Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate – As We Play

Format – Xbox 360 / Xbox One

Version: 1.01

Hitting originally with Dynasty Warriors 2 way back on the Ps2, this series has gone on over many iterations and multiple spin-offs. The series itself crossing over many different time periods and tales from the original three-kingdoms China era (Dynasty Warriors), the Sengoku era of Japan (Samurai Warriors), the French/English hundred years war (Bladestorm), Greek legend (Warriors: Legend of Troy) and even venturing into Animes from the serious (Fist of the North Star) to the comedic (One Piece). Each title sees you using a character with the intent to cause mayhem, beating up enemies left, right and center, with plenty of appropriate cheesy dialogue, mountains of unlocks and enough flashy effects to set up a fireworks festival.

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Warriors Orochi, however, is the equivalent of an all-star game, which grabs every character possible from both Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, adding some new ones and finally including several ‘Crossover’ characters – who mostly come from other Koei-Tecmo titles, such as Achilles from Warriors:Legends of Troy, Ayane and Kasumi from Dead or Alive and Rachel, Momiji and Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden – as well as one crossover character from another company – Sophitia from Soul Calibur – The result? One big massive crossover title which has a whopping 145 playable character count. This is the fourth time out for this particular title, with the original Warriors Orochi 3 getting a Xbox 360 and Ps3 release and two separate Japan only upgraded versions released in between.

Upon launch, it’s obvious almost immediately that this isn’t making the most of new-gen hardware. Textures right in the very first level look drab and flat, with character models themselves suffering rom occasional issues. Hair, for instance, doesn’t flow, models occasionally lack proper detailing and from a technical standpoint, the game is choppy. Popup and limited distance view hits quickly with troops suddenly popping into view from out of nowhere, appearing as early as the very first mission. Also, when switching characters in the main hub, I’ve had ‘A’ button icons floating mid-air for little to no reason. It’s not exactly a promising start.

For those who love the Warriors series, though, this isn’t exactly a surprise. The series, as a whole, has never really been top of the game from a technical or graphics standpoint. Fortunately, things pick up considerably with the gameplay. Like most ‘Warriors’ titles, each character has a basic set of attacks, used by hammering the X button. The character also has a series of ‘Charge’ attacks, produced by pressing the Y button, with different attacks appearing depending on how far you are though the current combo chain.

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Things  get more complicated with two special meters populated either side of each character. The first bar is the character specific ‘Musou’ meter which, when full, lets characters set off a large, usually heavy hitting. attack. The second bar. meanwhile. is a team specific bar that raises regardless of which character is in play. When full, hitting both triggers causes a special attach that can decimate entire groups in a flash. The ‘team’ concept is essentially what sets this game apart from the other ‘Warriors’ titles as through each stage, you need to pick three different characters to swap between, letting you swap out to change styles and let damaged players restore energy.

Each character also has one of four different ‘styles’, giving them different skills. ‘Power’ characters cannot be broken out of attacks, ‘Speed’ ones can cancel attacks by jumping and double-jumping. ‘Wonder’ characters can break out of attacks, dashing and stunning any nearby enemies at the cost of some Musou and finally ‘Technique’ characters can perform a quick counter if hit by enemies, again at the cost of some Musou. Other attacks also feature from team-combos, special RB ground and air attacks that use Musou and full team rampage moves. With 145 characters present, it’s unlikely players won’t find something that fits their chosen play-style.

This is all well and good and may sound complicated, but, in fact, the majority of battles will essentially have the player hitting the same few buttons again and again  to defeat the hordes of mooks and foes in the way. While it is indeed fun and easy to pick up, it can get a little dull due to a lack of variety in the move-set presses. Personally, I enjoy the gameplay. For me, it’s a great stress relief, racking up K.O. counts of 1000+ enemies per stage, rushing through as the big hero and generally being a total kick-ass warrior. At the same time, it’s not for the easily bored, enemy variety outside of the named generals isn’t great and anyone expecting a deep game will be a little disappointed.

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The entire game hinges around the appearance of a large ‘Hydra’ creature which, between the opening and the first mission, has wiped out almost every single main character from both main Warriors series. After a botched last-ditch attempt to take it down, the three main leads for the majority of the game (Sima Zhao, Ma Chao and Hanbei) meet up with a mystic (Kaguya) with the power of time travel. The majority of the game essentially revolves around going back to various points of people’s past and saving various generals, changing the future in the process. It’s a bit of a flimsy story, anyone with a slight idea on time-travel ideas will be instantly questioning all sorts of paradoxes. It’s also not helped by heaped references to the previous two titles in the series. The game tries to assist a little by providing brief descriptions of the battles in the gallery section, but even then it seems to be more of a ‘Please buy this too’ gimmick as none of the battle descriptions really tell any of the main twists.

Where the game really assists itself is the giant mass of unlocks scattered throughout the game where the majority of levels split out anywhere between 2-5 characters on clearing, along with throwing bonus costumes, new moves, new weapon types, new stages, side-stages, collectible cards and loading screen wallpapers. This alone helps alleviate some of the repetitiveness present, letting players mix and match and go through each level with new things to play with.

The main story-mode is quite a lengthy affair, each of the main four chapters contain a hefty amount of stages. Alongside those are multiple side-stages, most again giving out characters and unlocks just like the main story levels. In addition, this new version adds a spree of new ‘What-If’ stages, letting you play as the opposing force in several battles as well as multiple new stages based around the characters exclusive to this version. Unfortunately the new stages themselves are a mixed bag. Some feel fresh and  fun to play. Others are just feel cheap and lazy thanks to multiple ‘new’ stages that seem to just re-use story-stages with minor differences. There’s also four new ‘Story’ chapters, but as fun as they are, they are over with very fast and often block progress by requiring other characters from other levels, often who also require other characters to be unlocked from other side levels and so on. It gets silly.

