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    Dynasty Warriors 8:Empires, steady as a rock

    Solely on a technical level, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is a step backwards. Last year’s Samurai Warriors 4 seta new benchmark for Omega Force’s Musou excursions but in small bursts at the very least this latest Empires spinoff calls the seriously slack Wii U port of Warriors Orochi 3 to mind. That said, if you can stomach the return of outmoded pop-in and slowdown, you’re in for a minor treat.

    Empire Mode remains the centrepiece, and it still sees you slowly attempting to gain control of every single region of China through strategic invasion. The action sequences continue to deliver precisely what fans demand, but as in previous iterations of Empires, the real fun is had on the sidelines of battle. In addition to recruiting troops, building facilities and manipulating the people you govern, the Marriage system has now been embellished to allow you to conceive a single child with your partner. The child inherits a blend of its parents' abilities, and it only takes a couple of seconds to realise what an utterly genius concept it is; if only because it invites die-hards to fixate even more obsessively on future iterations.

    The freshly spiffed battleground stratagems are probably the game’s most enjoyable refinement, allowing you to wreak Battlefield 4-style environmental havoc on your foes. Not only can flood, flame and lightning-based disasters turn the tides for you, but they can also buffer the effects of some of your less fundamental attack stratagems. This certainly isn’t the first videogame to allow you to blend lightning with aqua, but if any series could benefit from a brand new contingency-based skirmish system, it’s Empires. The outcomes of such bouts are often totally thrilling.

    The perpetually fluctuating Fame mechanic from DW7: Empires has wisely been axed in favour of a much more traditional levelling system. This may sound like a regressive ploy, but it’s simply an issue of control. The random nature of the Fame system meant that your status as principal supervisor was constantly being kneecapped by the algorithms of the game, whereas now, if your people choose to orchestrate a violent revolution, it’s almost entirely because you opted to be lazy. The Fame system also, thankfully, no longer dictates which ending you get upon completion of the campaign.

    The generous customisation suite now allows you to tinker with minions, banners and horses, and while the rather elementary Scenario Creator allows you to share your creations online, it is a mite tokenistic. In the end, significant alterations may be minor, but Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires is yet another canny elaboration of what continues to be a deeply beloved series of videogames.

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