There was a time when the Dynasty Warriors franchise wasn’t just exciting for its devoted fan base. Mowing down hundreds of enemies in Dynasty Warriors 2 was a good, early display of the PlayStation 2’s power. Since then, however, the series has been scorned for being monotonous and for iterating very little from one entry to the next. Dynasty Warriors Next attempts to pump some new life into the series’ combat with the power of the PlayStation Vita by throwing touch and movement controls at you, which flirt the line between being interesting diversions and being unnecessary annoyances. Still, there can be something cathartic about destroying hordes of enemies with a few taps of a button, so it might be worth revisiting China for longtime fans or casual players who have been away from the series for a while.
Like all other games in the series, Dynasty Warriors Next is loosely based on the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which itself was loosely based on ancient Chinese history. Therefore, the campaign mode tells a story you may be familiar with, dense with details about royal families, broken alliances, and ambition to rule. It often feels like the CliffsNotes version of a much larger epic, which it more or less is. The story is told in a relatively linear fashion, and you play as generals from different kingdoms as the plot demands. Some missions let you play as any available general from your kingdom, while others force you to play as someone specific. Different generals use different weapon types, which give them slightly different movesets.
While most Dynasty Warriors games are rightfully accused of being the same old song and dance, they do tend to differ somewhat outside of battle. In this regard, Dynasty Warriors Next is most like the Empires subset of games. Between battles you have a map showing you the different territories of the country, including who controls what. From here, you have some choice about where you want to attack next, giving the illusion that Dynasty Warriors Next is a turn-based strategy game. This comes into play most in the Conquest mode, which lets you play random skirmishes against AI opponents. Here, the strategy map plays out almost like a simplified game of Risk, with territories having different number values that come into play when attacking your opponent. In the campaign, however, the strategy element can be largely ignored, with the choice of missions being meaningful only if you want to grind out new weapons or items.