The Warriors series is a curious property for Tecmo Koei. It’s got a hugely loyal fan base, including yours truly, but the series has been historically panned critically, and rather unfairly at that. Warriors Orochi 3’s has been, well different, though. The third entry in the Orochi sub-series of the Warriors franchise, the worlds of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, as well as a few guests’, have collided once again to battle an evil force that threatens the world as these legendary heroes know it. The culprit is the vicious Hydra, a gigantic three-headed dragon aided by the demon army, which has warped time and intends to destroy the world. Yeah, it’s bonkers.
It’s not bad though, not in the slightest. Certainly in my experience, the story has always been one of the most interesting aspects of the Warriors series, especially true for Dynasty Warriors. The era of the romance of the three kingdoms is simply fascinating, the tale of the warring kingdoms vying for control of China is a perfect setting for this type of game, and they’ve been (mostly) historically accurate.
Free from the shackles – or maybe the direction, depending on how you look at it – of these historical events, you’d expect the developers to go full on bananas, and my word have they, but it worked. Somehow, the story not only makes sense, but it’s actually interesting. A short summary is this; a giant, evil hydra has fractured the continuity of time, and caused multiple worlds to collide. A visit to three heroes from a mystic during the final assault by the demon army sends these heroes back in time. Their aim: to recruit an army big and powerful enough to take on the demon army. It’s essentially one huge recruitment saga, wrought with battles, time travelling, and life saving.
You’ll be vying to save over 100 characters from the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors cast, and as if the fourth wall wasn’t already torn asunder, you’ll also recruit some crossovers from other Tecmo Koei series’, including Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, Ayane from Dead or Alive and more. It’s a huge cast, and once you unlock them all by going through the game’s story mode, they’re all playable.
It’s a daunting prospect – playing as over 100 characters; thankfully there are a number of gameplay incentives to be the carrot in this case, not least of which is the new combat system. Combat plays out like you’d expect from a Warriors game with your light and powerful attacks. There’s also musou attacks, ultra powerful attacks that are performed once you’ve filed your musou gauge, and combos to use to kill anyone in your sight.
Standard stuff for a Warriors game then. Only, not quite. A new mechanic has been introduced that drastically improves the combat system; instead of taking one character into battle, you take three. You still only control one character at a time, but hitting either of the shoulder buttons will switch your character on the fly, and these switches are combo-able, meaning you can create ridiculous combo chains of over 1000 with ease. I can’t express enough how much better this makes the combat feel. It’s faster, more fun and, importantly, fresh.
The development ethos of Warriors Orochi 3 seems to have been, “Hey, this is ridiculous. Let’s make it more ridiculous. More dudes, more battles, more everything.” I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m delighted with it. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun playing as Warriors game as I have Warriors Orochi 3, and that’s saying something.
The ridiculousness doesn’t stop there though, Warriors Orochi 3 features a Musou Battlegrounds mode, where you can take a stage and edit it as you see fit. Want to turn enemy officers into sumos or tigers? Warriors Orochi 3 says go for it! Want to completely change every officer in a stage to someone else? Want to set a specific time limit to it? How about change the music? Musou Battlegrounds lets you do it, and you’ll eventually be setting tigers to war with sumo wrestlers, where every hit sounds like a squeaky toy hammer. They’re all playable with a friend too, as is the main story.
It’s not all great though, Warriors Orochi 3 isn’t a very pretty game. It feels like a step down from Dynasty Warriors 7, which was by far and away the best looking game in the series. There’s no sharpness to the picture, and character models look blurry and low-res. Granted, you’re not coming to this for the graphics, and there are a huge number of enemies on the screen at the one time, but it’s disappointing nonetheless. Curiously, some models look drastically better than others; for instance, the guest characters like Ryu look better than the Dynasty Warriors models, which in turn look a lot better than the Samurai Warriors models. It does seem that there are a lot of assets from previous games reused here.
The music’s as good as ever, thankfully. I’ve always enjoyed the heavy Japanese metal when playing a Warriors game; it suits the flow of the game so well. Everything’s frantic, fast and over-the-top, and that’s exactly how the music sounds. The shredding guitar riffs and squealing licks are tonally perfect, and the way they’re mixed in with typical Japanese string sounds is totally natural.
One thing I’m not sure about is the voice acting. Tecmo Koei made the choice not to localise the voice acting, so it’s all in Japanese, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Yes, without a doubt, they’re 100% better from a quality standard, but I always found the English voice acting endearing, despite its rampant cheasiness. The Japanese voices are much more serious, and while some of the voices are genuinely funny, any unintentional seriousness is now indiscernible, and I miss that.
That’s just splitting hairs though, and I genuinely really enjoy Warriors Orochi 3. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s actually brilliant. The graphics could definitely do with some work, without a doubt, but the gameplay is so spot on, and the story was genuinely enjoyable, despite itself. I’ve no reservations in awarding Warriors Orochi 3 a high score, and if you’ve ever thought of jumping into a Warriors game, now is the perfect time.