A lot of people say if you’ve played any of the Warriors games, you’ve played them all. That’s certainly true to a degree as they all have near identical gameplay. If you’ve disliked the games in this series, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper won’t likely entice you, but if you’ve enjoyed the games in the past there’s an impressive amount of content here that is worth at least a look.
Warriors Orochi 3 takes place shortly after the events of Warriors Orochi 2. The heroes of the Three Kingdoms are trying to rebuild their land after the devastating conflict with the serpent king, Orochi. Suddenly a huge three-headed dragon, known as the Hydra appears and kills the majority of the earth’s warriors. All seems lost until a mysterious woman known as Kaguya appears. She possesses the ability to travel back in time, allowing the remaining warriors to save their fallen comrades. The overarching plot is that the group of heroes must travel to the various battlefields that existed during the war against the Hydra, gathering their forces to ultimately be able to defeat the beast.
The structure of missions in Warriors Orochi 3 is quite simple in nature. If you’ve played any game in this series (Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors inclusive), a similar affair is on offer. Players take control of three friendly generals (the playable characters of the game) who together lead an army on the battlefield. The objectives of the missions do vary from time to time, but the core similarity is that enemy generals must be eliminated and occasionally a boss. The mini-map indicates where objectives are as well as player location, and works quite well in this role. An issue I experienced was that the mini-map is very difficult to see off the Wii-U Game Pad, so I found myself glancing at the main display to get a real sense of orientation. A possible solution could have been to hold a button to bring up a larger, overlay version of the map on the Game Pad, but unfortunately nothing like this exists. A minor gripe, but something that probably should have been addressed when discussing the realities of remote play. With the exception of this small issue, the mini-map easily points players in the right direction. If there are big flashing circles, that’s where the player needs to be as they signify enemy generals or crucial locations. Overall the missions do feel very similar for the most part, however there is plenty of variety between the different playable characters to prevent things from feeling stale or too repetitive. It is necessary to delve into the rich character roster though, as combat will most likely begin to feel stale if the same characters are used.
One of the most impressive features of Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper is its extensive and varied playable character roster. As mentioned previously there are over 130 characters to unlock and while only three are available at the game’s onset, a few hours of game time yields close to 50 characters. There aren’t many games that boast these kind of numbers, and those that do usually fall victim to a bit of a clone syndrome, where multiple characters play and feel the same to control. Not so here! There are four main character types: power, speed, wonder and technique. Essentially these are the general play styles of each character.
Power archetypes are slow, hard-hitting behemoths like Pang De. They deal and can take a lot more damage, but there is an increased emphasis on timing attacks than with other character types. Speed characters such as the ninja Kunoichi, are the opposite of this; they’re quite fragile and can get off lots of attacks. To compensate for this timing is much less of an issue and a general strategy is to overwhelm the opponents. Wonder characters are particularly interesting as they use a variety of magic which can have various effects, such as paralysis and elemental attacks. Technique characters on the other hand, strike somewhat of a balance between both the power and speed archetypes. Not particularly bulky or fragile, they’re fast enough to take on multiple enemies effectively. However if this break up of general play styles seems a little broad, each individual character has a unique flavour to their combat as well.
A few examples of this variety come in the form of speed-based characters Kai and Kunoichi. While both rely on quick movement and rapid attacks to take down their enemies, their play styles differ. Kunoichi is dual knife-wielding ninja, who can utilise impressive jump attacks for airborne take-downs of her opponents. She’s incredibly swift and can move around her opponents with ease. However her strength lies in being close to the enemy, as her weapons simply don’t have the range from afar. Kai, conversely wields a long whip-like chain which allows her to take enemies from a more comfortable distance. She isn’t as nimble as Kunoichi though and would have a much harder time if she found herself surrounded. These characters are unique, despite being the same archetype. In addition to these more subtle differences, there are some characters that are truly unique.
