Friday, September 19, 2014

Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (PS3) Review

The original Warriors Orochi 3 came out two years ago.  Tecmo Koei recently released an updated Ultimate version, which boasts new levels and a few additional characters.  However, the graphics don't seem upgraded as the character portraits seem grainy and there is still a lot of pop-in for the enemy troops.  The rest of the additions are pretty solid though.

The story follows from the second game, but it's not really required to have played it in order to understand what's going on.  Basically, the heroes of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors were transported to another world where they coexist and defeat an evil entity called Orochi.  A while after their victory, this world is threatened by the appearance of a multi-headed hydra.  You start at the three surviving heroes' assault on the monster.  It doesn't go so well, and you end up being saved by one of the mystics.  Her name is Kaguya, and her power allows you to travel through time to recruit all of the other Warriors characters and have a chance at beating the hydra.

I like the presentation of the story.  It's a nice unified plot, and has a good excuse for so many levels.  You can only jump to places that a recruited character has been, so as you gain more people, you also open up more levels.  Some stages have a character die.  Later you will unlock special stages that allow you to change their fate, and recruit them to your cause.  While not the deepest or best plot I've ever seen, the story mode is fun and well done.  There's also several guest characters from other franchises, like Ninja Gaiden and Bladestorm.  For the Ultimate edition, they even added Sterk from Atelier Rorona and Sophitia from Soul Calibur, among others.  It's a great excuse to put others in a fun hack and slash game, and I approve.

The core fighting is pretty much the same as Dynasty and Samurai Warriors.  You get a regular attack and a charge attack that changes depending on what point in the combo you use it.  There's also a special attack that takes some of your musou meter to use.  Some are attacks, while others are power-ups or something similar.  Instead of the two weapon system from the later Dynasty Warriors games (which came out after the original Orochi 3), you have 3 characters that you can switch between.

One new feature in this system is the ability to summon the other two to fight alongside you.  While they won't recover health and musou when deployed like this, they can attack enemies and allow you to use your multi-person musou attack.  However, my favorite improvement is the Scroll of Enlightenment.  Picking one up gives a temporary buff where any enemy killed gives an experience scroll.  You get a ton of experience this way and it's a lot of fun to see so many scrolls and so many level ups happen so quickly.  The only problem I have is I see no indication of how long it lasts.  Getting a lot of levels helps with the other new addition, "promoting".  Similar to other games, this allows you to start a max level character over at level 1, but with higher stats and more skill slots.  You can do it a maximum of 10 times per officer and end up with ridiculously overpowered characters.

Besides the story mode mentioned above, there are three other modes.  The first one I'll talk about is Duel mode.  It basically turns the game into a fighting game (kind of like the first Dynasty Warriors), where you will face off 3-vs-3.  You can also equip and use special cards that activate different abilities.  The mode isn't bad, but it's fairly uninteresting.  It's something you'll likely play once for the novelty of it, or a few times for the trophies.

There's also a battlefield edit mode, which allows you to change any completed battle by altering lines, enemies, allies and participating officers.  While it could be pretty fun, I'd rather have a more robust level creator.  I can rarely remember which battle took place where, since the levels are all corrupted by Orochi and end up looking similar (save the beach level), so starting by choosing a level to edit didn't help.  It's kind of fun to change lines and stuff, but it doesn't last.  If it were more open, like picking a field (and showing you the map), picking a troop type and selecting where officers went (and it would place the troops automatically), it would be a blast.  As it stands, it's another novelty that you might try once and then forget about.

The last mode is called Gauntlet.  You will start with 5 characters (there are some pre-selected or you can choose any you have unlocked), which cannot be changed until others are unlocked in this mode.  The stages have random "Dragon Portals" which must be activated, and do a variety of things, like summon enemies, heal you, or give items.  One of them will be the exit for the stage, which you must find to complete it.  As you kill enemies, they will get much stronger, and any named officers you defeat will be unlocked so you can use them in Gauntlet mode.  When you beat a stage, you get a crystal that can be used to unlock another stage.

Gauntlet mode is pretty fun, but the random nature can make it near impossible to complete stages.  I was able to beat the tutorial very easily, but it took me 3 or 4 tries to actually beat the first stage.  Enemy levels shoot up very quickly, so it become important to find the exit first, then get some experience, items and defeat enemy officers.  The biggest knock against the mode is the uneven difficulty.  It's fun, but can get downright brutal if you aren't lucky.  One piece of advice from my friend DTJAAAAM: get and use the formation skill that allows you to see where the exit is.  The mode will be much easier then.  Also, you can edit the colors of officers that you are using in Gauntlet mode, which is cool in any game.

There are a lot of stages in the original Orochi 3, and Ultimate about doubles the amount.  Since each battle takes about 10-20 minutes (more with loading, dialogue and preparations), I would say it's about 50 or so hours to do all of the story missions.  Add in the time for Gauntlet mode, and you will easily get your money's worth from the game.  You'll likely get some replay out of Gauntlet mode, since you're supposed to go through it multiple times to get all the good stuff.  If you are a trophy hunter, you will be in it for the long haul.  If you have a save file for the original Warriors Orochi 3, you can save yourself 20 or so hours, and jump into the new stuff with your leveled officers.

If you are a fan of Dynasty or Samurai Warriors (or even the upcoming Hyrule Warriors), then I'd easily recommend Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate.  Even if you have played the original release, there is enough new content that I would still recommend picking up the game.  Some of the visuals look a bit grainy, but the game is fun and there are many an hour to be spent clearing the story.

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