Way of the Samurai 3
Occasionally a game will come around that makes you angry. Whether it’s due to a troublesome camera leading to a few cheap and unavoidable deaths or a simple case of falling short of the hype, anyone with even a moderate background in gaming will likely have flown into a rage, cursed at the screen and sworn off a game only to go back to it a few moments later. Way of the Samurai 3 is not such a game, instead serving to frustrate with some truly awful design choices that go much further than either of the aforementioned issues. The many flaws –and we do mean many – end up destroying any potential the title may have had, which is a shame given the developer’s promise to deliver a choice-based RPG where your actions influence the land and people around you. Despite achieving this in a most simplistic form, the overall package is so abhorrent it’s likely to leave a sour taste in your mouth long after you’ve picked up the shattered remains of what was once your much-loved 360 controller.
Developed by Acquire (the same folks responsible for the hit-and-miss Tenchu series) Way of the Samurai 3 begins in feudal Japan, more specifically in the splintered lands of fictional Amana. Taking the reigns of a nameless samurai wounded in battle, the game presents the option of joining either the Fujimori Clan or the Ouka Clan, who are embroiled in a bitter war of attrition. Your hero – or villain, should you choose to run about with your sword unsheathed – can garner favour with the leaders of each side by performing rudimentary jobs, largely in the form of fetch quests and tests of reflexes that will push your patience to the very limit. The game offers no motivation to continue playing, let alone perform some mundane tasks that are zero fun and woefully broken.
One early task has you gutting a fish with your blade, the problem arising from poor hit detection and a tendency for the character to float away from the spot where he can actually strike the accursed thing. One task in particular that repeats itself involves cutting vegetables thrown at you by a villager. How nice of him to start throwing anvils at your noggin, taking away a third of your health if you’ve timed it badly courtesy of an irritating input delay. Another job has you looking for a granny’s smelly old underwear while being harassed by ravenous crows – need we go on? Granted, there isn’t a fundamental need for you to complete each and every task ahead of you but the world is so barren and uninteresting there really isn’t much to do otherwise. You are welcome to travel Amana and speak with the denizens but conversations are primarily text based and never consist of anything worth your time, enough of which will have been wasted due to the constant aimless wandering.
This brings us to Way of the Samurai 3’s most heinous and debilitating flaw – the game suffers from a severe lack of direction; meaning most of your time will be spent traipsing the land in the hopes of stumbling into an activity. There is a map to consult in the main menu but all too often waypoints lead only to pointless exchanges or something equally unhelpful. The land of Amana is broken into numerous small areas but many of them consist of twisting paths leading to multiple exits, so it can be absolutely infuriating having to make do without a simple cursor or mini-map to guide you. It’s not uncommon to spend hours with the game and accomplish nothing and even though there are multiple ways to deal with the characters, the consequences are far from exciting and usually consist of a simple fight or having a character run in fear. Not only will you be left questioning what exactly has been accomplished, you’ll likely be asking what you’ve done to deserve such a time-consuming penance.
The presentation fares little better, sporting bland textures, a day/night cycle that coats the world with fogging unseen since the days of the PSOne and repetition of the same badly rendered character models, some of which move like the missing link seemingly in search of a public loo. Animations are stiff, the voice acting is indifferent and there’s a distinctly last-gen feel overall. Granted, some of the movement and conversations have been developed with Japanese humour in mind but this does little to crack a smile as you trudge about looking for something worthwhile to do. Way of the Samurai 3 doesn’t look completely horrendous all of the time, rather it fatigues you with overly-similar areas which look identical at night, when you can barely see further than three feet ahead.
Now here comes the even-handed journalistic bit. Acquire has implemented a customisation system that develops over the course of the game allowing you to upgrade weapons, gain skill attributes and increase your own samurai rating. The game also offers different stances for the weapons, though these need only be mastered for farming achievement points and adds little the actual way the game is played. Hammering on the attack button with an occasional block is as far as you need to delve to succeed in most battles, though some prove more challenging than expected so travelling with a few items comes recommended. The combat is merely passable and achieves its function; just don’t expect it to get the adrenaline pumping as assuming the role of a samurai should.
There are over twenty different endings, you can draw your blade during cutscenes – though this option doesn’t add to the game in any way – and there’s an ‘apologise’ button presiding over the left trigger which is, quite frankly, hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Tear the residents apart or get on all fours and beg to them – oh, how far gaming has come. The option to play as a homicidal maniac is most certainly available, as all NPC’s seem to be killable even if laying waste to them doesn’t bring you any closer to finding a purpose. It’s easy to see everything the game has to offer in a matter of a few hours even if the main quest diverges depending on which polarised decisions you make. The game is meant to encourage multiple play-throughs but it’s hard to imagine anyone but the most masochistic of gamers wanting to see the various outcomes.
A victim of its own hyperbole, Way of the Samurai 3 is a missed opportunity that fails to make feudal Japan even the least bit interesting or worth exploring. A controversial score for a game that no doubt has its avid fan-base chomping at the bit, we recommend that everyone else save their money, even if they find the game at a knockdown price in a bargain bin. Yes, there is a market for low-rent games based on feudal Japan and we’ll likely hear from fans of the genre how a game like this requires patience and respect as an eastern piece of entertainment. Unfortunately, Way of the Samurai 3 left us bored, uninspired and desperate to play something or, rather, anything else. The game fails to live up to even the most basic standard of quality, offering an archaic play style that falls short of even the most charmless of current-gen titles. Still, at least the box art is nice.
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