Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers – despite bearing the Warriors name – is a huge departure from the 1 vs 1000 action found in other Dynasty Warriors games. This game instead plays more akin to a Fire Emblem title; you’ll control generals in an army across a tiled battlefield, exploiting weaknesses and cleverly moving troops into position to win a battle.
Each battle will see you taking an army of up to five generals from your roster of available characters and pitting them up against a usually much larger army. The objectives can vary from defending a certain allied character to taking out the enemy commander, and there’s enough variety here to keep the repetition from setting in too soon.
During the battle you take turns moving your characters and lining up attacks. Every character has their own move list and is capable of attacking different areas and inflicting various ailments upon the enemy. Knowing which moves deal the most damage to your opponent is key to winning battles, and you’ll need to line up your characters to ensure the best damage output – whilst also not leaving them too vulnerable to retaliation from the enemy. It’s a puzzle with various solutions, and despite the scripted nature of some battles there are numerous ways to tackle them.
The key feature to utilise in battles however is the Synchro Attack. This move requires building up energy, which is done by defeating enemies and causing damage. Then, once the Synchro meter is filled you can activate Synchro mode.
Here all the characters within range get another move, and once every character has moved again you’ll also be able to unleash an extra powerful attack on a set area. Used correctly, you can cover great distances on the map and wipe out a huge portion of dangerous enemies. The challenge is in gathering the energy to activate Synchro and then getting your characters into position to deal the damage.
On the whole, the battle system is straightforward – and most players will be able to jump in just fine as long as they pay attention to the tutorial. The systems are all easy enough to get around, and there are various unit types that offer differing benefits and drawbacks, but mostly I found it possible to ignore the enemy types without facing a problem. This might be welcoming to newcomers, but on the other hand it indicates a possible lack of challenge (which could be off-putting to those in search of a deep tactical affair).
Sticking with that theme, the difficulty throughout often feels arbitrary. When you lose a battle it isn’t usually because you were out-maneuvered. Some battles you’ll lose simply because you weren’t leveled up enough, but other battles it seems that you’ll lose because the game decided to throw an unexpected wrench into play.
A good example of this comes from one battle early on which sees you defending a commander inside a castle. As any sensible person would, I covered the entrances to the castle and fended off enemy attacks wave by wave. Then with no real warning – and several turns into battle – the game spawned several enemies inside the castle and near to the commander. I couldn’t have predicted the enemy suddenly spawning in, and there was little chance of moving all my characters back in time to save the commander… so I lost. I didn’t lose because my strategy was wrong as such, I lost because the game threw an unfair and unexpected problem my way. The next time through I knew what to expect and beat the battle with ease. This isn’t challenging gameplay, instead it’s unfair and arbitrarily makes the game seem harder than it is. Thankfully occurrences this extreme are few and far between, and because of the ease of the game otherwise are mostly manageable even when the unexpected occurs.
As we jump back to the leveling, every mission has a recommended level, and in most cases you’ll want to be at or very close to said level otherwise enemy generals may end up tearing you apart. This is fair enough, but the recommended level can jump a couple of levels between battles – which means it’s time to grind some level ups. The problem with this is that on a good run you’ll get a level up once in a battle, and other times you may only get halfway to leveling up on just a few characters. Keeping every character leveled suitably is just a chore, and eventually I just settled for keeping the same 5 characters leveled up throughout the game. It doesn’t help that new members will join your team for plot reasons and then promptly get taken away a few missions later. Time spent leveling these characters feels wasted, and since it takes so long anyway it’s just an extra kick in the teeth.
On the presentation front the game looks decent enough,. There are plenty of unique characters to admire from afar, and all of their attacks have their own unique animations (which are a novelty to watch for a while). The only mark against the game’s presentation is the unusually small icons for type and status effects, this makes seeing certain information at a glance more difficult.
Last but not least is the story, those that have played a Dynasty Warriors game before will be aware of the Three Kingdom period in ancient China; where several warring factions are vying for control of the land. Godseekers keeps this conflict as the backdrop for an original story, however that story struggles against the confines of the Three Kingdom conflict. More often than not you’ll wonder why they didn’t either just follow the Three Kingdom story arc and leave out the fantasy element, or go full on fantasy and just tell an original story similar to the Warriors Orochi games. The story definitely isn’t amazing, but thankfully it also stays out of the way for most of the game – and lets you enjoy those battles.
In the end, Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is a good entry level strategy game that takes the colourful cast of the Dynasty Warriors franchise and delivers basic (but fun) strategic battles to dive into. Some minor gameplay problems mar the experience, and it has an uninteresting story that isn’t much worth mentioning, but with plenty of content it’s perfect for Vita fans looking for a more cerebral take on the Three Kingdoms conflict. If that’s you, then you should definitely give this game a look.