It’s a good time to be a fan of Tecmo Koei’s Warriors games. This year alone has seen multiple Dynasty Warriors games, a Warriors game focused on ancient Troy, a RPG-hybrid of the formula in Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll a Samurai Warriors game on the Nintendo 3DS console, and there’s a mash up of them all on the way in the dark fantasy-themed Warriors Orochi 3.
Of all these, Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends is probably the least stand-out and low-key release of all. Largely, that’s because it’s barely more than a DLC package for the already-brilliant Dynasty Warriors 7 rather than a brand new game, but more of a good thing is still worthwhile.
The biggest departure for Xtreme Legends is that it does away with the storytelling style of Dynasty Warriors 7. In that game you’d follow the fortunes of one of the four dominant factions of the Three Kingdoms era of ancient China, from the beginning (Yellow Turban rebellion) right through to the (usually presented as bitter-sweet) end. Each battle you’d be put in control of an important figurehead from that battle, and this structure achieved two things – it gave you a different experience in each battle from the different characters, and it allowed for the most cohesive storytelling in the Warriors series to date.
Xtreme Legends goes back to an older style. A timeline features a chronological order of all the battles in the game. You pick your character (from the usual, massive range), and the battleground, and away you go.
The good to this is it allows people to stick to their favourite characters – and as one of the most cosplayed game series out there, Warriors fans usually want to stick to their favourite characters, and it allows the game to feature a different set of battles to Dynasty Warriors 7. In this way the two games are complementary. As an added bonus, the game throws players a few classic battles from the earlier Warrior games, allowing newcomers to the series to experience a “best of” montage, and allowing veterans to relive those levels with the vastly-superior combat system of Warriors 7.
The down side is that the storytelling loses a lot of its cohesion. Like the early Warriors games, it’s hard to get into this one without a background knowledge of the book it’s based on. Additionally, when you can take any character into any battle, often you’ll be fighting against the people that historically your hero would fight for. It’s a historical inaccuracy that is quite jarring when put into practice.
Those minor complaints wash away once the game gets going in full. As with all Warriors games, the goal here is to amass thousands of kills while beelining towards important enemy characters, and then slaughtering them. The combat system is cribbed directly from Dynasty Warriors 7 – you take two different weapons into battle, and can switch between those weapons at will. Each weapon has its own attributes, and finding good combinations that allow you to dance around the swarms of enemies with smooth transitions and long attack series is the secret to success.
It’s a graceful, flowing combination and, at the higher difficulty levels, allows for some challenging gameplay. Often your attention will need to be in several places on a large battlefield at once, so being able to make snap decisions, finish objectives efficiently and shore up breaches in your own defences makes for a very action-packed game.
I say this with all the Warriors games I review, but certain other people in the western press clearly don’t play these games properly (i.e., they fly through them on “easy”) before deriding them as mindless button mashers. They’re not, and Xtreme Legends follows suit.
In addition to the main story mode, there’s a challenge mode, which is a high score attack, with simple objectives like speed running a level or getting as many KOs as possible within a time limit. Your best scores are added to an online leaderboard, which boasts some truly superhuman feats for you to try and better.
Additionally, there’s the ability to play levels online. Unfortunately the community for this game seems quite small, and given the small scale launch it’s had, will likely remain so.
As a stop-gap while we wait for Warriors Orochi 3, Xtreme Legends is not the game for newcomers to the series (try Warriors 7 first). What it is, though, is a great additional package for fans of the series who have already squeezed everything possible out of Warriors 7. Because it doesn’t rock the boat in any way, Xtreme Legends is still a very easy game to recommend.