|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Acquire Corp.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Agetec||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Japans Sengoku period was not an enjoyable one; historians also call it the Warring States period for a reason. Natural disasters, excessive taxation, and a feudal system of government combined to put the population on edge and at odds with itself. Competing localities, and competing classes within localities, hacked each other to pieces for more than a century.
Way of the Samurai 3 warps players back in time to this period, and combines a number of great ideas in doing so. The game features the swordfighting of the three-dimensional Zelda games, the open-world gameplay of the Grand Theft Auto series, the multiple endings of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel (remember those?), and even a touch of the emphasis on character stats and alliances that an RPG has. Not everything here works, but enough of it does to make Way of the Samurai 3 a recommended buy.
As the game begins, youre injured, and several men offer to help you. If you go with them, they nurse you back to health and ask you not to cause trouble in their homeland. Youre then released into a fictional land of competing factions called Amana. The territorys feudal lord is named Shuzen. The Fujimori clan is the most powerful one, but it has been forcing the members of the Takatane Village to work too hard and pay too much in taxes, and theyre growing angry. The Ouka Clan, meanwhile, is made up of malcontents whod like to defeat the Fujimori clan and overthrow Shuzen.
As in a Grand Theft Auto game, youre given a wide variety of missions to choose from. But unlike the famous street-crime franchise, Way of the Samurai 3 makes your choices count for something almost all the time. You lose points for wanton murder, and while you dont need to join any particular faction, helping one can turn the others against you. At any point during a cutscene, you can draw your weapon and escalate the situation with the press of a button. You also navigate dialogue trees that affect the game. Depending on how you play your cards, you can see more than 15 different endings.
To encourage players to get the most out of the multiple paths, the game is actually built to be replayed. Your weapons and statistics carry over from game to game, and some bonus features dont unlock until youve played a couple times. Each playthrough lasts only a few hours, but theres always a different choice to make in the games universe. What would happen if you just started killing everything in sight, right off the bat? You can whack almost every character in the game, save children and animals; you can also blunt your attacks so that defeated characters come back. What if you allied with the Ouka instead of the Fujimori? What if you avoided fighting whenever possible? Here you can go ahead and find out. Be careful when you die, though, because if you choose not to save, you start back from the beginning.
Unfortunately, each playthrough is less impressive than the last. There are only eight areas to explore, with loading times between each, and while the games visuals arent awful, they dont do much to hold the players attention. The normal open-world glitches show up (different leaves pop in on the trees periodically), theres not as much detail as one would like, the non-player characters arent too interesting, the facial animation during cutscenes is awful, and theres quite a bit of aliasing. The sound seems a bit outdated, with the characters speaking through text bubbles (the sparse voice acting is an odd mixture of Japanese-sounding grunts and the occasional English line, so you have to read most of your conversations in text bubbles). Its not a fair comparison, given that Grand Theft Auto IV cost around $100 million to make, but it has to be said: Amana is no Liberty City.