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Story Mode and Free Mode

The story mode retains the same faction-based storyline and returns with seamless cut-scenes. In addition, each of the characters of the “Other” faction has one scenario dedicated to them, forming a loose “Other” faction story mode, in a first for the series. Stages now have more freedom of progression for the player, unlike the previous installment, which was strongly preset in means of stage routes. A selection of up to four characters will be offered for each stages in Story Mode, instead of controlling a pre-defined character; the mission objectives in each level differ based on the character chosen. The story has been entirely rewritten, with each of the four factions' stories dividing into a historical path and a hypothetical path at a critical portion of their stories. Each mission may have a number of optional objectives which unlock additional side story missions or alter the course of history,such as the moment where the flood attack in Fan Castle fails and therefore saves Guan Yu’s life from being extinguished and therefore in relation also saves Zhang Fei from the betraying officers. In order to unlock the hypothetical path, players must complete all of the optional objectives in both the main and side stories prior to the critical point of the storyline. The game also allows a co-op play of the story mode and it can be played both offline and online. However, online co-op is only available on the PS3, and Xbox 360. The PC version does not have online multiplayer. In the previous installment to the franchise, Dynasty Warriors 7, the story mode was only single-player.

Xtreme Legends adds an additional storyline for Lü Bu’s forces, primarily focused on Lü, Chen Gong, and Zhang Liao. In addition, a series of hypothetical missions are added to the four main kingdoms' storylines, mostly recreating historical events with a slight hypothetical twist (for example, one Wei mission is premised on Cao Cao sparing Lü Bu after the Battle of Xiapi and utilizing him in the Battle of Guandu, while a Shu scenario has Liu Bei turning to Sun Ce rather than Cao Cao after the Battle of Xiaopei). Each of the three main kingdoms contains a two-part “mini-campaign” centered around the new character introduced to their respective factions (Yu Jin, Zhu Ran, and Fa Zheng), while the Jin faction, having no new characters, has a three-part mini-campaign featuring a fictional version of Zhong Hui’s Rebellion. Each campaign concludes with a whimsical side-story mission, not set to any particular timeline. Additional “Other” scenarios are also included for the Other faction.

The music for the hypothetical portion of each Story Mode is taken from earlier Dynasty Warriors installments, with four pieces specifically remixed for this game (one each from Dynasty Warriors 3, 5, 6, and 7). Furthermore, the four kingdom leitmotifs introduced in Dynasty Warriors 7 return and are further expanded upon in the soundtrack of Dynasty Warriors 8; Xtreme Legends adds a kingdom leimotif for Lü Bu’s faction based on his recurring theme.

Free mode returns for the first time since Dynasty Warriors 6 in terms of main game. Players will be given opportunity to play as an opposing faction in the stages a la Dynasty Warriors 3 and 4, instead of being forced to play in a faction as in Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends.

Ambition Mode

A new game mode, called the “Ambition Mode”, has been introduced. In it, the player is tasked to create a social base for peasants called the “Tongquetai Tower” and to make Emperor Xian visit it. To raise the tower’s status, the player must partake in three different kind of battles; Skirmish battles which give materials to construct the tower, Raid battles which increase fame, and Large-scale battles which can recruit new partners. Players start out with the weapon shop as their sole base facility. More can be added or expanded upon as the town gradually becomes populated with people. These include a food market, a trade shop, a menagerie, etc.

Xtreme Legends introduces a countdown timer into Ambition Mode, where a player is initially given 7 minutes of time (the base game granted 15, 30, or 60 minutes per scenario, based on the game map), and is granted additional time for every 100 enemies killed, for every officer defeated, or for achieving stage objectives (up to a maximum of 15 minutes). It also introduces a second portion to Ambition Mode, reminiscent of both Dynasty Warriors Next and the Empires installments, where, following the construction of the Tonquetai and the visitation of the emperor, a false emperor has arisen and the player is tasked to eliminate the false emperor by subjugating territories under the false emperor’s influence. The bodyguard system of the base game is expanded, where, instead of the ability to bring one (playable) character with them to battle, they may bring three (generic or playable) officers with them. The ability to select bodyguards is based on a “fee” system, constrained by the playable character’s leadership rating as well as an inherent cost to hiring the character as a bodyguard (for example, playable characters cost more than generic officers). Each bodyguard is also associated with a particular bodyguard skill, which may be used by the playable character to affect the course of gameplay. Bodyguard skills may be upgraded with use, or by releasing other officers (the released officers return as enemies, and may be re-recruited), while the leadership rating of playable characters may be upgraded by using the skills of their bodyguards.

