The first Dynasty Warriors game I played was probably Dynasty Warriors 3, and I was immediately hooked. The combination of light-tactics and full-on mindless button mashing beat ‘em up was something I immediately loved, especially when coupled with couch co-op and good friends. Over the years, we’ve seen several Dynasty Warriors spin offs. Some of these have ranged from truly great (Warriors Orochi 3, Hyrule Warriors) to abject failure (as seen in the short-lived and poorly marketed Dynasty Warriors MMO) to the utterly questionable (apparently, the Dynasty Warriors film on the way, which strikes me as ill-advised in a world where Red Cliff already exists). Now Dynasty Warriors Unleashed presents the franchise to a mobile gaming audience for the first time, with all the characters and storylines you already remember from the other 50 Dynasty Warriors games you’ve played, and all the modern annoyances of mobile gaming (micro-transactions and too many dailies) on full display.
To the games credit, I’ll say that Dynasty Warriors Unleashed is a great Dynasty Warriors-lite experience, with solid graphics for a mobile game and the aesthetic is well executed and smooth throughout. Like one of Nintendo’s more recent forays into mobile gaming with Fire Emblem Heroes, this game does do a great job of stripping down the concepts of the core game into its most basic elements without completely ruining the experience. There are tons of warriors to unlock, tons of weapons (ranked by quality by “stars” which can be promoted over time, again like Fire Emblem Heroes), a story pulled straight from the source material and, of course, the most important element of the game must be the millions of useless idiots that will run headlong into your sword and die almost immediately.
The game grants multiple free characters and assorted items daily, with the option of buying more with real money if you are incredibly rich and bad at prioritizing your spending. Personally, I have managed to only spend 5 dollars in the store but have had no problem progressing through the story and establishing myself, at least to some degree, on the global leaderboards. Currently I’m ranked at 104497, which feels okay given that I’ve only been playing for a few days. There are also options to create guilds, befriend players and many different daily quest options that can grant additional free items and characters.
In terms of negatives, I can tell you that Dynasty Warriors Unleashed does not utilize the conventional Dynasty Warriors element of forts and bases, which to me is a bit of a core element that I was sad to see go, but was not totally shocked by after playing some of the Warriors Orochi games, where this mechanic was downplayed heavily. There are no button mashing combo trees, something I’ve seen some players already pass on the game because of. Instead of those precise button-combos, combat relies on automatic combos being executed with a single button push that has a cooldown timer. It’s functional and makes total sense, but it is a bit of a different dynamic than most folks who already love the franchise will be accustomed to. The game also feels a bit overwhelming at times because of the sheer amount of options you have, there are just too many daily options for free stuff to be able to do all of them realistically on a mobile game… The inclusion of leaderboards & social elements is a great strength in Dynasty Warriors Unleashed, but sometimes it feels like a casual game that wants me to make more of a time investment than I feel is reasonable.
Ultimately, I recommend giving Dynasty Warriors Unleashed a download if you’re a fan of the franchise. It costs nothing to start and within the first few minutes of playing you’ll already be fighting your way through an endless sea of useless idiots and pursuing Lu Bu (and probably dying a few times in the process). The game is available in the Apple App Store (iOS) and on Google Play (Android).