Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate has now arrived on Western shores and it brings with it a host of updates that Japanese gamers were able to experience just under a year ago. At its core, the experience is still very much the same as the original that released towards the tail end of 2011, but there have been numerous iterations since then which have been pooled together, with the addition of even more content, to create this complete package. These range from the additional characters that have appeared in Hyper and Special, to the inclusion of an entirely new mode called Gauntlet.
This can all seem rather overwhelming at first and you may find yourself wondering where to even begin. Story seems like the obvious place, but there is also the aforementioned Gauntlet Mode, Duel Mode (introduced in Hyper) and Musou Battlefields. If you want to experience everything the game has to offer, you could be required to sink a considerable chunk of time, but it doesn't ever feel obtuse. None of these modes have any kind of prerequisite to get started, but you will unlock the most content by progressing through the story.
Unlike other Warriors titles like Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors or even those based on other properties like One Piece and Gundam, Orochi's charm is that it pools a ton of characters from different worlds together. Therefore, the story centres around how this might be possible. And that's where the introduction of another dimensional catastrophe comes into play. Not long after starting to rebuild their lives from the events of Orochi 2, an eight-headed monster known as Hydra starts wreaking havoc on the world. The only three heroes who escape either death or mind-control are Ma Chao, Sima Zhao and Habei Takenaka and they are rescued by the Moon Princess. She then introduces time travel to the mix and the rest, as they say, is history.
The plan is for the three heroes to travel back in time, where they can then turn the tide by retaining strategic points and rallying troops to their cause. This, as we know from the original game, works, and the heroes are able to defeat the Hydra. However, in Ultimate the story continues; that isn't the end of the saga. The sheer volume of the additional story content has to be commended and if you are interested in the lore, this should be seen as a strong selling point. That can be considered a big "if" though, as the story in Orochi 3 Ultimate isn't all that compelling - sometimes it can be borderline ridiculous. There are a lot of intricacies and elements to pay attention to, but the dialog pre and post-mission does little to help flesh these out. It could be considered harsh to criticise the game when the story clearly doesn't take itself too seriously, but it does pose the question as to why it doesn't take itself too seriously. Omega Force have shown that they have the pedigree to make it work with titles such as Toukiden and Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll and it does feel a bit disappointing.
Borrowing elements from all the games that have come before, Orochi 3 Ultimate has a core gameplay offering that should be very familiar to veterans of the Warriors series. Every character has normal attacks and these can be chained together with charge attacks at various intervals. It means that each character has a decent number of combos and while they all have a similar objective (i.e. to stun or clear a crowd), they are pretty unique for each character.
New additions from other titles such as Dynasty Warriors 7 have been included or expanded upon where possible and one of the biggest changes revolves around one of Orochi's more unique elements - the fact you don't just take one warrior into battle.
Whereas Dynasty Warriors 7 introduced the Switch Attack, Orochi 3 Ultimate uses the already upgraded Switch Combos and upgrades further to create Triple Rush attacks. These involve switching between characters following the completion of a charge move, but specific characters can perform a Triple Rush to launch enemies into the air, allowing for more expansive comboing. It's a nice mechanic, but it's more of a frill unless you are clinging on for dear life.
Fighting as a three also has other advantages. For example, if one of your warriors gets quite banged up, you can switch them out and allow them to heal up. You can also summon your two other warriors to join you on the battlefield and involve them in Triple Musou attacks. This isn't a new addition in Ultimate, but fighting as a three, or indeed a five (in Gauntlet) helps to distinguish this game from others under the same monicker.
Despite the additions, it does feel as though Ultimate misses a trick. The gameplay, despite the whole trinity ideal, does not feel as refined as more recent Warriors titles and it's clear to see that the base for the gameplay is still a game that released towards the back-end of 2011. From a technical standpoint Ultimate does take advantage of some of the PS4's capabilities, with increased enemies on screen and tighter visuals, but it does feel as though the game could have been tightened up from a gameplay perspective too.
AI is another area where this continues to hold true, with Orochi 3 Ultimate plagued by annoying compatriots. You might as well not even have allies most of the time, because they do almost nothing positive. At best, they may be able to hold the line until you go and save them and it does kind of ruin the illusion of partaking in a massive battle. This becomes frustrating when you are required to be in two places at once, and while this isn't so bad when playing co-op, it can be frustrating to backtrack because the AI is incapable of progressing on their own.
On the subject of co-op, the entire online system is rather woeful and completely ruins the experience. Almost nothing about the system is intuitive and there is no real semblance of togetherness. Progression through the story mode provides the perfect example of this, because you aren't actually allowed to progress unless both players have unlocked a level. That does sound reasonable, apart from the fact that levels can be unlocked by talking to people in the camp. So if you don't mirror each other identically and then save before attempting to start a co-op game, you are forced to go all the way through its arduous process in order for it to tell you that sorry, the game couldn't be created. You will then be sent back to the camp, where you have to unlock the level again because auto-save only fires when a level is completed.
It's nice that the developers included co-op, but the system is so much worse than Dynasty Warriors 8 on the PS3, that it feels like a complete regression. In other modes, like Gauntlet, it also goes back to the days of being counter-productive, because only the host benefits from any progression you make. Why not have the option to create a co-op Gauntlet game where progress is shared? Because as it stands, the only benefit the joining player has is that they get to acquire a few items and some GP. They forego progression in their own Gauntlet and aren't able to level up any of their own characters organically.
Gripes about the co-op aside, Gauntlet is a mode that feels like a positive addition. It offers depth to the experience and takes the difficulty to a whole new level. For every stage you do, the longer you are there, the more difficult it gets. This comes in both the stats of enemies, but also in sheer volume too. Even on the earlier Gauntlet levels, a character who has been promoted a few times and carries a strong weapon can find themselves being humbled rather quickly if they get up to a Miasma level in the 50s or 60s. It can take quite a bit of time to even clear the first level of Gauntlet, let alone think about tackling some of the more taxing levels and with the amount of content that already existed outside of this, Gauntlet takes things to a whole new level.
The other positive about Gauntlet is that it enables you to use five characters, as opposed to three. This doesn't change a great deal, but when one of them dies, it's not game over. Instead, you simply take control of the next one and continue on with your quest to farm items, officers and then escape.
It's pleasing to see that the amount of enemies on screen has received a noticeable bump. This affects both the visual experience, but it does also have a bearing on gameplay. More enemies are now thrown your way and you can easily see a single swipe cut down 100 foes. The soundtrack and cast list also offer an interesting blend, melding together different games and styles, while introducing other characters into the mix such as Achilles (Warriors of Troy), Joan of Arc, Ryu Hayabusa and Sophitia (Soul Calibur).
Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate offers the most comprehensive Orochi experience to date, but it does also feel lacking. It's impossible to deny the sheer level of content available, but the package is held back by advances in other stems of the Warriors franchise that haven't been taken advantage of. This is most noticeable with how online works, or doesn't work, as the case may also be, but it can also apply to the gameplay too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Tecmo Koei offering expanded iterations of their titles, but when they span such a lengthy period of time and also cross console generations, the expectations of consumers should also be higher.
|Offers further expansion to an already lengthy story mode.|
|Gauntlet Mode is a solid addition.|
|There are so many characters.|
|Co-op implementation is terrible.|
|Improvements from other Warriors games since Orochi 3 could have been better incorporated.|
|The story, when it gets down to it, is a bit of a miss.|