Challenge Mode

As with previous Dynasty Warriors games, Xtreme Legends adds a Challenge Mode, which uses stock characters (as opposed to the customized characters in Story, Free, or Ambition modes) for various arcade-style challenges. There are a total of five mini-games, each of which reward the player with a customizable weapon based on the character’s score in the challenge; these may include weapons with weapon elements that are unobtainable in any of the other modes.
New Mechanics

The game features new battle mechanics that rely on a new concept called the “Three-Point System”, where each weapon is given an affinity of either “Heaven”, “Earth”, or “Man”; each affinity is strong against one of the affinities and weak against the other. If the player faces an officer whose affinity is weaker, they may trigger the “Storm Rush”, a multi hitting attack that requires repeatedly pressing the attack buttons. It is shown through a blue gauge above the opponent which decreases as you attack. Storm Rush is then initiated automatically when the gauge is fully depleted; in Xtreme Legends, this can be configured to be triggered manually by pressing both the normal and charge attack buttons. Conversely, if the player faces an officers whose affinity is stronger, they may trigger the “Switch Counter”, a counterblow attack that allows you to avoid a hard hitting attack from an opponent while also blowing them away before switching to another weapon. It is shown through a red exclamation mark. A switch counter may be triggered by pressing the weapon switch attack button when the opponent is preparing a charge attack or a Storm Rush; a visual indicator will appear when the opportunity to Switch Counter arises.

Dynasty Warriors 8 also adds Rage Mode; this mechanic is similar to the Musou Rage system from Dynasty Warriors 5. This requires the Rage Gauge to be full, which may be achieved by attacking enemies. When it is full, it can be initiated (with R3 on the PS3 and PS4, and by touching the screen where the Rage Gauge lies on the PS Vita) where the player’s stats dramatically increase while the gauge slowly depletes. While in Rage Mode, the player’s Musou bars merged, and is automatically replenished; when the player presses the Musou attack button, the player is able to perform a Rage Attack, a powerful move reminiscent of Musou attacks from past Dynasty Warriors games, in that it will slowly deplete a character’s Musou gauge, and ends whenever the player releases the Musou attack button or the gauge is empty (the Rage Gauge may be depleted while a player is performing the Rage Attack; Rage Mode will end in this case when the Rage Attack ends).

In the previous installment, each character could hold up to two musou attacks; either two ground attacks (termed “Musou 1” and “Musou 2”; the latter triggered by pressing the Musou and weapon switch attack buttons at the same time), or one ground and one air attack. In this installment, all characters have all three types of Musou attacks, though the ability to use the aerial Musou and Musou 2 attacks must be unlocked through strengthening the character.

Weapon Updates

The game retains the EX weapon system from Dynasty Warriors 7, where each character’s six normal and charge attacks are determined entirely by the two weapons that they have equipped; in addition, each character is associated with a single weapon, for which a special EX attack (a character-specific followup to a charge attack) is available to them; in Xtreme Legends each character gains a second EX attack. Each character may equip two weapons, and may freely switch them in battle by pressing the weapon switch button; a character may perform their Musou attack regardless of which weapon is equipped. Unlike Dynasty Warriors 7, characters no longer share EX weapon types; each character is now associated with a unique EX weapon type.28 Examples include Sun Jian featuring a new nine-ringed blade. This is a dao that has a total of nine rings that connect to the sword’s back. The rings are able to produce sound that inflicts damage upon enemies. All weapons from Dynasty Warriors 7 and its expansions return, with many new ones added.30 Unlike Dynasty Warriors 7, players may keep multiple copies of a single weapon type, each of which containing six “element” slots. Weapons broadly fall into two categories in terms of customization: standard weapons and “treasure weapons”. Whereas treasure weapons have preset elements and cannot be customized, players may customize standard weapons through one of three methods (all inspired by the Warriors Orochi series): weapon tempering, reforging, and, in Xtreme Legends, fusion. Weapon tempering and reforging require the use of “weapon materials”, which may be obtained through Ambition Mode play; tempering sacrifices a weapon to strengthen another one while reforging trades three weapons for two stronger ones. Weapon Fusion requires the use of Gems, acquired through Free and Ambition modes, where players may selectively replace an existing element on a weapon with elements found on another weapon (which will be sacrificed in the process), change the affinity of an existing weapon, or improve the base attack rating of a weapon. The process of weapon customization must be unlocked through Ambition Mode, though in Xtreme Legends once unlocked it may also be used in Free Mode.

A weapon’s type now includes an affinity, being one of the following three elements: 天 Heaven, 地 Earth, 人 Man. With these three affinity elements, a triangular relationship connecting the three in an infinite manner determines which affinity will outdo one another.31 This triangular relationship is similar to Rock-paper-scissors. The relationship states that the “Man” affinity is effective against the “Heaven” affinity, the “Heaven” affinity is effective against the “Earth” affinity, and the “Earth” affinity is effective against the “Man” affinity.

