The Lacking Loot of Dynasty Warriors 9
But if I could make one change to the game’s design I’d beef up its loot system.
Each character in Dynasty Warriors 9 has a “preferred weapon.” If you use that weapon type, you get access to custom moves for that character, and enemies won’t be able to knock you out of your charge animation during the special shoulder-button attacks. So you can just run up and unleash charge attacks largely free of consequence if you have enough health.
Using preferred weapons is heavily incentivized by the gameplay, in other words. Every weapon has a unique cosmetic appearance and stat bonuses, and they usually come in standard and plus variants. The only problem is…each character has like 8 available weapons.
Now, over a roster of 90 characters that’s not a huge deal. And you can equip any weapon onto any character if you want to.
But it’s quite easy to get the best weapon for each character in relatively short order, once you’ve played the game for a while. Weapons don’t drop randomly from enemies, nor are they found inside the game’s numerous breakable wooden loot crates. Instead, you either purchase them from stores or, very rarely, earn them through accomplishing in-game tasks.
The easiest way to get a character’s best weapon is to craft it. This requires spending some rare currency at the blueprint vendor, and then using materials to craft the weapon. At first this seems like it’ll be difficult, but once you’ve finished a story or two you’ll be swimming in these items, and can immediately upgrade new characters to their best weapon with little trouble.
On the plus side, this makes it easier to play through additional characters and see their storylines. On the minus side, this removes all the fun that a full weapon loot system could give to a game like this. Weapons have a complicated set of stats, and it’d be a lot of fun to earn new ones at a regular clip, instead of quickly trying to skip to the end of the tree.
Why did Koei do this? It’s simple: budget. Creating a lot of weapon art is expensive, and to their credit, they’ve included many unique weapons in the game.
Every Warriors game does something like this. In spite of having an underlying statistical infrastructure that would support a standard weapon or armor-based loot system…there’s always a secondary, entirely menu-driven system you use to upgrade your character through items without art.
In Dynasty Warriors 9, this is done with gems.
Gems are everywhere. They drop off enemies. They show up when you finish quests. They’re sold at vendors. And they have no art associated with them whatsoever outside different-colored circles in the menu system.
Each weapon has 7 different gem slots, and you can freely add and remove gems to weapons at any time you’d like. This is where all the loot fun is had in Dynasty Warriors 9.
Although it’s fun to watch the numbers go up and down…slotting gems in a menu isn’t as fun as watching a character’s appearance change with a new weapon. Especially once you’ve played the game for 90 hours. Plus, once you’ve got a huge stable of gems, it’s easy to develop a habit of relying on the same set of high-level ones rather than trying to find a new set.
It’s not a bad system. But it’s not as fun as the loot grind employed by games like Diablo or Borderlands.
Other Warriors games feature this same compromise. Sometimes there are more weapons, but only a handful of appearances for them, and you have to synthesize them together to make more powerful ones, like in Dynasty Warriors 8. In last year’s Warriors All-Stars, you have to collect cards and equip them in order to augment your standard abilities. Etc.
Next month, Koei is releasing Warriors Orochi 4, and it looks like the grindy loot system in that game revolves around magic spells maybe?
I still really love Dynasty Warriors. But I can’t help but be wistful for a game that finally incorporates a full weapon and armor loot system. I know that making the artwork is one of the highest-budget aspects of this series. And I know that Koei shies away from altering character appearances via loot in order to save money…and also to sell alternate appearances later on as DLC.
But a Warriors game that also fully tapped into that ever-present satisfying video game loot grind that so many other games have capitalized on would really be something. And I imagine the franchise’s dedicated fans would have lots of fun showing off their wacky-looking characters to each other, as they have in the past when certain games have included cosmetic customizations.