For all the excitement that features lists, screenshots and Molyneux-esque pitches conjure in us, hype and all it stands for ultimately makes a game less enjoyable. A game can never live up to the game that we come up with in our heads before we break the seal/open the envelope/crack the case on a brand new game experience. In my ongoing attempt to get you really interested in Way of the Samurai 3
(coming this October to both PS3 and Xbox360), there's a good chance you guys will get caught up in my own personal hype-field and go into the game with romantic notions about the game you're in store for. Since I'm very much not on anyone's marketing payroll, it only seems fair to go over a few things that could very well turn you off from the whole endeavor. No whining to me about buyer's regret, OK?!
I've played through the first two installments, and have been reading bits and pieces here and there on the new game. Again, I don't have hands on access to Way of the Samurai 3, but there are elements I can assume, infer and speculate upon. Thusly, here are a few things that may turn you off about Way of the Samurai.
screen from WOTS2 The fighting system gets a bit arcadey
Way of the Samurai does a lot of things right in its fighting game. To keep the pace steady, swords have a heat factor by which they will steadily break if too much tension is put on them during attacks or blocking. Further, using the left stick to apply push or pull makes the fighting feel like a very serious and deliberate affair.
But, for all the positive things this game does with regards to emulating the reasonable factors of sword fighting, it ends up playing out a little bit like an old school arcade beat-em up. For example, Way of the Samurai 1 and 2 totally have ridiculous airjuggle moves. Further, there are some swords whose move sets are bordering on super powers, such as the naginata/long sword. The first few hard strike moves involve twirling your weapon like a helicopter blade. Total and complete hax, and every major "boss" in the games have been masters at some great overpowered and not very believable move. In itself, maybe not the worst thing. But be sure to consider the next point, too...
screen from WOTS3 No continues
If you lose all your health, your samurai dies. That's it. Seriously. You're done. Game Over screen, score tally, any swords on your person are forfeit, start over from the first day. Noob.
One of the things that drew me to the game at first was this idea of consequence. The first game was most unforgiving in this. When you came to a point where you wanted to end your session and save, your game is saved and you are shuffled unceremoniously out to the main screen. If you want to play that session again, you can start up again, but your campaign data is completely cleared. The end effect is a game where in you are unable to just load up your previous save and try things from a different approach: there is no previous save.
For better or worse, this hard save system was softened up in the second installment. I'm not sure how this works in 3, but I believe the same basic principals will be in place: If you die, you lose the swords you have on you (not the ones you've saved in your sword safe, though!) and are expected to start from day 1. While I think it adds a layer of gravity to the game, I can see how this may offend your sensibilities. If it does, you'll love this next one...
wallpaper available in the gallery Built for the replay
Way of the Samurai is a story about a few days at a location that is beset by warring samurai clans fitting society and each other as the days of the samurai come to a close. What the game wants you to do is try to find your own, choose-your-adventure book path through the world. What this ends up meaning, however, is that you'll probably be retreading a number of familiar elements during any given playthrough.
As much as I enjoyed WotS 2, I don't *really* want to go through the process of attempting to understand a little mute girl as she tries to describe what's wrong with a man writhing in pain outside of the doctor's office, only to realize that its just a bad case of gas (yes really [-_-] ) Yet, that one vignette plays out through a number of playthroughs, in almost exactly the same way.
If you really got a kick out of the movie Groundhogs Day, this is going to be great for you. For the impatient and easily bored, you may find yourself not even wanting to get back into it with these repeated scenes. Especially considering how they're going to play out...
screen from WOTS2 Overall presentation
If there's one place where the series usually fails, its in the presentation. Make no mistake folks, this is not a AAA title. There will be a few bland textures. There will be clipping and collision wonkiness. There will be bad dubs and the occasional ridiculous story point. The series has touched on ideas of servitude, adultery, betrayal, family honor and other fairly serious subject matter. On the other hand, you're asked to help a pink robe wearing gaijin samurai with writing a haiku to express his feelings to the local restaurant girl. Its not like having potty humor thrown into Hamlet or anything, but if you're looking for a completely straightfaced samurai story, you wont quite find it here.
Further, while the sound design is generally on point with really nice sword clashes and ambient sound, there's a tendency toward jazzy/tech-funk dramatic mixes of some of the games themes, mostly during fights. I think it actually works quite well, but I also thought the sound design on Madworld was near perfect, tonally.
COME ON! But, its Way of the Samurai 3!!!!!
While there's definitely a good slice more to pick at, these are about as bad as it gets for Way of the Samurai. The import of the third installment could change a lot of the nuance, but I've got no assessment of that to offer. While I can say that Way of the Samurai 3 scored a respectable 31/40 (8-7-8-8) from Famitsu
, there's still a healthy amount of gray area to be surprised by when the North American release hits this October.
So how about it? Have I crushed your hype buzz or are you still pretty excited about this one?