Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate takes me back to my days playing with action figures. A cool hero turning the tide of battle, lots of bad guys that all look the same because I kept reusing the same “bad guy” figure for all my villains, crazy crossovers between whatever franchises I had on hand, and all of this tied together by a completely nonsensical plot that sounds like something a little kid made up. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate embodies all of these things, and I sincerely mean that in the nicest possible way.
The most important thing to know about Warriors Orochi 3 Ulimate right off the bat is that it’s a crossover. Not just between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, but pretty much any Koei Tecmo franchise you can think of, including Ninja Gaiden and the Atelier series. Mix in a story about time travel and evil dragons and you’ve got a killer recipe for fanservice insanity and action scenes.
Having access to such a wide variety of franchises makes Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate feel more like a toy box than a coherent, stand-alone game. From Lu Bu to Ryu Hayabusa, trying all of the characters is one of the biggest highlights of the game. Everyone has their own unique weapons, attacks, and RPG-lite stats to keep track of, letting you build up your favorite hero as much as you’d like.
For every mission you can bring in a three-man team, utilizing any of the characters you’ve unlocked from the extensive cast. Having access to three characters at a time livens up the combat more than a typical Warriors game, allowing you to perform a wide variety of team-based attacks and strategies. You have tag combos, powerful team supers, and you can even unleash chaos but having all three members come out and fight at the same time. The team mechanic makes for some really dynamic action and is easily my favorite combat system out of the games I’ve played.
Of course, if there’s one thing these Warriors games are infamous for, it’s that they get old. Depending on your tolerance for the gameplay, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate can last you somewhere between five weeks or five minutes. At the beginning of the game you will be clearing out hundreds of enemies and running to waypoints. Ten hours in, you will continue to be massacring swathes of enemies and running to waypoints.
Many of the maps try to shake things up by introducing death machines like catapults or objectives like protecting a certain character from dying. While executing some of the war tactics like flanking and distractions are interesting, at the end of the day you will be spending most of your time slashing up powerless wads of enemies. This would be fine if the combat in Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate didn’t walk a very thin line between mindlessly easy and overly frustrating.
I just don’t like the brand of challenge Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate has to offer. Most of the enemy difficulty feels undeserved—the real enemies, not the clusters of soldiers you can kill in a swipe. Amid the mass of fodder there are powerful lieutenants that have lots of health, selectively react to your attacks, and have a tendency to juggle you into the air for ludicrous amounts of time. Usually, when I ran into trouble it felt like a level disparity requiring me to grind more rather than a legitimate test of skill or mechanics.
When enemies aren’t tearing you apart, they’re more likely to be terrorizing everyone else. One of the most common objectives involves babysitting your fellow generals when the game tells you they’re getting attacked. This isn’t in itself a horrible idea, but always comes with the caveat that you really need to step on it.
Quick reaction to the battlefield events can be an issue, as sometimes the map isn’t very clear where you’re supposed to go or how you can even reach certain areas. Oh no, you messed up saving one guy at the very end of a mission! There goes half an hour that you’ll never get back with absolutely nothing to show for it.
It’s a conundrum. You can adjust your difficulty whenever you’d like between missions, but they all seem to fall in extremes. There are clear attempts here to curb the monotony and engage the player more, but actually can end up making the game feel more like a chore. So what’s a Warriors game to do?
While not necessarily solving its core problems, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate does have some tricks up its sleeve. In addition to the main story mode (which has tons of missions, including close to an entire new game’s worth in this Ultimate edition) there are also three very distinct modes to keep your interest: Musou Field, Duel Mode, and Gauntlet Mode.
Musou Field essentially allows you to make custom levels, letting you to set up enemies, structures, and objectives within pre-made maps. Duel Mode turns things into a pseudo fighting game, where you set up three-on-three battles with an added spice of a deck-building mini game that allows you to activate special effects during battle. Gauntlet Mode expands your team to five people at a time while also sending you through a randomly generated battlefield that continues to become more dangerous as you progress.
All of these modes really push the toy box concept of Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate. Every mode allows for a staggering amount of customization, both in terms of your character and the unique systems each mode brings to the table. Most impressive is that they manage to rework all of the basic elements of the game into styles of play that end up feeling very different from the core game.
Maybe it’s just the power of the crossover, but I enjoy a lot of what Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate does. It’s far from perfect at its core, but it tries really hard to make the combat engaging, gives you a ton of options in weapons and characters, and then takes it all one step further with a plethora of modes to push its core concept as far as it can. If you have to play one Warriors game, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate should really be the one, because it’s close to a complete Warriors-themed toy box as you can get.
Food for Thought:
1. If you’ve already played the original PS3 version of the game, you can transfer your save to Ultimate on PS3 or PS4 via some save uploading shenanigans.
2. It doesn’t amount to much more than a fun detail, but I really liked how story missions would affect each other. In some missions a recruitable character will die, but if you complete a mission later in the game, you can, for example, take a catapult you found and go back to the earlier mission and save the guy from his untimely death. There are even smaller things like my troops in one mission getting a morale boost because they heard about one of my previous victories, too.
3. One of the quirks of the PS4 version is that your controller can talk to you. All of the character voices will come out of both the TV and your Dual Shock 4, which I imagine would be pretty neat if I understood what anyone was saying without reading the screen.
4. Sophitia from Soulcalibur is in this game, which is weird because she’s the only character from an outside company and I’m not really sure what her connection to this series is supposed to be.