Well I have an almost balanced top 13... Though this is only their DW interpretation, of course:
1. Guo Jia
The unfailable strategist. From his looks (yes I had to go there) to his amazing intellect, his charming personality and his deceptively powerful EX attacks - Guo Jia is perfection really. Especially the way he single-handedly destroyed Wu and Shu at Chibi.
2. Cao Cao
The man. Cao Cao is everything you can ask from a conqueror. He is unwavering in his ambition, tremendously effective and absolutely authoritative. Plus he can literally freeze people in their steps. I do miss his laughs, though.
3. Lv Meng
Master of all trades. Lv Meng is fascinating in his versatility. He is an incredibly brave warrior general who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, but also an exceedingly knowledgeable strategist who can execute plans that require persuasion over force. He is great for tanking with normal attacks, but has such great reach that even his most basic EX can cause massive devastation. He is always willing to learn, but also such a caring and attentive teacher. All in one single character. The only quibble I have is that Gan Ning should, under no circumstances, be allowed to call someone almost 20 years younger an 'old man'.
4. Xu Shu
Hunted assassin. Yes, his costume and moves are a major reason why he is ranked so high. But also intriguing is his storyline. The Shu one is a little more subdued, but I like how he starts off as uncertain, before growing into his role as, not the main strategist, but nonetheless an important part of the kingdom. But his Wei storyline is way cooler. First, he clearly has an inferiority complex. But when you (and here I take 'you' to be Guo Jia) seek him out before rescuing Cao Ren, your interest in him emboldens him to stand up to Cao Cao when he is dismissed. This leads to him contributing to the fight against his schoolmates at Chibi, where he proves that he knows just as much as they do, only he doesn't have the confidence to show it at first. And of course, it helps that he is a Guo Jia fanboy.
5. Zhao Yun
Poster boy. Really, he is the reason why I am even playing Dynasty Warriors in the first place. One of my favourite singers cosplayed as him in a music video
, and from then on I was hooked. But other than that, I feel like Zhao Yun (together with, oddly enough, Liu Shan) is the only one who truly wished for benevolence to be practiced. He came in to help Shu, not looking for anything yet offering everything, holding onto the slim hope that this chaos may be ended. That is pretty touching.
6. Sima Shi
Loveable anti-hero. He has the evil laugh, the claw-like fingers, and is capable of ordering executions without the blink of an eye. He is also a mummy's boy, gruff but still looks after his younger brother, and adores meat buns. Sima Shi is full of contradictions, but that just makes him even more human, and even more awesome.
7. Sun Quan
Great, but capable of more. Sun Quan is a solid character in DW. He has a clear storyline, a good weapon and moveset, okay looks and plenty of interactions. But I cannot help missing the historical (or even the Three Kingdoms 2010 version) Sun Quan. Most annoying is the fact that they keep on having him worry about living up to his father and brother's legacy. Sun Quan isn't just on par with them, his deeds in DW (and even more so in history) has way surpassed what the other two could have hoped to achieve. Just grow in confidence, please?
8. Xiahou Dun
Badass through and through. The hair is hilarious, but the eyepatch still plays its part. Xiahou Dun is one of the coolest characters on the roster and here's to wishing that it'll never change. His loyalty to Cao Cao, his nonchalant snark and that big bad sabre makes him the
go-to general whenever you want something done. And he'll complete the task in double time, no fuss at all.
9. Jia Chong
Grim reaper cum baby sitter. So Jia Chong can be really intimidating. But at the same time, he basically babysits Sima Zhao through the Jin storyline (as if having relegated Wang Yuanji to that was not bad enough). Therefore he is only really at his best whenever Sima Zhao is otherwise occupied. What could be way more interesting was if Jia Chong was Sima Shi's best friend, and ended up having to guide Sima Zhao when his friend died. Then we might see Jia Chong lose his patience with Sima Zhao, which would be really fun.
10. Wang Yuanji
Everything is perfect, save for the groom. I really like Wang Yuanji - her intelligence, her ability, her personality, her looks, and her interactions with everyone in Jin. That is everyone except for Sima Zhao. Sima Zhao is such a, for the lack of a more appropriate word, imbecile
that it stuns me how she decided to stay with him (thank goodness he is gone for the hypothetical ending). I want to see more of Wang Yuanji, just without Sima Zhao.
11. Ling Tong
A rare mature young man. Most of the DW roster are more hyper than sedate, so Ling Tong is a nice change of pace. Of all the younger characters, especially in Wu, he stands out a someone who can grasp the larger picture of war, rather than just seeking the thrill of battle. I especially liked his interactions with Lv Meng, seeing as how they both lost their fathers at a young age and had to grow up quickly to become the head of house. It would be hilarious if we had a cutscene where Lv Meng and Ling Tong are busy discussing strategy and Gan Ning tries to rush them into action, then both turn to Gan Ning and shout "Shut up you hyperactive (old) man-child! The adults are talking."
The new guard. Of all the Shu weapons, I think Xingcai's shield is the most symbolic - she is part of a new generation tasked to guard the old ideals. More than the rest of Shu's 2nd generation, Xingcai understands her role and fulfills it very well. She is remarkably clear-headed and orients herself through achievable goals (not randomly sprouting benevolence), which makes me wonder if it is because the Xiahou blood runs strong in her. A rare shining light in the mess that is Shu.
13. Wang Yi
Vengeance fighter. More than being driven by revenge, I would say Wang Yi is driven by righting wrongs. Almost a typical vigilante, wherein she seeks to help others after she has undergone tribulations herself. Sure, she probably wants to kill Ma Chao more than anything else, but that doesn't stop her from bonding with Zhang He, Guo Huai and Xiahou Ba. It that cutscene of Xiahou Yuan's death, you can see that although she keeps on killing, familial bonds are still what touches her the most. I think that for every fallen comrade, it just gives Wang Yi more motivation to fight against Shu. And that even if she did manage to kill Ma Chao, she would still continue fighting for the rest of Wei.
Right, I just noticed I have absolutely no one from the 'others' kingdom. Then again, I always felt like the others were part of the story more than being the lead. Can't say I have taken to any of them.