Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers represents a tactical departure for a series that’s no stranger to dabbling in other genres. The turn based strategy experience from Omega Force was announced with strong potential behind it. Omega have proved their worth in earlier tactical RPGs Kessen and Romance of the Three Kingdoms and yet have somehow forgotten this worth with Godseekers. The standard tactical turn based set up slows gameplay right down from the frantic button mashing typically associated with Warriors titles, to the point where for some it comes to a complete, bored stop never to be reloaded.
The lore behind the world of Godseekers is standard enough. Series long wonder kid Zhao Yun travels through ancient China after freeing the ethereal Lixia and mixes himself up in a violent political war. Partnered with childhood friend Lei Bin, Zhao Yun must embark upon a long and arduous quest to stop evil powers gathering ancient relics culminating the ultimate face off between good vs evil. It’s a narrative we’ve come up against before, and yet Godseekers takes no steps to build on it in any way. While long term fans of the series will appreciate the way it ties into the existing lore of the Warriors universe, if it’s your first time playing it’s highly likely you’ll have no idea what’s going on.
Convoluted, often stumbling, and a general slog, the storyline feels stretched to within an inch of its life. In an apparent effort to elongate what is already a brain consuming plot, the main campaign requires arbitrary stat upgrades for progression, forcing you to return to easier side quests and plod through more stodge before you can face the next load.
If you find yourself embracing specific details of diegetic game worlds, the weapon and skill upgrades will certainly never disappoint. New weapons can be earned and upgraded after battles, and vast inventories of available skills are always open for your study. Character progression works as well as you force it to. If you don’t actively engage with the heft of the possibilities for your character, it’s easy to lose yourself within the tomes of upgrades. Menus can be cumbersome, and if you’re not willing to put in the effort to invest with your character, weapon and skill upgrades feel arbitrary. Then again, if you have to work to enjoy a character it’s not exactly a bonus. Plus, spending all your time levelling up a character not to see him for a good few hours of gameplay feels like a design slap in the face.
Saying that there’s a level of refreshing variety in your conquest. While escort missions employ a disappointingly thick AI, main campaign battles often employ dynamic objectives that can shift according to events in the heat of battle.
These battles are pretty by the book. Move your generals and officers around a grid system and use your allotted turns to defeat your enemy through a series of attack and defence tactics. Tactical depth is limited to the game’s “Synchro” attack which is actually a thrilling combat tool. Through your battle, you may notice a gauge filling slowly. At its fullest, this will trigger a state that offers all adjacent units an extra movement. When this kicks in at just the right time the results can drastically turn the tide in battle, however it’s the second use for the Synchro gauge that truly shines. Trigger this function and all of your units will burst across the battlefield in a stunning fit of rage.
Choose a nine-square boundary full of the enemies you wish to be rid of in a succinct yet bloody flourish, and hammer that x button to watch the fury unfold. It may conflict with the tactical turn the series seems to have taken in Godseekers, but the Synchro gauge brings back some of that button mashing glory we all know and love.
While the Synchro gauge certainly carries the combat to a degree, it’s largely flat the rest of the time. Attacking from the side becomes a tactical manoeuvre in itself, requiring you to carefully consider each of your enemies and your individual character’s approach to each one. On the other hand, there are certain elements of combat that wear thin. In your everyday slog, battles can be extremely tiresome. Watching every move play out quickly becomes boring, and yet the fast forward function will leave you thoroughly confused by the end of a turn. Once you sort yourself out with a strategy in the first few hours it’s unlikely you’ll have to reassess your tactics.
Visually, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is nothing to shout about. It’s a decent looking experience, but porting PS3 releases of recycled assets is never going to work out well. Even though the system has far fewer enemies on screen than previously accomplished, Vita battles often stutter their way through heavy combat.
A general shallowness hurts the Godseekers experience throughout. With a traditional storyline that makes no attempts to step a single toe outside the boundaries of cliche and a battle system that can very quickly teeter over the edge of inanity, Godseekers is looking for a very specific player base. Players who have dabbled in the Warriors series will understand the expansive and plodding dialogue while newcomers with a hankering for a tactical RPG will get on well with the standard application of mechanics offered. Nevertheless, Godseekers is an acquired, if slightly bitter, taste.