One that comes to mind is Ma Dai. He’s a wonder type character who wields a magical paintbrush. At first he seems a little stupid and unwieldy, but given some time he can be quite a deadly fighter. It’s nice to see developer Omega Force put some time and thought into more quirky characters and still keep the gameplay feeling balanced. Ma Dai can use his paintbrush as a physical weapon, juggling opponents, but he can also summon forth spells using it. Giant orbs of energy can be created and used to devastating effect against opponents. It’s really satisfying and a nice break from using standard weapons. Ma Dai is not alone in being such a unique character as there are quite a few more squeezed into the game’s giant roster. You’ve got a huge selection to choose from, but you might want to consider which characters are fond of each other.
The reason for this is that Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper features a character support system, not all that dissimilar to the one found in most of the Fire Emblem series. By navigating the game’s menus and Intel screens you can discover which characters have an affinity with one another. If you use these characters together (you form teams of three, switching your controller character on the fly) then their bonds will strengthen, offering bonuses such as increased stats to the involved parties. There’s also a way of increasing these bonds at the game’s hub (your army’s base camp) in the form of throwing ‘tea parties’. Essentially a character throws one of these parties and as a result, instantly gains extra affinity with all those who attended. This is an interesting feature, but it doesn’t seem that useful due to lack of control players have over it. Still it doesn’t cost that much and you’ll have a lot of money that you’ll earn from completing missions. You’re more likely to spend it on purchasing, fusing and upgrading weapons however.
All characters begin with starter weapons, however they are generally lacking in ability if they have any special features at all. Through use in battle these weapons can level up and enhance their attributes, but a far more effective way of increasing a weapon’s strength is by fusing them with another. Through this process weapons can gain many special abilities, such as allowing the wielder to recover some health when damaging enemies, or adding elemental properties such as ice and lightning to the weapon. The former of which has a chance of stunning enemies outright for a few seconds. Choosing which attributes to give to specific weapons to be most effective for their wielder is quite challenging, yet rewarding. Take the aforementioned ninja Kunoichi; giving her a stunning ability is wise as she can dish out many attacks, increasing the statistical likelihood that she will stun enemies. In a similar light, characters with low health might be wise to have a health absorbing ability more so than others. Aside from learning about the character roster and selecting which characters to play as, weapons upgrading and fusion is one of the most addictive aspects of Warrior’s gameplay. It makes for a game where the player relies more on character customisation to be effective, rather than lengthy combos and difficult to master controls.
In fact the controls of Warriors really cater themselves to a pick up and play style. This is fantastic as the title becomes very accessible to gamers of all skill levels. Movement is as usual, regulated to the left control stick and camera control to the right. A light attack can be performed using the X button, and a heavy attack can be executed with Y. Special moves which require a magic bar known as the “Musou Bar” to be fill can be unleashed using A. Jumps, which vary in duration and height from character to character can be pulled off using B. This is about the extent of the character controls and the only ‘mastery’ they could possibly require is that of timing. To perform juggles and make use of attack range and speed is the key to effectively taking out enemies. Although on lower difficulty levels, button mashing is just effective. There is also an option to use a ‘switch combo’. As mentioned previously a player has three generals under their control, and by pressing ZL or ZR you can switch between these characters on the fly. Doing so in the middle of a chain of attacks will cause the next character to switch in performing an attack of their own. It’s rather simple, but the enjoyment comes from re-learning how to use these controls effectively with each character.
Having such a wide pool of characters to master certainly increases the longevity of the title, but there’s more on offer. For starters multiple difficultly levels are available for campaign, which substantially increase the level of challenge. It’s a nice option for those masochists out there who feel the standard difficulty isn’t punishing enough. In addition to this the game offers both local and online co-op for both story and free modes. There aren’t a lot of online Wii U launch titles, so it’s pleasing to see Warriors include the option. This game is most fun when played with a friend too, so the inclusion is definitely met with praise.
There’s also a substantial amount of unlockables in the game. Obviously there are characters (some of the more interesting won’t be unlocked until the game is completed), but there are also weapons and character art to unlock. Although this art isn’t concept art, rather “wallpaper”. Personally I believe concept art would have been a more exciting reward, but the wallpapers are still well designed. Developer Omega Force have already offered some free DLC for the title as well, with three characters receiving Santa costumes for use in game. That’s certainly a nice gesture, and hopefully more DLC of this nature is on its way.
