Last month Tecmo Koei and Aeria Games delivered the first major expansion to their popular MMO Dynasty Warriors Online, and this expansion is called "Heavenly Strike". In addition to introducing a number of new weapons, Heavenly Strike wiped the map clean and started fresh with a brand new scenario called "Diao Chan's Plot". The majority of Heavenly Strike was discussed earlier in the month, but the biggest new feature to Dynasty Warriors Online's first expansion has yet to be touched on until now.
That feature, of course, is the new KunLun Mountains mode.
The very centerpiece for Dynasty Warriors Online's Heavenly Strike is the Peach Garden setting and the KunLun Mountains gaunlet, and they make Heavenly Strike worth playing for anyone who enjoys a multi-player party.
But let's backtrack for just a moment to look into the Peach Garden, the new gathering ground for all players across the server.
Anyone seeing this image, whether they're seeing it here for the first time or if this is one of many times this map has come up, might think that they're looking at the same map thrice. The image above contains the three maps from the three plazas in the Peach Garden -- and yes, they are all identical. Aside from entrances to a player's home and the various other plazas as well as the location of the NPCs, all three areas of the Peach Garden are perfectly identical with one another. This might be a little disappointing, but the Peach Gardens are only meant to be a social gathering for all of the factions (as well as the gateway to KunLun). If nothing else, though, the Peach Garden is gorgeous.
The one unique feature about the Peach Garden is that it is treated as a separate force within the game's engine. You are recognized as a part of the Peach Garden forces (even though the force you originate from is still tagged), and anyone within the Peach Garden will be viewed as online only to those also in the Peach Garden. Any friends you make there will only show as online if BOTH of you are within the same force (i.e. your home force or in the Peach Garden). It's an interesting little dynamic.
The Peach Garden, however, pales in comparison to the "Battles of KunLun", which is the main reason for players to check out Heavenly Strike. It is a whole new way to play the game, unique from every other mode of play in Dynasty Warriors Online, and it hooks most people fast.
A number of other blogs and articles have touched only briefly on the KunLun Mountains. To review the base concepts, players from every faction can participate with one another in KunLun, and can even arrange parties before initiating their fights. There is a base timer of one hour (60 minutes) that will drop with each stage, but players can find Talismans within each stage to increase that base time limit (each Talisman adds 5 minutes to that total, with a maximum of three Talismans per stage). In-between stages, a player can take a break from climbing, and the game will save their stage as well as their remaining time, and they can resume their climb at any time with absolutely no penalty to the player whatsoever.
So what, exactly, IS KunLun Mountains?
Essentially, Battle of KunLun Mountain is a series of micro-missions that take no more than five minutes to complete, with each stage set to a random map (with no lieutenants!), and the end result is a lot of honor and a generous haul of gear with the potential for even greater redeemables.
Each stage of KunLun is broken into three "areas", and in order to move to the next stage, players must pass each "area". "Area" is a fancy way of saying "objective", however; so in other words, in order for players to pass to the next stage, they have to complete three objectives. These objectives are randomly selected from a pool of potential objectives, and before each stage, players can see which objectives they might have to face going into the stage. Potential objectives usually include defeating a cumulative number of troops within your party, capturing bases equal to your party size, locating and/or defeating a "Mobile Unit Captain" who appears randomly on the map, and leading an x amount of Unrivaled General(s) (the unique generals who appeared as playable officers in Dynasty Warriors 5) to a specific point without defeating them (where x = the number of players in your party), among other objectives. There are also potential conditions that can be placed on a party to confound their efforts, and these conditions are selected at random. Players can see a pool of potential conditions right under their possible objectives before the start of each fight, and the conditions change per area/objective (including whether or not parties even have an extra condition placed on them or not). The most common condition is for all units, including your allies, to disappear on the mini-map, though others include not harming troops or captains within bases under the threat of failure.
On every fourth stage (on stage 4, 8, 12, 16, etc.) the party is treated to a sort of challenge round. There is only one area for the entire stage, and the time limit for that stage is increased to accomodate, but the singular objective is a harder version of the main objectives. Within that line of logic, parties can get lucky by landing a "hard" version of an easy objective (kill 5 sorcerer captains/bow captains turns into kill 20 sorcerer captains/bow captain), or they can get more of a mild challenge (the party must earn 500xParty Size kills between them or each member must have 400-500 kills each to advance) -- and, naturally, some parties can get really unlucky and face suped-up versions of already difficult objectives (lead Unrivaled General to location turns into DEFEAT Unrived General), and the conditions tend to be even steeper than usual (e.g. players will start with critical health and will be unable to restore it).
Parties start with sixty minutes for their entire KunLun excursion, but that doesn't mean that they'll be able to spend the entire hour. Each stage carries a fifteen-minute time limit which is divided between each area (in other words, players only have five minutes to complete their objectives except on every fourth stage, where they get the full fifteen to complete their challenge stage). Only the time spent is subtracted from that hour limit (minus Talisman finds which, as previously mentioned, will add five minutes to the bigger timer). Now, naturally, this means that if a party doesn't complete an objective within their five-minute (or fifteen-minute) time limit, then they lose and they've gotta start at the bottom again. The good news to that, however, is that parties are not penalized for losing. When a party fails KunLun Mountains, they will still receive all of the honor and items they are due/would have received if they had descended by choice. As long as a party can pass the first stage, they won't ever walk away empty-handed. Naturally, though, when it comes to gear, a party wants to get as high up the mountain as possible for the good stuff. Players looking to boost their ranks, however, don't have to worry about a thing, as honor remains at four points per stage passed, at least within the early goings.
KunLun Mountain has an infinite amount of levels, so it doesn't stop until you stop. As mentioned before, players and parties can break whenever they so choose, but parties can only resume if everyone remains on the same level. And as for rewards, each player can "cash out" (i.e. descend) whenever they so desire without hurting the rest of the party. For players looking for instant honor gratification, honor is awarded as a lump sum after the player desdends or fails a mission -- so choose carefully when looking to descend.
Sadly, as the Peach Garden is considered a separate and individual force, the Battles of KunLun Mountain will not award any guild points.
Despite this, however, the new KunLun Mountain mode is a fantastic way to spend time in DWO. In a full party of four, contests can flash by in a matter of seconds, and the whole thing feels more like a party game than a beat-em-up brawler. Sharing the load of potentially bone-breaking challenges and objectives makes for a unique and enjoyable playing experience, and with a competant party a player can gain honor at about the same rate as doing Showdowns. Apparently even more objectives and challenges have been added to spice up the entire experience, and players can earn even more gear per completed stage. Any player who wants to truly experience the new Heavenly Strike expansion needs to get in on the Battles of KunLun, for this new playing mode potentially adds a whole new experience to playing Dynasty Warriors Online. Even those players who don't enjoy the Dynasty Warriors gameplay will find something to love in KunLun with a full party and a full glass of soda (or beer, the adult soda).
But you have to be Lt. Colonel or higher to participate.