Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate is the latest release in Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors spinoff series. An updated version of the 2012 Warriors Orochi 3, it follows the same hack and slash gameplay model that the series is known for: Select characters, select a stage, rampage across a map.
The game values breadth over depth. Most attack combos follow the series’ traditional string of square for normal attacks and triangle for charge attacks. Each character has two special attacks and a “Musou” special attack that deals greater damage and makes you invincible for a short time. The variety comes from having a total of 145 unlockable, playable characters, each with their own movesets. Mashing square mindlessly is a valid way of getting through the easier difficulty settings, but on higher difficulties, it pays to know what sequence of square then triangle does what. Some are pop ups, some are guard breakers, some are area attacks, etc. What the Orochi series has done different from the main games is giving you a team of three to select. You control one character at a time. The inactive pair recharge health and energy until switched in, and switch attacks and even a triple attack can be performed by hitting R2 & L2 when a certain meter fills.
Story Mode follows the plot of the game and is where most of the characters and stages are unlocked. Free Mode is just story mode without the pre-battle dialogues. It can be played online and offline. Local co-op is also present.
Gauntlet Mode is a new addition to the series where instead of picking a team of three characters to switch between, you have five that are all on the screen at the same time and can choose formations for them. Effectively a dungeon crawl, you explore a map looking for items, experience and the way out, while a miasma slowly increases the difficulty of the enemies but also the quality of their drops. It’s an interesting idea and the difficulty ramps up dramatically, but the tutorial explanations are vague and the mode itself does not feel fleshed out.
Duel Mode is a simple three-vs-three arena battle against another player or the computer. Cards collected through the game can affect how matches go, but it is not a fleshed out fighting game. Musou Battlefields is a light map editor.
The storyline is absurd and frequently campy. Characters from Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises have been kidnapped wholesale to a world created by the mythical serpent demon Orochi. By this game, Orochi himself is dead and replaced by a gigantic, eight-headed hydra that is bent on exterminating everything. A small group of heroes are rescued by a time traveling mystic who’s powers allow them to travel through various points in time to try and alter the past and recruit anyone and everyone they can across 4 chapters of the original Warriors Orochi 3. After building a literal army of playable characters to choose from, the hydra is defeated and the storyline of Ultimate is unlocked, where a new mystical villain turns heroes against each other, sewing chaos and dissent and leading to even further time traveling shenanigans. The new content isn’t quite as lengthy as the original game, but it is still hefty, occupying another 4 chapters of story.
Warriors Orochi 3 came out in late 2011 in Japan and early 2012 in the west, and since Ultimate is built on top of that, the graphics are beginning to show their age. Character models themselves are distinctive and detailed, but the environments have some ugly textures when examined up close. The grunts are significantly less detailed than the playable characters, but that’s only really noticeable during cutscenes. Otherwise, its difficult to tell they have muddy face textures when they get sent flying by the dozens with a sweep of a weapon. Those are small complaints that don’t affect gameplay and most of the time it looks fine in motion. The shorter draw distances of the backgrounds lead to some very noticeable pop-in on the PS3 version. Enemies on the map don’t visually materialize until you get fairly close to them. When a large number of enemies and effects are on the screen, the frame rate can slow down to a crawl. I noticed this especially in gauntlet mode.
The game features English subtitles, but no dub. The soundtrack features songs from Dynasty and Samurai Warriors, as well as remixes and original music, but for the most part blends into the background while you hack and slash your way through the stages.
Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate provides a lot of content and replayability for fans of the Musou style games. The gameplay is simple and accessible and how much you like it depends on your tolerance for level grinding, especially at lower levels. Musou games are a niche genre, and this is a content packed and satisfying entry for fans of that niche. Unfortunately, its probably not a good entry point for newbies since it throws so many unfamiliar names and characters at the player without much context. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate is available for digital download on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and both physical and digital download on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The PlayStation games support cross-play.
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Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate offers lots of replayability with a deep roster of characters that will appeal to fans of the series, but offers little to newcomers not already invested in the Musou style of gameplay.