STAFF REVIEW of Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (Xbox One)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate Box art I think the last Dynasty Warriors game I played was one of the first iterations back on the PS2. To be honest, the series never really resonated with me, as it felt very basic and a button masher, so needless to say, I’ve missed out on the past handful of Dynasty Warriors games. Having now played Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, I can see how far the series has some. The first notable is obviously the name change, as the Orochi series has now combined the characters from the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors universes together into one, along with some bonus cameos and officers. The Dynasty games always adhered to a certain level of historical accuracy, and maybe that’s why they never appealed to me, but the Orochi games change all of that and there’s a much more fantasy element to the story and gameplay now which I ended up really enjoying.

The story for Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (simply referenced as Ultimate for short from here on) starts out in a battle against a giant Hydra monster on a battlefield that resembles the inside of a volcano. Normally in the Dynasty games most battles are won in devastating fashion, so when this opening mission finishes and there’s only three generals left alive, you can instantly see how different Ultimate is from the previous games. You’re approached by a mysterious and mystical woman who offers you a chance at saving your friends and stopping the beats who caused this destruction. To do so you’ll need to amass an army capable of doing so, but since everyone has perished you’re made aware that the only way to do so is to go back in time and save the generals that previously died so that they will join your cause.

As simplistic as the plot may sound, it actually plays out quite well and was interesting enough to keep me wanting to progress further and save more officers for my army against Orochi. If you played the original version of Warriors Orochi 3 on Xbox 360, you’ll be happy to know that Ultimate has added new chapters in the Story Mode that adds two new story arcs. One set before the evens of the first Orochi games, explaining Orochi’s origins, and another that takes place after his defeat and introduces a new threat to your fellowship. There are even new side stories for some of the characters who weren’t a major part of the main story arc, so there’s new stuff here even for the veterans. Those that purchased DLC for Warriors Orochi 3 for Xbox 360 will also be happy to know that their DLC will be compatible with Ultimate on Xbox One.

Ultimate’s character cast easily passes 100 playable characters, and while most are a mix from the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series, there are a few extras thrown in that come from other Tecmo and Koei’s games as well. The most notable would easily be Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden and Kasumi from Dead or Alive, both of which are fun to play and add some recognition factor to those that aren’t followers of the previous Warriors games. Other new notable crossover characters include: Momiji and Rachel from the Ninja Gaiden series, Sophia Alexandra from Soul Calibur, Sterkenburg Cranach from Atelier, and even the infamous Joan of Arc. With such a huge cast of playable characters, you’ll notice that not all are created equal. Some are quite overpowered while others are seemingly not as useful as others in battle. You’ll find a set of characters and make a group that fits your play style, but experiment with numerous characters as you’ll find some are incredibly more versatile than others. You’re even able to promote them past their maximum level, almost like Prestige levels in Call Of Duty if you really want to put the time into maximizing your officers.

When you’re in between battlefields and at your camp making preparations for the next stage, you can interact with certain characters hanging around at camp and talk to them. You’re also able to boost your relationships between characters, allowing your rapport to rise from normal to intimate. Doing so will not only give you bonus conversations in camp, but using characters that have stronger bonds will allow them to increase the frequency in which they use their special attacks when fighting alongside you. It may seem like it’s a tedious task of raising the relationships, especially with so many characters, but when your missions go much smoother because of it, it’s well worth it in the end, especially on the higher difficulties.

I used to think the Dynasty games were simply button mashers, and while at its core that may be somewhat true, there are numerous attack combinations you can perform, most of which are different based on which character you’re playing as. This Ultimate release also upgrades new attack features that allow for more complexity and strategic use.

Triple Rush attacks allow you to consecutively attack enemies in sequence with each of your officers after dealing a charge attack. Doing so will deal out some massive damage and is great against enemy leaders and mass armies in your way. There are also special Arial Attacks that make use of your Musou Gauge and allows you to bring down massive maneuvers from above to help clear a large area of enemies at once. True Musuo Burst is a massive special move that will clear out almost anything in your path as well by using this move when all of your characters are gathered together and have max Musou Gauges. Essentially everyone on your team will converge for one charged up special attack for critical damage, even against the hardest foes.

While previous games allowed you to switch between your three officers on the fly as desired, and something that you can still do in Ultimate, you’re also now able to change your battle style and actually have your other two officers’ fight alongside you if you wish. This allows you to get triple the amount of damage output with them beside you, but the two following officers won’t replenish their life or Musou Gauge or help elsewhere. I chose to have them fight alongside me almost every battle simply for the ‘company’, but it adds a strategic element to your play style, allowing for a damage increase when needed.

The best way to increase your damage output though is by upgrading and crafting new weapons in camp. While you’ll find random weapons in battle that can be used, there’s also a Blacksmith in camp that allows you to not only purchase new weapons, but fuse them together as well. First you chose your main weapon that you want to boost its power, then another weapon to fuse into it, destroying it in the process but being able to transfer its attributes and bonuses. You can increase slots that allow for more buffs and bonuses and even weak weapons will have their use when being fused into your main weapon. While simple in its execution, the weapon crafting mechanic become quite addictive, and if you factor in the amount of characters in game and want to give them all the best possible weapons, you’ll be playing for quite some time to do so.

