Just a few months ago I was mentioning how hard it was to believe that there were more than 40 games available in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Since then, when I reviewed Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition for Sony’s Vita, we have reviewed another entry with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn. Here we are again, just a few weeks after that with yet another one, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate. Does it ever end? I surely hope not, although I can imagine this one will keep me busy for a long long time to hold me over until the next release.
Warriors Orochi is sort of like the all-star game of Tecmo Koei’s various Warriors series, namely Dyansty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. While it plays very similar to Dynasty Warriors 7 / 8 (which I will compare it to throughout this review), it makes some changes and concessions to simplify the experience and make a much more accessible adventure. This adventure brings together a large number of the characters from the games I mentioned and sets them out into epic battles. This time around, there are many other characters / games joining the fray from franchises such as Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, and Atelier Arland too. It really becomes a who’s-who of the Tecmo Koei universe and it is done / explained in the only way such a meeting could be: through time travel.
Set after the events of Warriors Orochi 2, you start off in an impossible battle with an enormous hydra. This gigantic beast has killed most of the remaining warriors and your trio of Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, and Hanbei Takenaka will make their last stand. Just as you are about to taste the inevitable defeat, the mystical Kaguya appears and gives your remaining warriors a chance to change the course of history. With her help, you are given the ability to travel back in time to relive various and famous battles that saw the defeat of their fallen comrades. Your group must use this opportunity to save your friends and recruit them for the pending, or returning (however you phrase it in time-travelese) battle against the hydra. Make sense? Go back in time. Save your friends. Build an army. Fight the hydra again.
Sure, it is a crazy story, but the focus is on the action and the epic battles, as it is with all of these games. As I mentioned, this game comes across as a lot more accessible than the Dynasty Warriors franchise. For starters, instead of focusing on different classes of weapons and how they interact with one another, you only get one weapon per character. However, you now get to create a three member team of warriors, which sort of plays out the same. Instead of switching out weapons in the midst of battle, you can rotate between the members of your team. If one of them falls though, it is back to the main menu for you and you will have to begin that battle fresh once more.
Just as your army grows during the course of the story, your selection of playable characters grows over time. You can mix and match them as you see fit between battles, suiting them up with weapons and buffs to make them more effective on the battlefield. As you use a character in battle, they gain experience and become stronger. The nice thing is that you also earn experience that gets “banked” for lack of a better term, which you can use to spend on characters that you might not play as much. This is great for bringing newly acquired characters up to par with your starting trio as you go on. Without this ability, most players would likely fall into a cycle of using the base three throughout the entire game, since their growth would best suit the increase in difficulty throughout the story.
In addition to characters, you earn a variety of weapons, which can be bought and sold as well as combined with one another to make more effective weaponry. It sounds like a lot but it is much simpler than the equipment management of the other games. Perhaps my biggest complaint though is that the game doesn’t really “teach” you about these mechanics. They are sort of there for you to find and experiment on your own, which I strongly encourage you to do. It will all quickly become second nature however and the resulting experience is much more enjoyable.
Just like Dynasty Warriors, you have a nice selection of modes in addition to the game’s main story. There is a free mode to revisit battles at your choosing, a one on one fighting mode, Gauntlet (endurance) stages, and even the ability to craft your own battlefields. Your created battlefield can be shared with people online to evaluate and play as well, which I will imagine be very fun once the fans of the franchise get their hands on it. There is a lot to do and many ways to do it, considering that there are well over 100 characters to unlock and advance.
While the game is a ton of fun, and insanely addicting, it isn’t without its problems. There are quite a few technical issues that really hinder the experience. First off, and the most detrimental of which is the insane lack of a checkpoint system. There are, literally, no checkpoints in the campaign battles. We are talking about stages that can last up to 45 minutes to an hour at times, and if you make it to the end and lose to the boss, it is all of the way back to the beginning for you. There is nothing more frustrating than running into this after putting in a ton of time on a single course.
The only real way around this is to take things slowly, build your characters up, and then gradually increase each level’s difficulty. There is no shame in selecting the easy option when you select a stage, just to get a feel for it and prepare yourself for the future. This was definitely a hard lesson for me as I am the kind of guy who just charges into battle. As a result, I found myself frustrated and annoyed until I learned to take things slowly and with a bit of strategy.
The in-game camera is also a major issue as it has zero tracking ability as it pertains to your camera. If you change directions or focus in battle, the camera will not move unless you adjust it yourself with the right analog stick. This can be very hard to do in the heat of battle and there are many times when you are staring at a character waving his sword towards you fighting enemies that you can’t see on the screen. If it could be locked behind your character or at least move itself with some sort of intelligence, things would go a lot smoother.
As with most of the game in this franchise, there is a lot going on during the battles and on your screen. For the most part the game and system (in this case, the PS4) handles them pretty well, however the draw distance for the enemies is very small. While the backgrounds pan out well, it becomes very normal to see a group of enemies simply appear a few yards away from your character. They are never close enough to catch you off guard, but they certainly “pop in” on a regular basis. I consider this pretty forgiving given the hundreds of soldiers battling it out at any given time, it just makes me laugh to see them suddenly appear. While these issues are incredibly annoying, the overall experience is saved by addicting gameplay and a through the roof fun factor.
Fans of the franchises will surely love seeing all of their favorite characters from the Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin, and Samurai clans in one game. The story is definitely ridiculous, the gameplay is repetitive, and there are technical issues abound. However, when that all comes together, I couldn’t help but have a good time. This becomes one of those cases where the sum of all of the parts really exceeds each individual one. One each of there own pieces, it would be easy to dislike this game, particularly for technical reasons. However it all comes together when you are raging through a battlefield and wiping out the enemy by the thousands, literally. When the game hits its groove, it is really hard not to enjoy yourself.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, certified news monkey. I have been blogging on the industry for close to a decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die.
I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new. If you put it in front of me, I will play it... end of story.