There is no way that thousands of years ago, the historical figures depicted in Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms could have understood the extent of their fame. Even some of the wiser people in the novel, Zhuge Liang and co., couldn’t possibly have foreseen something like Warriors Orochi, an action video game in which they are pitted against famous warriors from Japan – warriors whose parents’ parents would not be conceived for generations. I think if the wisest of those people could have seen this coming, history probably would have painted them as totally insane rather than wise. I wonder whether they would have suffered the same split of tastes as people who play (or don’t play) the series today? Would they have been offended? Amused? It’s impossible to know.
Some people get the Dynasty Warriors series (and all its spin-offs), and some people don’t. For fans, every new game is a chance to revisit a famous historical battle and try out new tactics, new ways of doing things. Detractors just see hordes of enemies and one-button combos. It’s a shame that more people don’t fall into the former group, because it is, on the whole, a very fun game. Don’t get me wrong: most of people’s complaints about the series are valid, but at the same time, they shouldn’t stop you having a good time as you play. Pure fun is a pretty unusual thing these days.
Warriors Orochi 3 pits characters from the Three Kingdoms period of China with characters from the Sengoku period of Japan, although technically it pits characters from Dynasty Warriors against characters from Samurai Warriors. In a bid to have a more varied cast, Koei didn’t always stick to the widespread characterisation of those portrayed in the game and, going back to the idea of the warriors actually seeing the game, Zhang He certainly wouldn’t be impressed. Still, with a unique chance to fight it out with such a huge variety (and massive number) of fighters, the game feels absolutely massive before you even put the disc in.That feeling only grows as you start to play. Placed on the losing side of a battle against a deadly Hydra, you must do what you can as your allies fall dead around you. It’s a brilliant use of the Dynasty Warriors battle message system, with a constant feed of losses. Before you can join your comrades, a girl pops up out of nowhere and whisks you off, back in time. (Don’t you hate when that happens?) She explains the rules of time travel: the person entering the time travel ring must have a link to the place they’re going and, because of some evil mumbo jumbo, you can’t go back before the Hydra existed and kill it in its infancy because that would make it far too easy. So you are tasked with going back in time and saving everybody: an army’s worth of warriors worth a thousand. That’s where the game starts proper.
It’s slow at first, with only a few missions to pick from. “I made this mistake,” one of your characters will say, “and if I fix it we’ll get lots of soldiers for our army.” It isn’t always so simple, but it’s a nice way of handling things (rather than just a series of chronological battles). Sometimes you’ll need to do something else in order to go back to a battle a second time, changing the course of events yet again. For instance, in an early level, Huang Zhong locks himself in a castle to prevent the enemy reaching the battlefield too quickly. Once you have access to somebody who has seen an enemy siege weapon storage place, you can then go back to the battle with your siege weapons and save him, unlocking him for later use as both as an NPC character and a fighter in your personal roster.
The time travel plot-lines, as innovative as they can be, can get a little goofy at time, but the gameplay is as standard in the series. Enemies to kill and lots of them, what more can you ask for? Playing on the easier modes is the ultimate stress-buster, offering a mountain of punch bags between you and your goal and permission to smash your way through to your heart’s content. Boost the difficult up a few levels, however, and you’re looking at strategic thinking, obeying orders, and making quick decisions, constantly if you want to make it through the battle alive. Simple combos are performed, on PS3, by hitting the square button and can be extended and made more powerful by clever use of the triangle button. When necessary, you can use the circle button to unleash a powerful Musou attack, obliterating large groups without any trouble at all.In order to keep down on production costs (and warrant release in the West, a fate that Warriors Orochi Z, the PS3 re-release and polish-up of the first two titles never managed), the entire voice cast is in Japanese with English subtitles. This actually benefits the title because, if the subtitles are anything to go by, many of the general battle lines have been carried across from previous titles. This doesn’t make hearing the same thing time and time again any less frustrating, but it certainly takes off the edge, and non-Japanese speakers like me can refuse to read the subtitles and make up our own kick-ass warrior catchphrases while blowing away foot soldiers, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Also included are a set of online modes. There’s the general multiplayer mode (which also has an offline, split-screen equivalent) that has you and a friend take on a battle together. This is handled at least as well as Dynasty Warriors 7 and, while it’s not my first choice when it comes to playing Warriors Orochi 3, people who go for that sort of thing certainly have nothing to complain about. There’s also another mode in which you can create your own battles using the developer-made levels as a template. You can change armies involved, warriors involved, sound tracks, vocal cues – everything you want to make the battle you’ve always dreamed of. You can then upload it online and see what people think, and there are some great creations out there.
Graphically, the game is pretty much as you’d expect it. While it’s a step up from 1 and 2 on the 360 (I never played Z), there’s still an enourmous amount of pop-in whenever there are a large amount of enemies on screen. With that said, slow-down issues are almost entirely eliminated and it is still impressive how much Koei have managed to fit onto the battlefield without too many issues. Level design isn’t exactly inspiring and if you’ve playing Dynasty Warriors 7 and Samurai Warriors 3, there will be little to surprise you. Despite this, it’s certainly fit for purpose and the different situations more than make up for treading over old ground. Music remains a fusion between the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors soundtracks, offering an occasionally eclectic mix of styles but, to be fair, that’s exactly what the game is about.
perfect but, more
than anything else,
Warriors Orochi is going to get some pretty rough reviews because, despite the Warriors series’ general popularity, it’s a series that people love to hate. It doesn’t matter that they can choose not to buy it, nor is it enough to just let people who do enjoy it get on with the hours of pleasure they will definitely get out of releases like this one. The people who dislike it will repeat ad infinitum phrases like “it’s too repetitive” or “the story is always the same”, without realising that’s part of what makes the series so enjoyable. We know the faults, we know the games aren’t perfect but, more than anything else, they’re bloody good fun. And sometimes that’s what you need: bloody good fun.
This game continues that tradition, bringing together characters we’ve come to know and love (along with a few surprises) in an enjoyable but often simple title that more than surpasses the hopes of the people that decided to buy this game perhaps even before it was announced. To anybody else, well, I suggest you give it a go. If you haven’t played the series for a long time and have instead let angry forum users tell you how worthless Koei’s efforts are, Warriors Orochi 3 proves just how much the series has evolved since Dynasty Warriors 2 and 3. For the most part, it’s for the better.