I have a friend who once told me that, in place of studying for a collegiate Asian history final, he spent his entire weekend plunging himself deeply into several Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games, without any rest, in some demented attempt to ingrain the many factual names and locales into his memory before taking his exam. Days later, after I had verbally abused him for what felt like a sufficient duration, he slyly pulled up his score online, revealing a solid 95%. How did this happen? The only title I had played from either series at the time was Dynasty Warriors 4, which was fun but left little impression on me for being historically accurate. I was planning on taking the same class the following semester for extraneous credits, so I decided to try my hand at his method and see how things panned out: one entire weekend, no respite, all Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Monday came, the test was taken, and marks were posted a week later. I scanned the percentile. 97%. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. Did playing the games simply reinforce what I had learned from the course via a manner that I found intrinsically enjoyable? Or did the bizarre combination of sleep deprivation and occasional exposure to actual elements of Asian warring states account for my insanely lucky results? I just don’t know, nor do I firmly recommend gaming in place of classical studying techniques. However, Tecmo Koei’s decade-and-a-half-year-old franchise, which playfully riffs on Chinese (Dynasty Warriors) and Japanese (Samurai Warriors) pre-industrialized warfare, is important not only for what it miraculously did for me academically, but because of the sharp craftsmanship and attention to detail that developer Omega Force imparts into each installment.
Warriors Orochi is essentially a crossover series that marries (with a heavy dash of far-fetched narratives and gameplay infused) Dynasty Warriors with its spinoff, Samurai Warriors, to create a product that encompasses both Chinese and Japanese combat chronicles, respectfully, in one neatly assembled third-person hack-and-slash package. Warriors Orochi 3 emphasizes that fantastical aspect more than other Musou entries, as is made abundantly clear in the opening stage assault which pits you against a massive Hydra that is literally unable to be defeated. Befriending the magical soothsayer Kagura post-destruction leads to a theoretical press of the reset button, erasing the decimation the Hydra caused and sending you on a redemption quest to re-recruit your army and slay the many-headed monster in round two.
As is the case with many Warriors games, some of your troops are predestined to perish in battle, but the sheer amount of employable personalities, each with their own pros and cons, makes up for the frequency and ease with which they can fall by the wayside. In addition to the standard historically based lineup, there are a number of mentionable Tecmo Koei alumni that make cameo appearances in Warriors Orochi 3. Ayane from Dead or Alive, Joan of Arc from Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War, Achilles from Warriors: Legends of Troy, Nemea from Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll, and most noticeably, Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hayabusa (whose last adventure should be immediately struck from the record) are all worthy additions to the Orochi roster, each bringing a special battlefield ability to the table (Power, Wonder, Speed, etc.) that, when implemented correctly, can periodically boost soldier morale.
Where Warriors Orochi 3 is sometimes unbalanced is in its desultory learning curves and difficulty spikes. Some characters are fundamentally stronger than others, no matter how many growth points are repeatedly attributed to them. Obtaining a feel for assembling the most effective three-general squadrons and hundreds upon hundreds of envoy amalgamations requires a considerable amount of equanimity, something that more casual gamers will certainly lack. However, this frustration might be soothed with Warriors Orochi 3’s many side quests, armament combinations, and RPG factors, especially the latter, which can be profoundly rewarding in particular circumstances. Through various scenarios, generals can engineer close accords with their infantry, spawning lifelike atmospheres around intermission camps and, eventually, a substantial increase in capable cavalry during hectic battleground altercations.
Weapons are an integral part of any Warriors chapter, and the level of customization in Warriors Orochi 3 is highly commendable. Even the apparently lamest of arms can be doubly equipped instantly, making rapid-paced, body-tossing carnage a possibility very early on. Fusing weapons to forge newer, more powerful ones is an adaptable, streamlined process that rarely spawns remorse. Not once did I regret removing myself from a loyal sword, one I had spent hours working with, in order to birth a different one. Every piece of artillery is designed with care, and the thought in mind that it may be all a player possesses to make it through a much more difficult spot than it was intended for. Omega Force has always been good about this, rarely causing gamepads to be slammed down in response to unfairly designed stipulations. The same can’t be said of the multiplayer mode, which never fully clicks, control or concept-wise, like the main campaign. Yet there are dozens of spoils to be attained via co-op (wallpaper, costumes), and building your own contest arenas is a nifty inclusion, giving steady reason to become well-versed in Warriors Orochi 3’s online happenings.
Graphically, Warriors Orochi 3 is nothing spectacular, with the expected palette of standard colors and decently constructed character and weapon models. The absence of an English-language voice track is a pleasant surprise (Tecmo Koei’s dubbing is often atrocious), as a game of this genre and linguistic background needs no such thing in order to comfortably assimilate. It’s not a revolutionary Musou title by any means, but Omega Force’s latest is further evidence that this series is leagues away from becoming stale.