Defeat, unless playing on “Chaos” or “Nightmare,” is something we rarely come across when playing a game in the Warriors series. Though there is ample challenge to be had in playing on the higher rungs of the difficulty ladder, for many, the franchise has facilitated multi-hour sessions of care-free button bashing, a paradoxical sensation really. Despite the fact that hundreds of soldiers are flitting around in a constant, chaotic whirlwind of blades and flesh, Warriors games have a strangely calming effect. Therefore, it may come as a shock to some that the latest title in the series, Warriors Orochi 3, kicks off with what can only be described as a devastating loss.
Since the events of the previous game, factions from both the Samurai and Dynasty Warriors universes have continued to coexist, some forging alliances and others desperate to expand their influence through military force. Amidst unceasing chaos another rift is torn in the parallel universe, this time making way for a demonic beast of untold power known only as the Hydra.
Sprouting its nine heads, the behemoth calls upon its vast warband to purge the entire kingdom, soon bringing humanity to its knees. Reduced to a weary cluster of soldiers, generals Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, and Hanbei Takenaka lead their men in one final, futile attempt to destroy the Hydra. However, as the three protagonists await their inevitable end, they are greeted by the mystic Kaguya who offers a second chance, returning them to time before the Hydra’s emergence. Knowing what lies ahead, it’s now up to you to spread word of the impending Armageddon and rally the masses.
Characters from other Tecmo KOEI IPs have also been drafted in such as Achilles, Ayana, Ryu, Nemea, and more.
It may not be as cyclical as the historic plot lines in Samurai/Dynasty Warriors, though is equally short on surprises. That said, the underpinning lore won’t be the main draw, especially not for fans of the series; it’s the minor interactions and off-the-cuff dialogue sequences between characters that die-hards will be tuning in for.
Speaking of characters, there’s a lot; in fact, there’s over 120 of them. After completing the first few missions, it won’t take players long to develop a “gotta catch ‘em all” mentality, goaded on by WO’s inventive team system. One of the ways the spin-off series has distanced itself from the mainstream franchise is by allowing players to select three characters, instead of being consigned to one. With some battles stretching over the half-hour mark it doesn’t take long to grow tired a particular fighting style, WO3 giving you the option to switch instantaneously, also allowing for cross-character combos and the almighty “Triple Musou.”
Though each character has their own distinct feel, they all fall under four different categories: wonder, power, speed, and technique. They may not exactly be game-changing, though each class does offer a few unique abilities and bonuses, also influencing a character’s special attack. Players can further develop their team through the accumulation of XP in battle as well as collecting and upgrading weapons. The smithy may have a decent spread of arms, though the best instruments of war are usually those refined via the game’s “weapon fusion” system.
Whilst trading with the vendor you can swap and combine the attributes of weapons, fitting up to eight perks in the slots available. Some, such as Flame, Ice, and Cavalier, are fairly self-explanatory, though to get a weapon that suits your needs, you’ll need to sift through the various attachments to get the best outcome. Much like the characters themselves, hunting for weapons soon becomes a sub-game of its own.
Experience points also make a welcome return, this time accompanied by “proficiency” and “weapon compatibility” gages. The former is gained by playing as a particular character, eventually unlocking additional attacks and abilities as you rank up. The same applies to weapon compatibility, which will grant damage bonuses, though doesn’t carry over from one weapon to the other. Though not as crucial to the experience, character “bonds” have also been lifted from Dynasty Warriors 7’s chronicle mode. Fighting alongside other characters, as well as completing side quests and inviting them to parties will enforce your friendship, making your allies even deadlier.
There are plenty of revisions to get stuck into, each of which improving the overall experience, yet they will do very little for those who don’t rate the series’ trademark hack n’ slash gameplay. At the end of the day, your still wading through hundreds of peons whilst cracking out combos and Musou attacks, taking screen-fulls of enemies out with each swipe. Even as someone who has had an attachment to the Warriors franchise since its second, defining instalment, I can’t stomached it too long.
Omega Force has done a superb job in fleshing out each of the characters and their movesets; the repetition mainly comes from level design. The cinematic approach the team took to Dynasty Warriors 7 has faded and scenarios still feel far too drawn out and bloated in some instances.
What really puts the boot in is that these issues have been almost been resolved in other Warriors titles yet they are missing from Warriors Orochi 3. In Samurai Warriors Chronicles for the 3DS, players could actually cycle between 4 different characters, each one positioned at different points on the map, reducing the need for mundane on-foot treks across the battlefield. Whilst idle, you could also order your generals to attack and defend bases, much like the system used in Dynasty Warriors NEXT.
One area in which the series has suffered from its conception is one on one combat. Enemy generals have always felt like over-powered peasants, the only thing setting them apart from their subordinates being tweaks to health, defense, and attack meters. The issue was tackled in both Dynasty Warriors 4 and 6 which created makeshift arenas for such encounters, though the actual gameplay didn’t feel any different.
Aside from the main campaign, players can also take part in online battles with friends and randoms. Multiplayer is entirely co-op and acts as an efficient substitute for split-screen play, though it won’t set the world on fire. By far the most interesting online function Warriors Orochi 3 has to offer is its Musou Battlefields mode. Here players can take existing scenarios from story mode and tweak a number of elements such as which generals are on either side, the sounds effects used, and even what troop types each side uses.
Sure, it would have been nice to build our own missions from the ground up, but Musou Battlefields serves as a happy medium for the more casual players, the mode also harbouring a trove of collectible unlocks.
Something which may unsettle or uplift hardcore fans is the use of full Japanese voice acting in-game as opposed to the English dub. You may not be able to decipher exactly what’s being said (when looking away from the subtitles, at least) yet the cheesy, playful emotions still seep through. Despite being a personal fan of the hammy voice work of previous games, I didn’t find the subtitled version to be too much of a distraction. The only time I longed for the English dub was when allied officers were trying to give me directions whilst in-game, forcing me to tear my eyes away from the on-screen action.
- Insane roster of over 120 unique playable characters.
- Hours of content and plenty of worthwhile collectibles to be had.
- Characters/weapon upgrades are in-depth.
- Redux missions extend replay value.
- Musou Battlefields is a fun, non-exhaustive new feature.
- At its core, the gameplay remains virtually untouched.
- Looks choppy in a few places.
- Predictable plot twists with predictable outcomes.
- It’s starting to feel as though Tecmo KOEI is holding back gameplay revisions to preserve the selling point/justification of Warriors spin-offs.
The current cycle of Warriors titles seems to be drawing to an end with Dynasty Warriors Vs. (3DS) due for release in the near future, Tecmo KOEI yet to announce any other major instalments in the series. It may have managed to appease critics and fans with a illustrious spread of content and slightly reworked gameplay, though whether the same will work going into Dynasty Warriors 8 and beyond seems unlikely.
For now however, fans have Warriors Orochi 3, which is as close to the full package as you could ask for with potentially hundreds of hours of content and customization. Realistically, without drafting in dramatic changes to overarching template, haters and cash-strapped fans alike will finally be able to take a rest from the series that continued to give and give on an almost bi-monthly basis.