Us gamers have a fickle temper: if a series has been doing the same thing over and over (Call of Duty, I’m looking at you), the we chastise it and demand innovation. But if they change and deviate too far from what we know, we cry to the Four Heavens (your turn, Pokemon Quest). So, what is a video game franchise to do after going strong for 20 years? Should they remain the same and do minor, incremental upgrades? Or should they throw the rule book out of the window and start from scratch?
This is a dilemma that plagues a lot of gaming franchises, and for the first time in history. Series like The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Mario Bros. and indeed Dynasty Warriors have been going strong for decades. What are they to do in order to compete in an ever more ruthless industry?
Don’t get me wrong: I know these are franchises that pull in billions of dollars for their respective owners, and are even system sellers. But people do complain when it’s too much of the same. In a way, the Dynasty Warriors franchise itself was a response to fatigue: you may or may not know this, but Dynasty Warriors is actually a spin-off of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a turn-based strategy series that’s super popular in Japan and debuted in 1985!
So, from the cradle of turn-based strategy, hack-n-slash heaven was born: the Dynasty Warrior series mixes deep historical research with hack-n-slash goodness to satisfy even the harshest of critics. But it has been doing so since 1997! That’s over 20 years of slashing. And quite a bit of hacking, too.
I guess that’s why, in 2016 (or 2017, depending on where you live), Koei Tecmo decided to create a Dynasty Warriors spin-off game: Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. This is a game that I reviewed for our sister site Vita Player when it came out (you can read the review here: http://www.vitaplayer.co.uk/game-review-dynasty-warriors-godseekers-ps-vita/). So, what was the genre innovation they were aiming for, you ask?
A tactical turn-based strategy game.
Yes: Dynasty Warriors Godseekers was turn-based strategy spin-off of a hack-n-slash spin-off (Dynasty Warriors) of a turn-based strategy game (Romance of the Three Kingdoms). They went right back to the beginning! And not only that: they played it so safe, that the game was a commercial and critical flop.
Honestly, for all the good that game did to the “Dynasty” name, you are better off playing Royal dynasty slot games than even wasting battery on that turn-based, by-the-numbers aberration. Looking back, I don’t even know why I bothered giving it a score of 5.
This is not to say you cannot innovate on a tried-and-true formula: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a commercial and critical success, as was Super Mario Odyssey. And the success of long-running franchises don’t stop there: despite alienating some hard-core fans of the franchise, Final Fantasy XV did really well, too. Heck, even Bethesda fans like myself, who honor the “single-player is always best” mantra are excited for Fallout 76, a 100% online Fallout experience.
But if you are going to change something in a formula, please, invest time and effort into it. Don’t play it safe and by the numbers. Be bold. Take a risk. And for all that’s holy, please don’t ever release another Dynasty Warrior Godseekers game. Bury that stuff in the sand and never, ever look back.