Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Thomas Williams2
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
Dynasty Warriors started out as a Romance of the Three Kingdoms fighter spin-off, but has since gained the cult following and success needed to eclipse its slower paced big brother, forming a franchise of its own. From Three Kingdoms China, to Sengoku Japan, Ancient Geece, and even Gundam’s Universal Century, the “Musou” or “Warriors” franchise has spanned countless battlefields, both fictional and non-fictional. However, the true testament to the strength of the Warriors franchise lay in Warriors Orochi, combining a majority of the characters and settings from not only the Warriors games, but other Tecmo Koei franchises as well. The result is Oda Nobunaga, Ryu Hayabusa and Joan of Arc cleaving through thousands of demons in twisted versions of their homeworlds.
Games can’t stand alone on crazy premises though, and the Warriors games have also developed a notoriety for lackluster and tedious gameplay. Warriors Orochi as one may guess, doesn’t attempt any drastic overhauls of the series’ tried and tested roots. Any changes made to the foundations of the franchise are miniscule, and practically invisible to those who aren’t already well versed in the series. Yet despite all of this, the fine tuning present means the game is a combination of not only Koei’s greatest characters, but also mechanics.
While one may call it Koei’s equivalent to Smash Brothers due to the mash-up recognizable characters fighting in familiar environs, the formula actually resembles the Capcom vs. series of game. Players fight in three-man teams across large battlefields filled to the brim with mission objectives, other equally skilled commanders and hundreds of squishy rank and file demons. The mechanics at play represent common ground between many of different Warriors games, while retaining its own feel and presenting new ideas. The grunt AI is smart enough to combo break and packs enough punch to really dish out some damage if you aren’t careful, but never to the extent of feeling unfair. It walks a fine line between challenge and boredom, keeping things entertaining and making each successful round feel like an actual accomplishment.
Unfortunately, Warriors Orochi never does enough to entirely ward off the spectre of repetition. It does a much better job of it than other entries by making sure you’ve always got new characters and battlefields to play around with, yet the eventual boredom of performing the same few combos ad nauseum kicks in sooner or later. Many of the same ideas that make the game fun, like the large roster and high body counts, also end up bogging it down in other aspects. Characters get cloned movesets and specials, enemy troops pad out mission time, and environments serve as bland backdrops to the large armies that fill them.
The aforementioned duels mode on the other hand, is an interesting concept, as it essentially adds an entirely new game type in an attempt to break up some of the monotony brought on by the regular field battles. Duels has a few tricks up its sleeves to prevent it from being too generic. Each side gets to build their own deck of cards which afford special attacks and abilities to their user, mixing in a light strategic element. While not being keen enough on the intricacies of fighters to make any informed calls on the quality of the mode, as far as the actual fighting feels, it doesn’t seem too bothered with complexity or balance. The mode is a nice little diversion, and I could see it being an hour or two of fun with some local friends, but it just doesn’t have the polish or attention to make it worth pursuing for any length of time.
The story that ties this all together on the other hand, is surprisingly enjoyable. Somehow, time and space has been warped so that the histories of the various characters are now overlapping, with an evil Hydra threatening to destroy them all. The three remaining heroes are joined by a mysterious time traveler as they go into the past to save their fallen comrades and build an army capable of taking down the Hydra. Much like core gameplay, the plot does little to provoke thought and lacks any semblance of complexity, but delivers when it comes to pure camp entertainment. Following the jumps in time and the internal logic can get a little confusing, but it complements the gameplay very well, as battles you already fought in can be replayed to different ends. It left me feeling smugly satisfied as I sabotaged battles in order to come back and prevent the heroic sacrifices of my friends.
Despite the fantastical settings and baddies, this remains a largely historical affair, Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive notwithstanding. No Gundam pilots, One Piece pirates, or Fist of the North Star thugs make an appearance here. The cast is already bursting at the seams and adding anymore might just not be viable, but at the same time I can’t help but feel that there’s been an opportunity squandered. Sure, anime characters wouldn’t really mesh with the current roster, but one can still wonder what it would be like to plow through enemies as Commander Char or Luffy D. Monkey. And of the many characters present in the game, a majority of them come from Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, with only one or two other characters for each other series.
The core of WO3 is uniquely satisfying, if flawed, but when we come to the alterations made by the Hyper edition, things are a bit more mixed. According to Koei, the graphics have been improved to properly highlight the Wii U’s processing power, which is incredibly unfortunate as the game as nice as it may look, suffers from pretty severe pop-in and framerate drops. If the extent of the pop-in were trees and nondescript environmental items, I doubt I would’ve noticed, but when entire battalions of troops magically occupy seemingly empty space, it can have a direct effect on the gameplay. The biggest blows to immersion come when the action starts to pick up, as the Wii U strains to render the massive number of actors and actions occurring on the screen, resulting in massive slowdowns and choppiness. These issues are never bad enough to be a deal breaker, but they certainly don’t help its case.
Warriors Orochi 3 stands head and shoulders above all current Warriors games, and is a highly recommended purchase for fans of the franchise. Newcomers may be a bit alienated and confused by the sheer amount of characters the game expects you to already know, but it contains some of the best gameplay that the Warriors series has to offer. As always, it’s still a dividing game, but Warriors Orochi gets the closest when it comes to being accessible on a mainstream scale.