I have a confession to make: no matter how hard I try, I could not tell you exactly why I enjoy the games that make up the Warriors series. I’ve been a fan ever since Dynasty Warriors 2 showed up as a PlayStation 2 launch title, and there is something about the constant button-mashing, hack-and-slash style that has always been fun to me. Being able to sit back and slaughter my way through an enemy army has a certain amount of appeal.
The “problem”, if you want to call it that, has always been that the Warriors series was contained to a certain historical story – yes, it held very loosely to that story, but it followed the basics. All of that changed, however, when Warriors Orochi first appeared, combining the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors characters together in a post-apocalyptic, war-torn world dominated by the evil Serpent King Orochi. You, along with fellow warriors, would band together to fight this menace.
How? By killing anything that moves with a red health bar above its head!
Warriors Orochi 3 takes the idea to a whole new level, starting in terms of sheer numbers. The character roster for this title comes out to over 120 playable characters, each with their own fighting style and weaponry, and various advantages and disadvantages. Along with the old characters, and some new ones created for this scenario (such as the benevolent Kaguya), the Tecmo Koei team included some well known bonus characters: Ayane from Dead or Alive, Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, Achilles from Warriors: Legends of Troy, Nemea from Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll, and Joan of Arc.
Each of these characters comes with a set of detailed voice overs; surprisingly, the notoriously cheesy English dubs from previous titles are gone – the game features only a Japanese dub with subtitles. This may be due to the sheer number of characters available, but it does take some getting used to as in-game conversations take place while fighting, and it can be hard to read the text while fighting off an enemy army.
The gameplay itself has changed little from the previous Orochi titles in the series: you command a team of three officers, which can be switched in and out at your pleasure. While in reserve, officers regain health and Musou power (used for special attacks), and can be called upon to utilize counter attacks. The character in the forefront will do the work though, carving his or her way through hundreds, if not thousands, of enemy foot soldiers and officers. Each stage has a set of victory and defeat conditions in addition to the player being slain, so you must be aware of whether a key officer in your army is in danger of falling at all times.
There are some new gameplay features that I enjoyed: first, the inclusion of the Triple Attack, which begins charging as soon as you begin a stage. When the charge bar reaches full, you activate the attack by pressing the R2 and L2 buttons, and enjoy a few moments of unbridled slaughter with impunity. The benefit of the attack is that you receive gems and crystals, which are used to purchase new weapons for your officers – crystals are used to purchase rare weapons, some of which are amusing (Zhang Liao’s twin guitar “Rock God”, for example). The game does, however, retain the “button mashing” style of previous titles, so things do not get too complex.
The story, however, is interesting for a Warriors title, and far more involved than previous games have been willing to become. You begin the game in a surprising way: the warriors of the past games are dead, fallen in battle against the terrible Hydra after the fall of Orochi X in the last title. As the Hydra’s armies, led by the demon king Kiyomari Taira, spilled across the land, every hero of China’s Three Kingdoms, and Japan’s Sengoku Jidai eras fell. The only hope left for mankind is in the small army led by three men: Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, and “Hanbei” Takenaka. Their mission is to attack the Hydra, and slay it at all costs – a mission that is impossible. On the way, they encounter the mysterious Kaguya, a mystic with the power to plant the warriors in different times, in which they can save their friends.
Missions are carried out via a simple selection screen, but certain missions have special events, or unlocking requirements. Characters gain bonds with one another, which unlocks some stages, but there are some characters that simply cannot be saved: they are destined to die in a battle regardless of what the player does. Only be encountering a character whose past intertwined with the fallen warrior can a new timeline be created, one in which the fallen is able to survive their battles. It’s here that the game becomes truly interesting, allowing players to reshape events to save warriors who died before their eyes.
Of course, with the sheer number of playable characters, there are some balancing issues. Ryu Hayabusa, Ayane, and Zhang Liao all become powerhouse characters capable of destroying armies, but characters such as Lianshi or Sun Ce are absolutely unfair, eventually being able to go through entire stages without taking a single hit if their weapons are built right, even on the harder difficulty levels. Still, as a Warriors title, Warriors Orochi 3 has the distinction of being the highest quality title released by Omega Force and Tecmo Koei – if anyone wanted to start with one of these titles, it would easily be the one most recommended for a library.
Now, I should mention that all of this is the single player campaign; Omega Force did include some online multiplayer aspects, however, that are worth mentioning. The matchmaking system is, unfortunately, lackluster in this day and age, but the ability to create and play custom maps is a great touch. By adding in the ability to change a map that you’ve unlocked, the game adds quite a bit of replay and longevity to the title, which is good to see in the game. You can also share your edited battlegrounds, and play those edited by others, for hours of potential enjoyment (or frustration, for those seeking challenge maps). Add in the promise of downloadable content in the future, and you have quite the offering!
Hands down, as far as the Warriors series goes, this title is at the top of their offerings. While some past games were criticized (and rightly so) for being clones with little originality to offer, Warriors Orochi 3 expands on the idea and gives it a much fresher feel. The online content, and future DLC packs, will allow players to get more from the game than they previously could, and the expanded roster will allow everyone to get a wide range of play styles to suit their preferences. The game is available now for both PlayStation 3 and XBox 360, and is a great way to play the day away.
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