Exposition Monkey. Why they couldn’t just rest on the idea of a wandering warrior travelling around China to help out at key historical moments, instead of weaving some tired mythological theme, I will never work out.
Otherwise, the story of Godseekers would have been perfectly fine. Fans of the series (and the Three Kingdoms history nerds out there) will know the order by now, but each major story-related battle is played out through smaller skirmishes, and punctuated by newly-animated cutscenes that give the plot a more “told” feel. Much of this is owed to the fact that we only follow Poster Boy Zhao Yun as he stumbles across every warlord known to have something shiny, with a tendency to go back to Liu Bei in his pre-Shu years. Character recruitment side stories are there too in the form of the ‘Path of Destiny’, and a large part of your game time will be spent exploring these optional missions and character interactions. In order to avoid over-saturation of personalities like in other Warriors games, a big chunk of the DW8XL cast has been cut to accommodate the time period and overall relevance.
As a big fan of the PSVita, I’m really glad to see that KT still commits to producing full content for the handheld despite its dwindling popularity, and even localising for the west; still no English voices here, though, for which they have been frequently criticised with their most recent western releases, but given how niche this spin-off is in itself, I’m amazed it even got this level of translation in the first place. With the main story being relatively short, and the fact that each battle can be easily played out in 10-15 minutes, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers makes for a great on-the-go game to burn some travel time or, in my case, sit in bed and recover from the cold with. Unfortunately, the Vita port suffers from a few framerate issues, especially when the battlefield view is zoomed out to its furthest, which I think offsets how good the game could potentially look on the small screen. All in all, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers tickles my fancy both for more Musou content, and for a decent Tactical RPG in a way that I couldn’t imagine any other game would do simultaneously. I just wish they would leave the wishy-washy supernatural stuff for the more ridiculous Warriors titles.