The main exclusive feature to the Wii U Edition of Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, (aside from all the unique Game Pad features) is that of a Duel Mode. The system features a unique card system for executing attacks. These cards are obtained throughout the main campaign of the game. However there is no tutorial available and it isn’t very clear how to play. I found myself getting thrashed by the AI and being unable to land any hits. In other words, it wasn’t enjoyable. It feels like an incomplete afterthought, which is disappointing. Thankfully Musou Mode is a little more thought-out.
Musou Mode will definitely contribute to this if you’re a fan of the ‘create and share’ notion. Essentially Musou Mode allows to edit the original stages from the game. You can change up the characters, change the music and even the dialogue. A little more depth in this mode would be nice, such as varying up the stage progression, but it’s better than nothing at all. In addition, upon playing another player’s stage you’re given the option to ‘review’ it, although this is limited to a list of generic comments so it’s a little ineffectual unfortunately. All things said, this mode still opens up new ways to communicate and interact with other player in a unique way.
In terms of presentation, Orochi Warriors 3 is a bit of a mixed bag. The aforementioned cutscenes are stunning and well animated, albeit CGI. They do a good job of highlighting and expressing some of the key moments in the title’s narrative. A key reason for this is that the playable character models are fantastic. There’s a lot of variety here and what’s really pleasing to see is the contrast between the Japanese and Chinese warriors, and in turn their melee and magic users. Everyone seems unique, yet the cultural ties they share can be subtly seen. They animate well and it’s clear the developers really put the effort in – no small feat given the title features over 130 characters. There are even alternate costumes and colour palettes available to choose from, allowing the player a nice level of customisation aesthetically.
However not everything is quite so pretty. The environments in particular are quite bland and have very average textures. They’re all very stock-standard (with the exception of the opening level, a molten volcano-like area) and a lot of the village and castle levels tend to blur together as they become less and less visually distinctive as time goes by. Obviously being a game loosely based on history, the developers were a little limited in regards to the locales they could utilise, but I can’t help but wish that they took as much care with the environments as they did with the gorgeous playable character models. That same level of variety and cultural diversity would have been a joy to see reflected in the locales. It feels like there’s a dip in the consistency of the visuals as a result.
In addition to this the enemy character models are all very cookie cutter in design, save for the head honchos (who have the same level of detail as the playable heroes). Players will literally take on thousands of enemies per level that look identical to one another. In a sense this is understandable as the effort necessary to put as much detail into these hoards would increase development time and cost, but a little bit of variety would definitely have been appreciated, especially given how monotonous the whole progression of the game feels at times. All in all though the games graphics are more than passable, and I only experienced some frame-rate drops during some intense battles with many characters on screen. These drops did not detract from my overall experience either.
The sound work in Warriors is of a high quality. The soundtrack itself hits all the right notes (pun intended) with upbeat tunes, tense tracks and emotional pieces. There’s a good array of different genres and instruments present too, with heavy rock guitars, orchestral strings and thumping techno beats. A lot of times these elements all fuse together in tracks. It’s quite an ambient soundtrack for the most part, but there’s definitely some nice oriental influence on the composition, which is obviously very fitting. A really nice feature is that you can choose which music you’ll hear during battle, so you don’t have to put up with anything that doesn’t quite do it for you. Interestingly the same level of customisation isn’t available for voice acting. You’ll be stuck with English subtitles, which would be fine if a lot of conversation didn’t take place during missions. It’s difficult to focus on what you’re doing and read the conversation at the same time, all the while having Japanese being yelled from your speakers. It’s a small gripe, but I believe previous Warriors games offered both languages so it seems a careless oversight. Overall there isn’t anything outstanding about the sound, but it doesn’t miss any beats either – it gets the job done.
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper is ultimately a game that will garner more praise depending on how individuals perceive it. Those who have played a Warriors game of any sort before and disliked it, won’t have this game changing their opinion; it’s essentially the same. However those who have found enjoyment in previous titles, or indeed newcomers to the series, may find the impressive character roster, weapon fusing and local and online co-op to be quite engaging. Ultimately Omega Force have delivered the ultimate fan service game for the long lasting Warriors series, which would be a delight for returning fans or those wanting to try out the series for the first time.