GAME NAME: Warriors Orochi 3
DEVELOPER(S): Omega Force
PLATFORM(S): PS3, XBox 360
GENRE(S): Hack and Slash
RELEASE DATE(S): 3/20/12 for PS3, 3/27/12 for XBox 360
A digital download on the PS3 (and a disk on the 360), Warriors Orochi 3 is the next installment of the long-standing “warriors” hack-n-slash series released by Tecmo Koei. Although it is more of the same, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – and the minor changes actually propel WO3 to arguably be the best game in the catalog.
A mashup of 3rd Century China, Warring States Japan, and a group of serendipitously-placed individuals, WO3 has players hitting square to pummel their way through thousands of enemies per stage, ultimately to defeat the serpent god Orochi. Added in is the new time travel plot-line, which leads to interesting character entanglements. You guide champions and generals to fight endless conflicts, KOing (not killing) endless scores of grunts and dozens of other officers. The never-ending battles recall an Eastern Valhalla, devoid of all those pesky Norse and their salted fish.
The game starts years after Orochi, the hydra snake god, was defeated. Chaos has consumed the land, with warlords battling for their scraps of power – and that’s when Orochi returns, swooping in and taking over easily. So you must travel through time to make friends of enemies, save allies before they’re killed, and gain new armies to defeat the snake god. Some other characters get pulled in too, such as Joan of Arc from Bladestorm, Achilles from Legends of Troy, and famed ninja Ryu from the Ninja Gaiden series. This combination of games adds up to over 100 characters, with many many unique movesets. There’s a lot here, folks – for those of you who maxxed out everyone in Dynasty Warriors 7 (60something characters), prepare to lose a big chunk of your free time.
The graphics for Warriors Orochi 3 have improved iteratively over the course of the series. This is especially evident in the regular grunt enemies, as their armor and over look has sharpened nicely. Also helping this is that there is more than one type of bad guy, instead of the armies of clones we’ve come to see in the Dynasty Warriors series. Hellish landscapes add to the gravity of the situation, and the backgrounds look as sharp as ever. One of the really interesting new concepts is the size of some enemies, something not seen in previous outings of the Tecmo Koei series (Strikeforce doesn’t count.). Achilles battles huge minotaurs and special attacks can cause your character to grow exponentially, dwarfing the battlefield’s other inhabitants. The camera can be a little weird and not zoom out properly every time, but the idea fits nicely with the fiction and is a refreshing change of pace.
Do you like face-melting guitar solos? Warriors Orochi 3 certainly does! A recurring tradition in Tecmo Koei’s series, the rock guitars and 80s-inspired thrashy hair metal returns to pump up the action to level 11 (or 12, depending on your sound system). Coupling this with the ever-popular overwrought voice acting and you’ve got a sound design that’s perfect for the hack-n-slash genre. Interestingly, WO3 is subtitled, with the original Japanese voiceover work for the characters. Although this seems like a personal pro or con (are you SUBs or DUBs?!), I personally didn’t mind the execution of it. It can be a little jarring, hearing some of the voicework for characters we’re used to speaking English, but again – all personal preference.
There’s something to be said about sticking to your roots. Improvement of a concept is always welcome, but drastic changes can be disastrous (remember SimFarm?). Warriors Orochi 3 sticks to its roots – just keep hitting square. It’s repetitive, but in the same sense a trance is. Cathartic, if you will. It is a relaxing endeavor to come home from a long day of work and just single-handedly wipe out an army. Don’t think that’s all there is, though. The character combinations and switch attacks, coupled with over 100 different characters and a level editor give an almost endless variety of scenarios and armies to demolish. A bit of history and the relationships between characters is interspersed in the story and dialogue as well, so if you can’t tell the difference between your Guan Yu and your Cao Cao from your Masamune Date, don’t worry – it’ll (mostly) all be explained.
Repetitiveness aside (seriously, you’ll have to buy a second controller when you wear out the square button on the first one), Warriors Orochi 3 is an outstanding entry into the hack-n-slash field and is a must-buy for fans of the genre. If you’re new to the gameplay but interested, this is a great starting point on your adventures of smashing up thousands of enemies.