The story mode retains the same faction-based storyline and returns with seamless cut-scenes. In addition, each of the characters of the “Other” faction has one scenario dedicated to them, forming a loose “Other” faction story mode, in a first for the series. Stages now have more freedom of progression for the player, unlike the previous installment, which was strongly preset in means of stage routes. A selection of up to four characters will be offered for each stages in Story Mode, instead of controlling a pre-defined character; the mission objectives in each level differ based on the character chosen. The story has been entirely rewritten, with each of the four factions' stories dividing into a historical path and a hypothetical path at a critical portion of their stories. Each mission may have a number of optional objectives which unlock additional side story missions or alter the course of history,such as the moment where the flood attack in Fan Castle fails and therefore saves Guan Yu’s life from being extinguished and therefore in relation also saves Zhang Fei from the betraying officers. In order to unlock the hypothetical path, players must complete all of the optional objectives in both the main and side stories prior to the critical point of the storyline. The game also allows a co-op play of the story mode and it can be played both offline and online. However, online co-op is only available on the PS3, and Xbox 360. The PC version does not have online multiplayer.21 In the previous installment to the franchise, Dynasty Warriors 7, the story mode was only single-player.

Xtreme Legends adds an additional storyline for Lü Bu’s forces, primarily focused on Lü, Chen Gong, and Zhang Liao. In addition, a series of hypothetical missions are added to the four main kingdoms' storylines, mostly recreating historical events with a slight hypothetical twist (for example, one Wei mission is premised on Cao Cao sparing Lü Bu after the Battle of Xiapi and utilizing him in the Battle of Guandu, while a Shu scenario has Liu Bei turning to Sun Ce rather than Cao Cao after the Battle of Xiaopei). Each of the three main kingdoms contains a two-part “mini-campaign” centered around the new character introduced to their respective factions (Yu Jin, Zhu Ran, and Fa Zheng), while the Jin faction, having no new characters, has a three-part mini-campaign featuring a fictional version of Zhong Hui’s Rebellion. Each campaign concludes with a whimsical side-story mission, not set to any particular timeline. Additional “Other” scenarios are also included for the Other faction.

The music for the hypothetical portion of each Story Mode is taken from earlier Dynasty Warriors installments, with four pieces specifically remixed for this game (one each from Dynasty Warriors 3, 5, 6, and 7). Furthermore, the four kingdom leitmotifs introduced in Dynasty Warriors 7 return and are further expanded upon in the soundtrack of Dynasty Warriors 8; Xtreme Legends adds a kingdom leimotif for Lü Bu’s faction based on his recurring theme.

Free mode returns for the first time since Dynasty Warriors 6 in terms of main game. Players will be given opportunity to play as an opposing faction in the stages a la Dynasty Warriors 3 and 4, instead of being forced to play in a faction as in Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends.
Ambition Mode

A new game mode, called the “Ambition Mode”, has been introduced. In it, the player is tasked to create a social base for peasants called the “Tongquetai Tower” and to make Emperor Xian visit it. To raise the tower’s status, the player must partake in three different kind of battles; Skirmish battles which give materials to construct the tower, Raid battles which increase fame, and Large-scale battles which can recruit new partners. Players start out with the weapon shop as their sole base facility. More can be added or expanded upon as the town gradually becomes populated with people. These include a food market, a trade shop, a menagerie, etc.

Xtreme Legends introduces a countdown timer into Ambition Mode, where a player is initially given 7 minutes of time (the base game granted 15, 30, or 60 minutes per scenario, based on the game map), and is granted additional time for every 100 enemies killed, for every officer defeated, or for achieving stage objectives (up to a maximum of 15 minutes). It also introduces a second portion to Ambition Mode, reminiscent of both Dynasty Warriors Next and the Empires installments, where, following the construction of the Tonquetai and the visitation of the emperor, a false emperor has arisen and the player is tasked to eliminate the false emperor by subjugating territories under the false emperor’s influence. The bodyguard system of the base game is expanded, where, instead of the ability to bring one (playable) character with them to battle, they may bring three (generic or playable) officers with them. The ability to select bodyguards is based on a “fee” system, constrained by the playable character’s leadership rating as well as an inherent cost to hiring the character as a bodyguard (for example, playable characters cost more than generic officers). Each bodyguard is also associated with a particular bodyguard skill, which may be used by the playable character to affect the course of gameplay. Bodyguard skills may be upgraded with use, or by releasing other officers (the released officers return as enemies, and may be re-recruited), while the leadership rating of playable characters may be upgraded by using the skills of their bodyguards.
Challenge Mode

