Dynasty Warriors 4 wasn’t a terrible game. Let’s start with that and go from there. It is in fact favoured by quite a few, but it was no DW3. A kinder difficulty curve and cool new roster additions like Samurai Blade wielding Zhou Tai and inaccurately pretty looking Yue Ying made this a good game for a lot of non-hardcore DW players. The lack of difficulty was forgivable, but the changes to the story were criminal. Gone was the attempts at accuracy of DW3 and in it’s place was something that resembled the original story, but tried to keep as many people alive as possible. Sun Jian now lived from the birth of Wu, through to it’s end. These weren’t things most would notice or even mind, but readers of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and players of DW3 were troubled. The streamlining from a campaign mode for everyone to four generic campaigns also game as a big blow.
A lot of this was made up for by advances in the combos. The third charge attack had become far more unique for every character – giving Zhang Fei a grab and Zhou Yu a multi-hit chinese sword combo. The expected XL release which added extra story stages was a decent expansion, but the following Empires expansion added a whole new dimension to the games. Empires took elements from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy games and mixed it in with the Dynasty Warriors formula.
Dynasty Warriors 5 probably saw the least amount of changes to the game. There was more of everything and for the fans a lot of the things that were great about DW3 were back – like the individual campaigns. DW5 was excellent as far as fans were concerned, but it also cemented this idea in everybody’s head that DW doesn’t change much. The return to a DW3 style campaign was overlooked, the variety of stages ignored and even the additions of powered up specials were treated as gimmicks. DW5 was the pinnacle of the series so far in many ways – and though fans may still prefer DW3 – it was the perfect mix of DW3 and DW4.