Delving Into Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition – #5

So far we’ve talked in great depth primarily about the Story mode in Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition. Today it’s time to start seeing what else the game has to offer.

Specifically, we’re going to take a look at Ambition mode, a complementary, mechanics- and progression-centric way to play that is designed to be enjoyed alongside Story mode.

Can you impress the Emperor? That remains to be seen. Let’s make camp and get started.

The concept of Ambition mode is that you, an independent young (or possibly old, depending on who you choose to play as at the outset of the mode) Chinese warrior, have decided to prove your worth. To that end, rather than heading out on one of those pesky conquering campaigns that always seem to go so badly for everyone involved, you’ve made camp. And from that humble camp, you hope, will sprout a thriving settlement that will ultimately bring the Emperor and great glory to you.

Until then, however, it’s kind of just a patch of dirt, so you have a lot of work to do.

That setup probably makes Ambition mode sound a lot more grandiose and strategic than it actually is. Make no mistake, this is not the sort of grand strategy gameplay you get in a Warriors: Empires spinoff game, but rather simply a different way to play and challenge yourself. There’s an element of management, but in the long term it’s mostly about finding ways to improve your playable characters.

When you begin Ambition mode, it’s pretty much just you, a blacksmith and a small teahouse. The blacksmith allows you to buy and sell weapons — though not terribly good ones at his starting level — while the teahouse allows you to eat a meal that will provide you with some sort of buff for your next battle. In order to get anywhere, you’re going to need to head into combat.

Upon leaving camp, you have a choice of four different missions at any time. These fall into several different categories according to the way in which they will be most helpful to you.

Skirmish battles are generally small-scale, quick battles that provide ample opportunities to collect materials for both upgrading the camp facilities and, when you’ve progressed the blacksmith enough, upgrading weapons. Usually these demand that you defeat a specific officer, though there might be some optional enemies to defeat around the map who may yield additional materials when given a bit of the ol’ hack and slash.

Unconventional battles tend to provide you with a specific objective other than simply “defeat this officer”. Typically you’ll find yourself defending a point or an allied officer, perhaps escorting the latter to a specific point on the map. You may also find multiple objectives vying for your attention simultaneously; in order to succeed you’ll need to prioritise the things you do and make sure you don’t abandon any of your duties! Your reward for completing these events is Fame, which helps you to expand your camp and is necessary for completing Ambition mode’s objectives.

Great battles provide larger-scale conflicts, often with a variety of enemy officers standing between you and victory. Since defeating an officer in Ambition mode adds them to your army, these are particularly good events in which to expand your roster, both of playable characters and non-playable “bodyguard” officers, both of whom have their uses.

Finally, Duel battles unfold somewhat similarly to Great battles, placing a particular emphasis on a famous officer and providing you a good opportunity to recruit them.

Once you’ve defeated a few officers and added them to your army, you can start bringing them along in future battles as bodyguards. They will then fight alongside you, or some rudimentary orders can be issued to them. Most officers have one “special” ability that can be triggered once per battle; these have a variety of effects ranging from deliberately summoning more enemies (good for grinding!) to increasing the remaining time according to your current KO count.

Oh yes, didn’t I mention? In Ambition mode, battles are timed. Pretty tightly, too; you start with 8 minutes on the clock and only get 30 seconds back for defeating an officer. This isn’t a big issue if you’re just doing one fight, but for the big rewards you’re going to want to take on consecutive battles without returning to camp. And when you do that, your time and health don’t replenish but the overall difficulty will increase, making the experience somewhat akin to a “survival mode” of sorts.

Thankfully, the element of risk versus reward is somewhat minimised by the fact that if you run out of time or get defeated in a later consecutive battle, you don’t lose all the things you acquired in the run-up to that point; you simply lose the things you’d attained in your current battle as well as the opportunity to earn the larger rewards in your current streak. Thus, there’s no real reason not to engage with the consecutive battles mechanic, unless you know you don’t stand a chance. (You’ll also be pleased to note that you can save in between individual battles, so there’s no need to do 100 of these things in one single sitting to get the elephant mount!)

So how do you progress in Ambition mode? A combination of factors. Fame contributes to new facilities becoming available in your camp, as well as overall progress towards your final objective. Officer relationships, which are built up through taking them along into battle as bodyguards, improves the overall performance of your officers and, in the case of playable officers, allows you to see conversation events. Materials are used to upgrade facilities, increasing their variety of wares available or, in some cases, making additional services (such as weapon fusion at the blacksmith) available. But one of the most important — and most easily missed — ways in which you can progress through Ambition mode is your officer’s Leadership level.

Leadership is a level separate from your character’s main experience level. It determines which bodyguards you are able to bring with you into battle; each bodyguard has a “cost”, and you are able to bring up to three bodyguards with you, so long as their total cost is equal to or less than your current leadership level. Generic officers tend to have a very low cost — at leadership level 1 you can bring one along with you — while the playable characters tend to cost 30 or more, so you’ll have to grind a bit to make them available.

Earning leadership is pretty easy; the game just doesn’t make this very clear. All you need to do is give your bodyguards orders during a battle. You get a small amount of leadership experience (called a “Feat”) when you issue the order, and a larger chunk when their action is complete. Bodyguards’ unique special actions are worth the most Feats, and thus bringing along three allies and triggering all their special abilities before finishing a mission is the optimal means of increasing your leadership level rapidly. Do pay attention to timing, though; not only does it take time for a bodyguard to complete an action, some actions are only useful towards the end of a battle — the aforementioned “increase remaining time based on your KO count” is a good example.

Each playable character has their own leadership level, so to begin with at least it pays to stick with a favourite “main” and grind them up a bit, particularly if you want them to bring some particularly badass allies along with them. Once you recruit other playable characters, however, you can switch to them at any time, so Ambition mode provides a good means of grinding for a bit of experience, particularly if you’re finding yourself struggling to pass a particular Story mission on a higher difficulty.

Ambition mode is quite a grind and is definitely something you have to be in the mood for, but as another means of enjoying DW8XLDE’s satisfying hack-and-slash combat and progression, it’s a nice complement to Story mode. Plus it’s fun to set up combinations of characters that simply wouldn’t be possible in the main narrative — fancy running around as Xingcai, accompanied by Zhuge Liang, Zhang Chunhua and Cao Cao providing backup for you? Go for it, though be prepared to grind that leadership stat up a bit first. Also, the enjoyment factor of being able to dress everyone — including playable characters and both sides’ “grunts” — in silly costumes cannot be understated.

Besides the grind, there is a long-term goal to Ambition mode, though… but more on that another time!


More about Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition

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