As with previous Dynasty Warriors games, Xtreme Legends adds a Challenge Mode, which uses stock characters (as opposed to the customized characters in Story, Free, or Ambition modes) for various arcade-style challenges. There are a total of five mini-games, each of which reward the player with a customizable weapon based on the character’s score in the challenge; these may include weapons with weapon elements that are unobtainable in any of the other modes.
New Mechanics

The game features new battle mechanics that rely on a new concept called the “Three-Point System”, where each weapon is given an affinity of either “Heaven”, “Earth”, or “Man”; each affinity is strong against one of the affinities and weak against the other. If the player faces an officer whose affinity is weaker, they may trigger the “Storm Rush”, a multi hitting attack that requires repeatedly pressing the attack buttons. It is shown through a blue gauge above the opponent which decreases as you attack. Storm Rush is then initiated automatically when the gauge is fully depleted; in Xtreme Legends, this can be configured to be triggered manually by pressing both the normal and charge attack buttons. Conversely, if the player faces an officers whose affinity is stronger, they may trigger the “Switch Counter”, a counterblow attack that allows you to avoid a hard hitting attack from an opponent while also blowing them away before switching to another weapon. It is shown through a red exclamation mark. A switch counter may be triggered by pressing the weapon switch attack button when the opponent is preparing a charge attack or a Storm Rush; a visual indicator will appear when the opportunity to Switch Counter arises.

Dynasty Warriors 8 also adds Rage Mode; this mechanic is similar to the Musou Rage system from Dynasty Warriors 5. This requires the Rage Gauge to be full, which may be achieved by attacking enemies. When it is full, it can be initiated (with R3 on the PS3 and PS4, and by touching the screen where the Rage Gauge lies on the PS Vita) where the player’s stats dramatically increase while the gauge slowly depletes. While in Rage Mode, the player’s Musou bars merged, and is automatically replenished; when the player presses the Musou attack button, the player is able to perform a Rage Attack, a powerful move reminiscent of Musou attacks from past Dynasty Warriors games, in that it will slowly deplete a character’s Musou gauge, and ends whenever the player releases the Musou attack button or the gauge is empty (the Rage Gauge may be depleted while a player is performing the Rage Attack; Rage Mode will end in this case when the Rage Attack ends).

In the previous installment, each character could hold up to two musou attacks; either two ground attacks (termed “Musou 1” and “Musou 2”; the latter triggered by pressing the Musou and weapon switch attack buttons at the same time), or one ground and one air attack. In this installment, all characters have all three types of Musou attacks, though the ability to use the aerial Musou and Musou 2 attacks must be unlocked through strengthening the character.
Weapon Updates

The game retains the EX weapon system from Dynasty Warriors 7, where each character’s six normal and charge attacks are determined entirely by the two weapons that they have equipped; in addition, each character is associated with a single weapon, for which a special EX attack (a character-specific followup to a charge attack) is available to them; in Xtreme Legends each character gains a second EX attack. Each character may equip two weapons, and may freely switch them in battle by pressing the weapon switch button; a character may perform their Musou attack regardless of which weapon is equipped. Unlike Dynasty Warriors 7, characters no longer share EX weapon types; each character is now associated with a unique EX weapon type. Examples include Sun Jian featuring a new nine-ringed blade. This is a dao that has a total of nine rings that connect to the sword’s back. The rings are able to produce sound that inflicts damage upon enemies. All weapons from Dynasty Warriors 7 and its expansions return, with many new ones added. Unlike Dynasty Warriors 7, players may keep multiple copies of a single weapon type, each of which containing six “element” slots. Weapons broadly fall into two categories in terms of customization: standard weapons and “treasure weapons”. Whereas treasure weapons have preset elements and cannot be customized, players may customize standard weapons through one of three methods (all inspired by the Warriors Orochi series): weapon tempering, reforging, and, in Xtreme Legends, fusion. Weapon tempering and reforging require the use of “weapon materials”, which may be obtained through Ambition Mode play; tempering sacrifices a weapon to strengthen another one while reforging trades three weapons for two stronger ones. Weapon Fusion requires the use of Gems, acquired through Free and Ambition modes, where players may selectively replace an existing element on a weapon with elements found on another weapon (which will be sacrificed in the process), change the affinity of an existing weapon, or improve the base attack rating of a weapon. The process of weapon customization must be unlocked through Ambition Mode, though in Xtreme Legends once unlocked it may also be used in Free Mode.

A weapon’s type now includes an affinity, being one of the following three elements: 天 Heaven, 地 Earth, 人 Man. With these three affinity elements, a triangular relationship connecting the three in an infinite manner determines which affinity will outdo one another.31 This triangular relationship is similar to Rock-paper-scissors. The relationship states that the “Man” affinity is effective against the “Heaven” affinity, the “Heaven” affinity is effective against the “Earth” affinity, and the “Earth” affinity is effective against the “Man” affinity.

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