Delving into Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition – #4

All right. Let’s talk about mechanics — some of them, at least.

So far, as previously noted in the last three parts of this series, I’ve been primarily exploring the Story mode in Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch, and that is still the case — though I have now at least dipped my toes into Ambition Mode. More on that another day though.

During the Story mode, you have the opportunity to get a feel for a variety of characters and get started on progression. So let’s take a look at how all that works.

On the off-chance that you somehow haven’t ever played one of the 50+ separate Warriors releases that there have been to date, they pretty much set the mould for how modern 3D brawlers work and haven’t changed a huge amount in terms of their basic execution ever since Dynasty Warriors 2. As such, it’s worth getting a good feel for the basic fighting mechanics.

At its most simple level, a Warriors game involves two attack buttons: a standard attack and a charge attack. There’s more to it than this, but we’ll focus on this aspect for today.

Each character has a combo that can be performed by repeatedly hitting the standard attack button, and the exact form this takes varies according to the weapon they have equipped and, in the case of some installments, certain aspects of their overall progression.

The charge attack button is used at various stages throughout that combo to trigger specific moves that are unique to each character in earlier installments in the series, and unique to weapons in DW8XLDE. The different moves that can be triggered tend to be referred to using the convention C[n], where [n] is the total number of button presses up to and including the first time you press the charge attack button. So pressing the charge attack button by itself is referred to as “C1”; pressing the standard attack button five times followed by the charge attack button is referred to as “C6”.

The exact implementation of the different “C” moves has varied from installment to installment in the Warriors series, but in most cases you’ll find that different characters and weapons tend to have similar functionality when using the same specific charge attack combo finishers. C2 is often a launcher and follow-up attack, for example; C4 is often an area-effect attack. These are not, however, hard and fast rules.

DW8XLDE adds an interesting wrinkle to this basic mix in the form of “EX attacks”, a concept introduced in Dynasty Warriors 7. This is a system whereby each playable character has a “favourite” weapon — typically the weapon they are depicted as wielding in earlier series installments where their equipment type is fixed — and, when making use of this, they can supplement some of their charge attacks with character-specific moves. The original Dynasty Warriors 8 release had a single EX attack for each character attached to a specific charge attack; the Xtreme Legends expansion (and, thus, DW8XLDE) expands this to two.

EX attacks aren’t as powerful as the series’ iconic Musou moves you can trigger by filling the Musou bar and tapping A, but they do have a variety of interesting effects and provide some extra personality to the characters. They can also be quite situational in the case of some characters; they’re by no means an attack you should simply spam in most cases.

Given the existence of EX attacks, you may well be wondering why you would ever equip characters with anything other than their favourite (or “EX”) weapon. Well, because Dynasty Warriors 8 was specifically designed in such a way that those favourite weapons don’t necessarily cover all a character’s weaknesses — and also, having the flexibility to wield anything provides some variety and opportunity for experimentation.

There’s another more important aspect, too; elemental affinity. Each weapon carries the Earth, Heaven or Man element, and these relate to each other in a triangular arrangement. Equip a weapon that is strong against an opponent’s element and a “Spirit” gauge becomes visible, triggering a devastating and wide-reaching “Storm Rush” attack when you deplete it. Equip a weapon that is weak against an opponent’s element, however, and you’ll have to work a bit harder to knock them down — though it’s worth noting that elemental affinities don’t make characters completely vulnerable or invincible at any point!

Why is this important to weapon choice? Well, because you can take two weapons into battle with your playable character, and you might not have an EX weapon of an appropriate element to hand. Alternatively, you might have higher-tier weapons (perhaps with better attached abilities) of a type other than your character’s favourite. Ultimately the choice is yours; theoretically the “optimal” way to play is to have each character kitted out with two high-tier versions of their EX weapon of different elements, but you’re by no means limited to that if you want to do something else.

Although any character can equip any weapon, there is another consideration: compatibility. DW8XLDE characters each have a particular affinity for one of four types of weapon: Dash, Dive, Shadow Sprint and Whirlwind. This affinity is expressed as a star rating between one and four; each character has one weapon type at four-star compatibility, while the others tend to be one- and two-star.

At low levels, this doesn’t make any difference, but as the character gains experience levels, these stars “light up” and increase the character’s maximum possible potential — and attack bonus — when wielding a weapon of that type. Ultimately, when all four stars are lit, a weapon of that type will be significantly and noticeably more powerful than one with a one-star rating. Unsurprisingly, a character’s EX weapon is, of course, in the four-star compatibility category.

So a big part of a character’s overall power is determined by weapon choice. Weapons also have abilities attached to them, but we’ll talk more about those another time, as manipulating these doesn’t factor into progression until you get your teeth into Ambition mode. For now, let’s close out today by contemplating one last major piece of the progression puzzle that you’ll encounter during the Story mode: Skills.

Skills are passive abilities that can be equipped four at a time and switched out mid-battle if you so desire. They are unlocked and levelled up to a maximum of 20 by accomplishing specific tasks during battle, and cover a wide variety of useful benefits. Some are defensive in nature, reducing damage from sources such as ranged attacks or enemy officers, while others increase your damage output, either at a flat rate, by increasing your critical hit rate or specifically increasing your damage against enemy officers. There are also utility skills that increase the rate at which you gain experience, or fill your Musou bar more quickly, or extend your health bar, or make items drop more frequently… you get the idea.

Simply fulfilling the conditions to unlock a level or skill isn’t necessarily a guarantee that it will pop right away — there’s an element of RNG at work here, and the chance of “failure” increases as the skill increases in level. It feels as if skills are more likely to pop if you fulfil their conditions on higher difficulty levels, but bear in mind you have to actually complete the mission in which you unlocked or levelled up a skill in order for that progression to be saved. Don’t overexert yourself!

The skill system is a variation of the one in Warriors Orochi, which allows individual characters to unlock or level up to four skills each (though no more than one per character per mission) by fulfilling increasingly challenging conditions. In DW8XLDE, skills progression is global and less dependent on specific conditions than in Warriors Orochi; there are no “defeat [x] enemies within [y] minutes without your health dropping below [z]%” affairs here, thankfully. Only four skill slots makes for some tough choices, but the fact you can switch your skills loadout mid-mission means that this is less of an issue than you might think — and under most circumstances, the skills that make it easier to defeat enemies and officers more quickly are generally the most useful, making for a relatively easy pick.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of overall progression here, but if you, like me, start your DW8XLDE journey with Story mode, these are the mechanics you’ll run into first of all. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at Ambition mode, and how that extends and complements the overall experience rather than necessarily being something that should be purely saved for after Story mode is clear.


More about Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition

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