The new characters for this version are all great, the cross-over ones showcasing their respective series perfectly. Each one keeps features and moves from their own series, and they all manage to look and feel great with no real ‘rubbish’ characters in the new set. That said, they make the contrast between certain character models all the more apparent. Looking at Kasumi from Dead or Alive, for instance, and putting her next to Nu Wa (Introduced in Warriors Orochi 2) showcases this perfectly. Kasumi has been given full hair physics, clothing physics and… uh… breast physics (well, she is from Dead or Alive). Meanwhile Nu Wa’s character model seems stiff in comparison with flat textures, limited head animation and hair that seems to be clumped together into one large poorly made flat polygon.

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These new stages and characters, though? In order to so much as even touch them, you need to play through a lion’s share of the original content. For anyone who’s played the game already, it’s an irritation that really shouldn’t be present. I understand Koei may want to avoid spoilers for newer players but couldn’t they have worked out some sort of system? This issue is only really a problem for the Xbox One version of the game though, Ps3 and Ps4 versions of the game have cross-save compatibility, letting you play the new stuff immediately. Annoyingly, even the colour-edit mode is locked in this manner, something that doesn’t even hit the ‘maybe spoilers’ thing.

Every single one of these stages, both new and old, gets added into the creation mode. This isn’t really a full creation mode as the game likes to pretend, but really is more the videogame equivalent of an mad-libs set, the game giving you the basic stage, then letting you replace elements of it. Sure, you can’t completely change out the objectives and ‘twists’ levels have, but you can make everyone Lu Bu if you happen to be a total sadist. It’s an interesting mode, but it just wears out a little fast due to the simplicity of it all.

As well as story mode, this new version adds two extra modes on top, Duel and Gauntlet mode. Duel mode sees you battling in a 3v3 tag match, more akin to a traditional fighting game. The mode offers both standard matches and survival challenges and it works quite well. Multiple stages with varying hazards keeps things interesting and the use of collectible cards as special attacks also works in a rather interesting, if occasionally, broken way with cards specializing in damaging your opponent, defending yourself, changing status effects, healing and others. It’s a fun enough mode, but unless you have somebody to fight against, it gets boring after a few plays.

Gauntlet mode, meanwhile, is Koei-Tecmo’s attempt to do something new. Here you get to pick 5 characters to race through maps with constantly spawning enemies, increasing difficulty levels and plenty of rare treasures, all of which can be exchanged between this mode and the main game. However, it’s likely to turn off all new players immediately as the difficulty spikes quickly. It also manages to be a drag at times, throughout the map are various ‘Portals’ which have to be activated. Only one of these, however, has the level exit, meaning that players can often be running around the map blind and, coupled with the high difficulty spikes, causes this mode to be hell to all but the most seasoned of players.

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The thing is, the difficulty spikes feel completely unfair. Instead of the AI actually responding more, they instead just bulk up in health and defence and get powered up enough for one hit kills. Then they grab super armour, meaning barely any attacks seem to affect them. It’s cheap and locks the whole mode out to any, but veterans of the game.

Overall Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate is frustrating. It is, indeed, incredibly fun to play, but at the same time this is a series which has divided gamers for many years because of its whole guilty pleasure/marmite way of doing things. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate doesn’t exactly do much to destroy that opinion. Technically, it is a shambles: character and difficulty balance is all over the place and the various extra modes, while interesting, do little to really push the game further. Thankfully, for those who are a bit newer to the series, or for longtime fans, there is plenty to unlock with the majority of the 145 characters having cards, costumes, weapons, special weapons – which require specific things to be done on certain stages on hard – and plenty of side missions on hand to keep things running at a fast pace.

Final note for anyone who has bought the original, and any DLC from the original – Yes, I realise this already is a MASSIVE ‘As We Play’ but bear with me. If you nabbed any DLC before, when that DLC is released for this game, you’ll get it free, be it for the Ps3, Ps4 or the Xbox One versions of the game, which is a thankful token. if anything.

The Good Stuff

* Large amount of characters and playstyles

* Easy to pick up with simple controls

* Plenty of unlocks to keep things moving

* Over the top and chaotic

The Bad Stuff

* Very repetitive

* Buggy in places, especially during hub-screens. I have had floating icons. On a more serious note, the game actively shut down once during the chapter 2 hub

* New content requires playthrough of a large portion of the old content

Final Analysis

While this game has all the potential to be fun, often the lack of care gone into the making of the game, coupled with a lot of quite lazy porting, sees this title lie firmly on the ‘Only for the fans’ pile.

 

Technical Competency – 6/10 (Plenty of bugs present with graphical errors. Random shutdowns and occasional slowdowns, from the game to the Xbox One hub and back)

Graphic/Audio Quality – 4/10 (It’s not a pretty title for the most part and the majority of the assets and music are lifted directly from previous games)

Network Stability – N/A (I couldn’t seem to find anyone to play with for the review.)

Current Quality Grade – 5/10

 

Jon Buchan is a self-confessed ‘Warriors’ fan and pre-ordered this game himself. ExpansiveDLC was however offered a review copy for reviewing purposes. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate was indeed played for many hours, many fights were fought including one embarrassing defeat on easy when he forgot that the level hadn’t ended and took a club to the face.

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