Remember how badly received Dynasty Warriors 9 was on release? Well that game is back, but this time as part of the Empires subseries. The devs obviously tried to salvage the game with this release, so let’s get right into it.

So right upfront, I should make it clear that I have not played the original Dynasty Warriors 9. I’ve played the games immediately prior to it, but skipped out on 9 for obvious reasons. I went into this one hoping that the devs could have used the time since the original 9 launch to kinda fix things up a bit. However, if I am being honest, this is not a good game – even if there are still some good elements.

For one, the combat – the meat of any good Musou game. We just had Samurai Warriors 5 like six months ago and that one may have gotten mixed reception, but I enjoyed it for what it was – combat included. Empires 9 on the other hand is much more watered down, with little in the way of combo variation, lackluster weapon customization, and some rather boring special abilities.

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In past games, it felt like I was constantly mixing it up, but here I couldn’t help but notice that all I was doing was the same basic combo over and over, with the only major variation being the occasional lifting of the enemy into the air for an airborne string. There are these “cards” that add custom moves, but they are on a cooldown and don’t really combo with anything else – I usually just blew them all at once for some big damage.

It’s not even like the combat is outright terrible, just incredibly basic and even lazy in some ways. And I believe this is best exemplified in not the combat – but the mission design. Instead of individual missions, quests, whatever – Empires has you play a series of castle sieges wrapped up in this strategy game skin. In-between missions, you can adjust some numbers, move some units around, do some basic diplomacy, but when it is time for war – you are doing the same exact mission over and over until all of China is under your control.

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This series already suffers from repetitive gameplay, so stripping it down even further like this does not make for that engaging an experience. Maybe for a couple missions, but an entire full-price title? It’s simply not enough. My first conquest campaign took just six hours to clear before I saw the credits roll and if I wanted to play more, I would have to load up another conquest which simply changes the time period, characters, and shuffles around the locations. Yeah, there are some unique story elements there, but it felt like I was playing the same thing just with a different skin.

And really that’s what this entire game comes off as – a low-effort Musou game with some slight changes and then a simple reskin on top of that. The devs have done some really great work in the past (I really liked Warriors Orochi 4 for example), so if anything I am just disappointed.

I was also disappointed by the PC port. Again, we had Samurai Warriors 5 just six or so months ago, so I have to wonder how this game can look worse than that, have similar system requirements, and still perform worse. Dips from 60 fps down to 30-40 were common despite running at 1080p medium settings on a 1070 Ti – a card exceeding the recommended specs. They at least gave us a bunch of graphical options to change this time, but additional optimization would have been nice.

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So unfortunately, I cannot recommend Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. Lackluster combat, repetitive mission design, subpar graphics and performance – there’s nothing really here that I can point to and say “this is really good for a Musou game” because everything has been done before and better. For newcomers, this one is an easy skip, but even if you are a Musou fan, it’s still a tough sell.

Quote: Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is a disappointment. Everything here has been done before and better within the same series, leaving this one feeling like a low-effort salvage attempt.

Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires retails for $60 USD on Steam and is also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Switch. It is also planned for release on Stadia.

I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.