Oftentimes, I find myself asking questions while playing a video game. No, they don't involve the meaning of life or something similarly significant. They're more along the lines of "What time is it now?" and "Should I take a break?" The answer is always "Just after I beat this stage," and it gets swept under the rug for at least a few more hours. It's entirely possible that this entry in the Warriors franchise will have you asking questions like "Do I still have a job?" and "What day is it?"
Weeks could be spent just working through every character to see how he works in every situation.
The story in Warriors Orochi 3 is very minimal. In fact, think of it as merely an excuse to cram as many heroes into a game as possible. The goal is to stop the existence-destroying Hydra and will involve time-traveling, inter-dimensional warfare, and hundreds of thousands of broken bodies being hurtled into the air. That's all you'll care to know as you get to work unlocking an unprecedented 132 characters over the course of seventy stages. Yes, we're all aware of the old adage "While it sounds good on paper . . .," but this game delivers.
For one, not only does this game succeed at being a bigger game than its predecessors, it succeeds at being a better one as well. The first two games had one thing in common: the heroes of the Three Kingdoms felt like they didn't really belong, aside from maybe Lu Bu. While their move-sets were more than adequate for unifying China, they just couldn't cut it when dealing with demons from another world. In this game, however, almost everyone feels like he could stand alongside anyone else. There are a few exceptions, such as Himoko still being ridiculous and some characters losing notable moves, but when the purpose of these games is to become overpowered I see little reason to complain. Weeks could be spent just working through every character to see how he works in every situation. It's a dream game for those of us out there who love exploring the nuances behind mechanics and balance.
Success in Warriors Orochi has always been a team effort, as you're allowed three team-members to tag among during the chaos of battle. Those not currently fighting will replenish their health and musou gauges. The benefits of having two readily accessible allies are obvious. Players can switch characters to cancel out of a move, summon an ally for a deadly attack, and build power over time for a true trinity musou. This devastating move slows time to a crawl, giving your team ample opportunity to slash through many adversities. When the trinity gauge empties, all affected enemies are summoned together for a spectacular finishing move. Aside from the great damage, these moves are necessary for acquiring crystals, which can be used towards purchasing the most powerful weapons.
Experience levels are a merely okay method of strengthening your character. What matters most is the weapon in his hands. There are five tiers and they can be outfitted with up to eight skills. For example, a slower character like Xiahou Ba will find it necessary to attain the agility skill, since it will quicken his swings. His mighty sword will definitely benefit from the brawn skill. Also, when his charge attacks connect, the bolt skill can cause lightning to strike from the heavens to take out nearby individuals. Finding the best skill combination is essential. Late in the game, you'll also start discovering rare skills. These are the kind that you should seek out if you wish to break the game over you knee.
However, just because you've reached the point that you can summon a maelstrom every time you cough doesn't mean the game has become too easy. The Chaos difficulty level is no joke, because even the lowliest of peons is actively seeking your demise and all it takes is a few lucky hits. Also, while this is a strange suggestion, you could always purposefully limit your abilities. It's not like you need Red Hare to spirit you to every objective or your best character to do all of the grunt work. Though if you're like me, you tend to seek a greater challenge when there isn't much else to do in a game, and with Warriors Orochi 3 that won't be happening anytime soon.
For those of you out there who believe character development is more than just getting stats really high, there are plenty of opportunities for warriors to interact with one another. As I mentioned early, there's not much of a story going on, so some battles seem entirely focused around a handful of characters as they work their problems out. These heroes can share bonds with one another, and through building them up you'll access additional dialogue in camp that can either be amusing or insightful. Strong bonds also make for strong allies in battle, leading to more shared musou attacks and other nice but ultimately unnecessary occurrences.
One of the new and very early features is the Musou Battlefield mode. Here you can actually edit pre-existing stages with your own rules or choice of officers. Other minor events, such as when a particular officer speaks, can also be changed. I figured this mode would be a goofy curiosity, and some time spent with it confirms as much. While it's amusing to make every enemy officer your least favorite character or change the voices around so everyone is whining like Xiaoqiao, it doesn't really have a major effect on the battle. Actually I am selling this mode a little short, as there are meaningful ways to change everything, such as including time limits or tinkering with the strength of the enemy soldiers. Still, don't be surprised if the levels you download feature epic final battles with Zhang Jiao or some other nonsense.
My experience with fighting multi-headed serpent demons is a bit weak, so maybe I'm not who should be criticizing, but there are a few instances where you must take control of a turret to destroy the Hydra's many heads. These are, in a word, awful. They essentially boil down to using the weak attack to wear down the Hydra and then use the special attack to destroy it. They hurt the pacing of the battle and don't offer anything in the way of challenge or benefit to the player. I'm not expecting a weapon-filled giant piñata, but anything to make such a mundane event tolerable couldn't hurt.
While I'm complaining, this game suffers from some laughable pop-in. I'm aware this isn't really new to the series, but I'm not a fan of the horses and officers that come out of nowhere. I'll gladly lose ten or twenty soldiers on screen if it means I'd be able to reliably track the much more dangerous officers. Considering this game is based on a relatively newer engine, I can't fault it too much. Maybe next time around the engine could be revised so that the most immediate threats are always visible. I really wish 60 fps was more common than it is in this game as well. Then again the alternative could always be crippling slowdown, and I'd definitely prefer to avoid that.
Really, this is hardly the game where problems actually matter. For the most part, anyone who picks up Warriors Orochi 3 is going to be too busy being overwhelmed by its awesomeness to worry about the very few things it does wrong. Basically, once you get this game you will refuse to do anything else while the rest of your gaming library and possibly your well-being suffer for it. If you're the type who prefers to continuously discuss games rather than play them, then you'd do well to steer clear of this one. Also - just so I don't come off as a pusher, if you feel like you need a twelve-step program just to quit playing some games, then definitely do not pick up Warriors Orochi 3. No game is worth becoming a statistic over.