Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate for Xbox One is the latest in Japanese publisher Koei Tecmo's long-running series of Warriors games. The Orochi sub-series in particular merges characters from Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, with this Ultimate release throwing in guest characters from Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, and other games for good measure. You don't need to be familiar with any of these series to enjoy the game, but they instill it with both history and variety.
Throw in 2-player split-screen and online multi-player, hundreds of characters, dozens of original and user-tweaked levels, and you have a hack-and-slash game with incredible scope and nearly endless playtime. Read on for our comprehensive review with exclusive game play video and screenshots!
Beware the serpent
Warriors Orochi 3 takes place in the past during China's Three Kingdoms period and Japan's feudal era. The story starts with a bang, as a gigantic seven-headed hydra starts attacking the various castles and human settlements spread across both nations. Impossibly large and strong, the hydra manages to defeat the era's finest warriors. Meanwhile, an army of demons moves in to crush the remnants of humanity.
Thus starts the tutorial mission, with the last defenders of humankind engaged in a suicide mission against the hydra and its demonic accomplices. One or two players will have to move from checkpoint to checkpoint, defeating enemy commanders in order to open gates and continue their assault on the monster. You'll man a pair of ballistas and attempt to bring the beast down, but to no avail.
When all hope seems lost, the remaining survivors find themselves rescued by Princess Kaguya, a figure from Japanese folklore. Using her powers, she offers to take the warriors back in time to battles in which the demon forces defeated their allies. By winning those battles, the Warriors can rescue fallen allies and change history. And once their forces have been sufficiently augmented with fallen warriors, they will unleash another assault on the hydra.
The first, doomed battle against the hydra is confusing and not much fun. But fight through it and you'll be rewarded for your troubles with a lengthy and engaging campaign. I do mean lengthy – the campaign consists of over 175 levels spread across 8 chapters. Each level can be played on four different difficulties. You'll actually want to move up through the top three difficulties in order to unlock rewards such as top-tier weapons for each warrior.
As you complete levels and rescue new Warriors, you'll be able to travel to new levels based on those Warriors' memories. Sometimes, new information or the results of a previous battle will unlock a "Redux" version of an existing level. Experiencing those battles from multiple perspectives and achieving new outcomes is one of many clever ways the game makes good on its time traveling premise.
The levels themselves take place in a variety of environments borrowed from past Warriors games, new ones, and even levels from the guest character's games such as Ninja Gaiden's futuristic city. None of them really shows off the Xbox One's graphical power, although the game runs better than on Xbox 360 and has improved draw distance and lighting.
Simple but fun fighting
Like Dead Rising 3, Warriors Orochi's main claim to fame is throwing hundreds of characters on-screen at once. If you're looking for large scale hack-and-slash action, this game won't disappoint. You'll lead teams of AI fighters against hundreds or thousands of enemies on each stage. Each battle has specific objectives, such as rescuing key warriors and/or eliminating target demons.
You can fight your way through many battles by simply mashing on the X button to perform normal attack combos, killing hordes of grunts left and right. But the combat offers a bit more depth for those who want it. You have a second attack button for more complex combos; a special attack button that consumes Musou (special move energy); a unique and deadly Musou move for each fighter; and the ability to guard and strafe.
During battle, you actually control a team of three warriors. Each level has a recommended team, but you can also choose your own. Tap the triggers to switch between teammates, giving injured fighters time to rest. Call your teammates to your side by tapping down on the d-pad, or allow them to fight on their own with the rest of the AI forces.
Hitting up on the d-pad summons your horse. Hop on it to cross large distances in a hurry. You can even fight on horseback, knocking over enemies and slashing away with your weapons.
Outside of battle
Between missions, you'll return to the Warriors' base camp. The camp grows as you reach campaign milestones, gaining new buildings and features.
Initially, players simply have access to the blacksmith. He buys and sells new weapons for each Warrior. You can also combine weapons, imbuing one with the attributes of another. A weapon can have up to eight attributes, including bonuses like extending its reach, longer combo time, fire damage, increased EXP gain, and more.
Warriors even gain compatibility with individual weapons the more they use them, increasing damage. Considering that your team will eventually consist of up to 145 characters, that's a lot of potential micromanagement. But it's rewarding and surprisingly intuitive.
Eventually the camp will gain a tea house. Here the Warriors can engage in tea parties, increasing their compatibility with one another. This causes your AI teammates to help you out in battle more. You can also just walk around talking to the other characters, learning about their stories and sometimes unlocking new missions with the information they provide.
These laid-back RPG elements provide a nice counterbalance to the large scale, frenetic battles. Just be sure to save your progress after doing stuff in the base. Pause, go to Options, and there you'll find the Save option hidden away.
If you don't want to go it alone during the campaign, you can sign in a second player after choosing a level. When playing locally, the second player gets to choose his or her own team of three Warriors from the main player's pool. The game will switch to split-screen during the level, allowing both players to stick together or divide and conquer. Sadly, the second local player can't use her own profile or earn Achievements.
You can also host or join an online game. However, the matchmaking isn't very good and I don't think many players choose to play online. Shame that Warriors Orochi 3 doesn't take advantage of Peggle 2-style matchmaking. It would be great to continue playing solo until the matchmaking finds a second player.
Teaming up against hordes of enemies essentially doubles the fun, just like in a beat-em-up. Both players can even perform the devastating True Musou Burst maneuver, combining the special attacks of all six of their Warriors.
Mission failure and loading times
The co-op fun drops a notch when either player dies. If that happens, both players fail the level. Dying mid-level kicks players back to the main menu, forcing them to go back to base and then reselect the level. Both steps take way too long to load.
Still, you can do two things to lessen the stress of failing a level. One, always try to switch to another character on your team before you die. That way, the injured Warrior can heal in the background. Two, you can actually create a mid-battle save at any point. Just pause and choose to Save. Then if you fail, you can load straight back into the battle save instead of going to the camp and starting over.
Modes and Achievements
Besides the massive campaign, Ultimate offers several extra modes:
- Gauntlet allows players to take a team of five warriors (instead of three) into special stages with unique enemies and rewards.
- Musou Battlefields is where you'll edit stages and download other players' stages. The browsing interface is slow and clumsy, but it's still a cool feature.
- Duels lets you battle against another player or the AI in closed arenas.
Each of these modes has its own unique Achievements, contributing to the game's total of 44. This game also offers lots of time-limited Challenges. Complete them to earn extra items in the main game.
Many of the Achievements are secret, but they tend to involve clearing all stages, unlocking all characters, and getting the best weapons for every character. It will take hundreds of hours to do everything, making Ultimate a dream for grinders and a nightmare for completionists in a hurry.
The Warriors series has a reputation for having way too many games that are far too similar to one another. But Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate is a great entry point. The time-traveling premise is compelling and stands on its own, whether or not you know your Dynasty from your Samurai Warriors. The campaign structure is great, giving players a nearly endless supply of stages and characters to unlock. You'd almost need to be a time traveler to see it all!
Few games provide this much content and playtime. If you have a taste for fighting large hordes of enemies and can overlook a few rough edges, Warriors Orochi 3 will keep you occupied for months to come.