Way of the Samurai 3 Review

Welcome to Way of the Samurai 3. This is the saga of a nameless samurai in a war-torn land, searching for his destiny. While this does indeed stay true to the previous two in the series, it unfortunately also stays true to them. If you love ????? (chanbara, or sword fighting samurai movies full of cliches) then this may appeal to you. If you are looking for anything original, an experience that is more than a few hours long, or graphics fit for an iPhone, this is not the game to play.

Do you really only have two toes?

The prior titles were sub-par for their times, both graphically and story-wise, and WOTS3 is clearly more of the same. The game's environment is somewhat of a sandbox, with different areas you can walk or fast travel to with a total playing area about the size of Bloodstone in Fable 2. None of the different map sections take more than 240 seconds to completely explore, so the one benefit of this is that the game is reasonably fast to complete. Once. Of course, there are 21 different endings, so if you want to fully explore everything the game has to offer, you have to go through it 21 different times.

There are a few mechanics that can lend to interesting gameplay, if only the entire experience were not so... poor. The first of these is diplomacy. You can go through the game without fighting much (a very small amount is unavoidable), or you can go through balls to the wall and kill everyone you come across. Most players will likely choose something of a middle ground, and that is generally the most rewarding path from an in-game experience as well. However, you can interrupt the many cut-scenes by attacking the speaker or by humbling yourself before them, both of which have effects that roll forward and change the story (did I mention there were 21 endings?)

You earn or lose Samurai Points based on your behavior. When you are honorable, you earn more points, and when you are dishonorable, you lose points. This is pretty straightforward, and at the end of the game you get a title based on the decisions you made along the way. There are achievements for earning all of the titles to encourage exploring the various choices you can make.

There are 21 different endings... I mean seriously...

While not as crazy as Borderlands, there are hundreds of weapon pieces you can find throughout the game, above and beyond the weapons that are laying around. You can combine these in various combinations to make custom weapons, and then add custom moves to the weapon to create something that fits your playing style. This is actually very well done and easy to use, although it doesn't really impact the combat since there are so many weapons already (including green onions for some reason).

New to the WOTS series is the concept of companions, and there are quite a few to choose from. The male ones tend to be combat oriented, and the female tend to be more... companionable. As in, come home with you, sleep with you, steal/break your stuff, and then get upset when you see other women. There is also Osada (the whore) who you can cut the clothes off of - thereby publicly shaming her - after which she will sleep with you. Speaking of women, the tutorial in the game is largely encompassed in dialogue with an incredibly obsequious and giggling mindless drone of a woman who is totally aware of how awesome you are and makes sure every other sentence that you know she is honored that you even look at her. Stereotype much? Check.

There are also a few jobs to partake in, also known as side quests. When I found my first job all I could think of was Oblivion and all the cool dungeons that had nothing to do with the story but were incredibly fun. My very first job started about 3 minutes into the game, and was given to me by a sweet 80-year-old lady. It turns out she was looting dead bodies in a nearby field and her favorite set of underwear fell off. Um, really? My first job is to find the used underwear in a field of rotting corpses. I regret to say that I am not kidding. Plus, if you find them, ravens come and try to steal them from you, which provided a train of thought I will leave as an exercise for the student.

Everyone can be killed, even the guy who saves your game.

The music is very typical of the genre and while not outstanding, it also is not bad. The background noises can be distractingly loud however, especially insects. The voice acting is quite stereotypical and poorly done overall, especially the female characters - will the giggling ever stop?

So the game is small and fast and as such the achievements should be pretty easy, right? Well, if you are going to go through the game 21 times to get that particular achievement, then yes, all the others will pretty much fall into place. There are achievements for learning all the skills, playing on each difficulty level (these do not stack, by the way), killing people, collecting weapons, etc. Nothing overly original or difficult, but a couple of them are time consuming such as obtain 10,000 Samurai Points. But if you plan on going through the game 21 times, 10,000 points is quite attainable. Note that if you love the game and own an NTSC-J system, you can get 2000 achievement points in it by purchasing the Japanese version of the game.

Overall, this is quite the forgettable game. Morrowind on the original Xbox had better graphics, and Two Worlds had a better story. The branching dialogue tree does redeem it somewhat, and if you are a fan of the series then it might be worth picking up at a discount somewhere. One advantage of the small maps and simplistic graphics is that not once did it break on me. I found no glitches, never fell out of the map, and the game never locked up. And perhaps that is the best way to end this review.

If you enjoy Samurai cinema, you will probably enjoy the soundtrack. If not, it takes two button clicks to get to the options screen where you can disable all of the sound you want.

For a game where almost everyone wears sandals, the developers probably should have taken an anatomy class. The only reason it isn't a zero is that the frame rate was fine. Horrible graphics.

The game is easy to play, a simple hack and slash control scheme mixed with a leveling system and dialogue tree. The camera is easily controlled, but I can't see anyone but the most hardcore being interested enough in the shallow story to replay this 21 times.

The menus are fairly straightforward, although not particularly appealing visually. Nothing is broken and thankfully the developers did not try to force a pointless multiplayer mode on gamers. Still, three hours to finish the game is embarrassing, and you will not be playing it twice.

Five play throughs will unlock around 700 points or so, with the other 300 trickling in as you complete the game another sixteen times. Perhaps the best achievements are Zero Kill and Zero Blunt Attack, which are somewhat challenging but still possible.

Appealing to a very select group of gamers, perhaps akin to the number of people who listen to both Italian opera and Euronymous. Everyone else should probably pass.

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