Dynasty Warriors is known for being a hack and slash series developed by Omega Force and Koei. Based on the Chinese text Records of the Three Kingdoms which covers the time frame of 220-280 AD at the end of the Han dynasty leading into the era of the Three Kingdoms. With the premise of the game taking place in what some people refer to as the bloodiest period in Chinese history, it sets the stage for all sorts of historical discrepancies
In the fourth installment, Dynasty Warriors 4, is specifically set during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Players do have the option in story mode to choose which aspect of the Three Kingdoms story they want to play. Shu, Wei, and Wu are the three main storylines but other stories are unlockable via completion of challenges. These storylines are all loosely based on true historical events with exaggerations added for player enjoyment. Even the maps in the game were aimed to replicate the actual battlefields in which some of the battles of the game took place in real life.
Being a hack and slash game, there is not much to mention when it comes to the gameplay. Although set in a historical time frame, it is easy to forget the historical content while mindlessly button mashing through hordes of Chinese soldiers. The mechanics of the game make it very iffy in determining the historical accuracy of the game. The developers added fictitious elements adding elements of magic and super powers to Chinese history. Truth be told, the only bits of “history” would be in the forsaken un-skippable cutscenes and minor dialogue that pop up in the midst of gameplay. These cutscenes have flaws as well considering that the voice actors for these scenes are simply poorly, semi-awkward attempts to emulate the tone and voice of soldiers/leaders of Ancient China.
There aren’t many chances to interact with the world, so the historical content is consumed strictly through the pre-determined narrative of each character’s respective story modes. Narrative aside, the game tries hard to replicate what war would be like in Ancient China. Upon entering a stage, players are faced with a battlefield full of chaos with foot soldiers and horse drawn chariots clashing all over the map. However, it is very unrealistic for a character to go out by himself and knock out 20-30 men with the stroke of a sword.
The game could have improved by creating missions that were structured behind actual military tactics used by the Chinese armies. It could give players a sense of how hard it was to execute some of the more complex military operations for the time in which they were developed. Another way for the historical accuracy of this game to be improved is by allowing the narrative to drive the gameplay a little more by allowing players to dive into the counterfactual. There is enough content from the original Records of the Three Kingdoms to create a more open world environment which would allow players to see how people of China felt about the events taking place. The game itself is very war-centric which creates almost a false impression of the time, implying that all that happened was warfare.
As a game, Dynasty Warriors 4 does an average job of being an entertaining to play hack and slash game set in the midst of Ancient China with the usage of the supernatural to liven the gameplay. However, from a historical standpoint, Dynasty Warriors as a franchise simply uses historical events as a secondary element to the game. Change the characters and setting, and the game remains the same. The simple conclusion could be that hack and slash games are a poor platform for anyone to seek any historically accurate gameplay since it would take the fun out of the game. So, unless Dynasty Warriors finds a way to change the game mechanics to revolve more around the actual events of the Warring Kingdoms, then it serves very little importance in relaying the history of China. Which brings more attention to the problem that most games have, being set in historical time frames but having the gameplay have nothing to do with the actual events that take place.