It is sunset in Luo Yang. Many enemy bases have been captured. I am still standing - just - after facing wave upon wave of samurai soldiers. I look at the defeated General lying by my feet. Unfettered by his demise, I look toward the main enemy camp. As I am about to make one final storm, General Xun You re-enters battle and sneaks past our troop, heading toward one of our own vital bases. As I turn, the moment is lost as one of my own Generals screams in the most hammed-up, nasal American accent: "Dammit! Why is nobody guarding that base?"
It can only be the Dynasty Warriors series, where battle strategy is met with hack-n-slash action and - of course - silly voice acting. The series has seen many spin-offs, sequels and extensions, and it all comes to a head in DW5: Empires. The story still revolves around the three competing Kingdoms, Wei, Shu and Wu, but each Kingdom owns a piece of the land, and it's your job to conquer all lands and unify the country under one rule. It is a premise that has been seen before in Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires, and on the surface this is just like every game in the series, but the modes have been tweaked to give you just that little bit more enjoyment. Is it enough?
Well, the XBOX 360 version looks lovely in high definition, and the extra power allows for a better draw distance, many more enemies and much more involving set battle arenas. The strategy menus are your standard fare - limited in graphics, all about accessibility. Once you get into battle it all changes, and you may sometimes be overwhelmed by just how many soldiers can charge at you at any one time. You can select a number of soldiers that each General has in a set of options before you play, up to 100 at a time. There will be instances that will remind you of an ancient Far East version of 'The Matrix Reloaded'. Just a shame you can't use your sword for leverage and run in a circle against all the Cao Cao soldiers.
As for the sound, you would think you were in an American film. Cheesy guitar riffs and rock tunes make you raise an eyebrow as to whether it suits a Far Eastern conquest game. You get to ignore it after a while, but it's the voice acting that will provide the most entertainment. SPOnG must have only heard one voice that sounded like he belonged in Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires, and that was a Guard Captain! A freaking bit part! Everyone else appears to be in 'true American hero' mode. Which we don't mind most days, until duplicate General 'masks' are in play that use the same voice sound bytes, leading to the same cheesy "Dammit! Why is nobody guarding that base?" being repeated twice over.
And there are more Generals to take control of here than any previous game in the series - the 360's Achievements table lists goals to unlock 200+ of the buggers. In order to take over the country, you will need these Generals to do your dirty deeds - you can set up shop in an unclaimed area and designate rulers and Lieutenants. Once you begin your rule you get the chance to strategise yourself before having the chance to do battle. 'An unprepared man runs into battle and dies like a turkey,' as some not-very-well known person said once, in a failed attempt to make a proverb. This game is no exception - each General will suggest tactics that you can purchase in exchange for your land's gold. Some will be offers of alliances with opposing Rulers, others raising defences in your areas and replenishing your armies, and a few more may involve creating and improving your weapons and items for battle purposes. You can also purchase 'Tactic Cards' that you can take to battle with you and use as a special skill in the midst of play.