So what else is new in this Ultimate Edition? New modes also are included in Ultimate, one of which I really enjoyed, titled Gauntlet Mode and has five of your officers trying to make it through multiple and much more difficult stages. Even the beginning stages will be quite challenging, but being able to use your improved characters from Story Mode will help if you’ve taken the time to do so. Vice versa as well, as you could play Gauntlet Mode to quickly improve characters for you to use in Story Mode if you wish, which I found the quickest way to level up multiple characters.

Each stage is multiple battlefields that you’ll need to explore and is covered by a fog on the map, forcing you to explore each pathway and end of the map on your own to discover treasure chests and Dragon Portals, one of which is the hidden escape from the battlefield and will grant you victory. The treasure chests can also contain special crafting items that can be used to create extremely powerful weapons, more so than simply fusing weapons.

Gauntlet Mode also boasts different formations you can arrange your party in on the fly. These vary from Attack, Defense, and Search, each of which will have to be used properly in situations to guarantee success. There is even another layer of strategy involved with formations, as each character will have a special Formation Skill that can be used and linked with other officers for some really powerful abilities. This mode can also be played via split screen co-op or even online with a friend which is a nice touch and I would use quite often (as there was no one online playing each time I was reviewing to test it out).

Lastly, your camp in Gauntlet Mode also houses as mysterious woman that will offer you special quests that can range from finding special officers, defeating X amount of foes, and more. Once quests are complete, and you can see your progress on each simply by talking to her, you can claim your special reward. Many of these quests will require many playthroughs of levels, allowing for a lot of replayability. This woman will also allow you to summon famous officers if you’ve proven yourself worthy and recruit them into your party. The fact that I was able to progress my main characters regardless of playing in Story or Gauntlet Mode made it a lot more appealing, and while Gauntlet Mode might seem a little less involved that some of the main missions, it was a relief to simply relax and defeat as many enemies as I could in these missions instead every now and then.

Duel Mode simply puts 3 officers of your choosing against 3 opponent officers. At its core it’s a very simply and dumbed down fighting game but there’s the card battle element that’s also included to give it a unique twist. Before battle you’ll choose four cards (that you’ve unlocked and collected by playing Story Mode) that will give you special bonuses in battle. These cards are categorized into Attack, Support, Impede, and Special and each individual card has a set amount of Battle Points associated with it.

To use a card that has 3 Battle Points for example, you’ll have to wait until your Battle Points counter during fighting reaches 3, then you’ll be able to use it, thus taking 3 away from your tally. Some cards are simple attacks while others will give you larger bonuses and will have a higher cost to use. To be completely honest, the fighting mechanics between officers isn’t really all that engaging and even with this card mechanic attached, I lost interest in Duel Mode quickly. There is a Survival Mode within Duel Mode as well, seeing how many trio’s of officers you can defeat before losing all of your characters; life bars that don’t regenerate, but again, it’s not all that engaging. You are able to play this mode online, so maybe once the community for the game grows it will be a little more enticing.

Lastly is the inclusion of Musou Battlefields Mode, allowing for limitless replay value to Ultimate, as you can customize any of the missions found in the game completely and upload it online for others to play. Pick your favorite mission and completely customize it to how you would want to play it. Change the officers, enemies, quotes in battle, and even enemy types. My first go at making a mission changed all of my allies into tigers and all of the enemies into wolves. Each of the enemy officers was Ryu and I customized his speech bubbles into ridiculous meme sayings. It’s completely up to you how you want to change things and I foresee there will be some really good missions created online for you to download, but probably also some very out of left field like mine was as well.

I was quite intrigued to see what Ultimate would be able to do now that it’s on the Xbox One, boasting a lot more power from last generation consoles. While the game’s website boasts a new graphic fidelity and high detail, I was less than impressed. Sure there are many enemies on screen at once, more than the Xbox 360 version, but it never really feels overwhelming and all that crowded, even in the most hectic areas. To put it into perspective, Dead Rising 3 seemed to have MANY more zombies on screen at once, all of which looked unique, whereas in Ultimate, heavy enemy packs will pop in and disappear quickly when defeated, also with every enemy looking exactly the same and quite poor overall. There are only a handful of enemy models you’ll every fight in the game and when you fight a pack of them, each of them look exactly the same as the ones beside it. World textures don’t look like they’re in high resolution, as inspecting walls or ground up close looks ugly at best. There are a lot of clipping issues, even in cutscenes, and numerous times I was standing in a mob of enemies on the map, only for all of them to appear a second or two later after popping into view.

There’s also no English language support, only subtitles. Sure some purists will prefer this, but having to make sure to reach text boxes that appear during missions can be difficult when there’s so much happening on screen at once. While there are a handful of cutscenes, the majority of the story plays out in text with the characters simply drawn on screen. While I liked the overall storyline and purpose, the subplots were difficult to follow, not only because of all the exotic names, but all of it was done through non-English dialogue.

All of that being said, I kept wanting to play missions after one another. Ultimate offers lots of new features for Warriors fans but the inclusion of a few recognizable characters allowed for new players like me to enjoy it as well (and yes, my team mainly consisted of Ryu and Kasumi). With multiple modes to be played (though Duel Mode fell short) and a decent weapon crafting system, and a relationship system, I felt I always had something to work towards, even after the main story missions were complete. Even if you weren’t the biggest Dynasty Warriors fan like myself, you might find yourself surprised by Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate as I kept wanting to play ‘one more mission’ and leveling the plethora of characters.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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