Review: Shadow Warrior 3 – This Ninja Should Have Stayed Hidden
Flying Wild Hog’s latest installation of Shadow Warrior has been on my radar for a while. With the decision of having Shadow Warrior 3 drop the co-op loot based gameplay of Shadow Warrior 2 I was nervous getting into this crazy vibrant world for the third time. Was this departure, from what worked so well with it’s last game, the right call for this franchise or should this ninja have been sent back to the Dojo for some more lessons?
Right off the bat this game is crazy. I don’t think I ever beat Shadow Warrior 2 and if I did the end of the story was completely lost on me. The game opens with Wang, the protagonist, clearly having issues over the last games outcome. Wang claims to have completely lost his mojo as he monologues in his underwear while playing with handmade dolls of previous characters, all while making constant dick jokes. This should have been my first hint as to how the rest of the game would be but I was still pretty confident in Flying Wild Hog’s ability to make a fun experience.
After the nonsensical opening when the gameplay started I was pretty damn ready to slice open some yōkai and get this ball rolling. The game controls well and the swordplay is still very satisfying. The lack of loot based weapons was a huge letdown for me but giving you the ability to upgrade your weapons was a plus. Also shooting demons in the face and watching their heads get blown away never really gets old. Not to spoil anything: the tutorial is you gunning down dozens of enemies while platforming down the back of a giant immortal dragon and that is pretty freaking cool.
The game basically falters after the tutorial. Yes the gameplay is fast, yes the platforming requires quick reflexes (sometimes) but the game still needs more work. The game is unabashedly a doom clone. Hyper-fast gun-play with heavy metal blasting in your headset? Check. The exact generic weapons that upgrade how you would assume (plus one unique but somehow useless gun)? Check. Platforming with a new dash mechanic that also comes in handy in combat? What about giving your character a grappling hook just because its the hottest thing in modern gaming right now? Check and mate.
This is not to say that the developers were not aware of this. They reference the BFG from Doom and even make a joke about how every modern game gives you a grappling hook just to stay relevant. These were probably two of my favorite jokes in the game but that isn’t saying much since the ludicrous amount of fart and dick jokes wore off in the first several minutes. Not to mention the studio boasts that is a game that is for a more mature audience than its predecessors.
Wrong Way of the Ninja
Looking passed the obvious choice to make the game a lessor version of Doom, the game isn’t too bad. When it works it works pretty well. I had some pretty epic kills and close calls during my combat encounters (of which there are plenty). The game basically just runs you from arena to arena destroying everything in your path. The swordplay is satisfying when it works, however the gun-play can fall flat. I never really felt that I was damaging certain enemies despite them getting covered in blood and gore. They were just bullet sponges and sometimes wouldn’t even acknowledge me unloading clip after clip into them. The majority of the temporary weapons you get from using a finishing move on a yōkai are worth mentioning. They definitely add to the fun of the game although once you are introduced to a certain endgame demon you will most likely be saving your finisher for them so you can use their extremely overpowered weapon of mass destruction.
I do have to say the game looks pretty. There are very vibrate colors and the art style is unique. The Asian inspired art and architecture found throughout Shadow Warrior 3 were stunning. There was one part where the vistas and setting sun wowed me so much I just stopped playing and enjoyed the view as I spun the camera around. Some of the enemy designs are pretty cool too and the Jack-in-the-Box one was extremely unsettling and twisted (which is a good thing). I am also running the game at the highest graphical settings offered.
Some of the arenas are fun with plenty of grapple points to latch to and some crazy hazards you can trigger to take out large amounts of enemies at once. Those arenas are few and far between and to get to them you have to do some platforming. Speaking of, there were several times I was pretty excited to do the next platforming sequence that looked challenging just to be met with a cut scene that starts mid jump showing Wang do a flip or basically do exactly what you were about to do just in a third person perspective. These completely took me out of the moment and trust me there are PLENTY of cut scenes in this game. I thought to myself “Maybe they couldn’t figure out the best way to show these in first person” but then during the last mission (no spoilers) they finally have a cutscene in first person! I was audibly pissed about this and was even more confused by this decision by the developers.
Shadow Warrior 3 isn’t without its bugs either. I had some demons clip into walls and floors but never to the point I couldn’t kill them to progress. Sometimes the grappling hook wouldn’t latch on to enemies at all like it claimed. Other times while using the grappling hook in an arena it would completely shoot me off the map or directly into a trap. There were also several times my mouse click wouldn’t register and I would be frantically clicking trying to shoot the demon that’s about to bite my face off. This problem forced me to use a controller for the majority of my experience which isn’t ideal while playing a game on PC.
I also have no idea how much damage any given enemy attack was doing. Yes you have a health bar and regain health from killing yōkai or getting pickups but sometimes it seemed like my health went from full to 1hp with little to no explanation as to why, from where or how an enemy that barely did damage before with the same attack can basically one hit kill you.
One cardinal sin this game commits, and one of my biggest pet peeves in gaming, is the game will penalize you for being too fast or too good at times. This happens during platforming sequences while characters are talking to each other. Sometimes the dialog gets cut off abruptly if you complete a sequence faster than intended. Not that I cared too much about what was being said, as the story is still pretty lost on me, but it’s just so annoying when this happens. I do have to credit Flying Wild Hog on the fact that if you die during a scene there is no repeated dialogue during any of your attempts so you aren’t forced to hear the same voice lines over and over again.
This game was delayed once and I am shocked that it was not delayed again. Knowing and loving Devolver Digital as a publisher and being a pretty big fan of this franchise I am left scratching my head at the decisions made here.
There is so much more I can say about Shadow Warrior 3 but won’t. I know times have been tough and developing a game during a pandemic must be extremely difficult. For that exact reason I don’t think anyone would blame Flying Wild Hog for delaying this game one more time instead of rushing it out. I just can’t understand why they took the departure from the previous game’s awesome grind and ability to play with friends. After rolling credits on Shadow Warrior 3 (at just under 6 hours) I let out a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to play more of this game alone. I will keep hoping they decide to move ahead with co-op so I can play this with friends in some kind of wave based challenge mode.
Shadow Warrior 3 is a huge letdown for me. After many gamers seriously enjoyed the previous installment it seems Flying Wild Hog made a gamble that didn’t pay off. They instead tried to recreate a different game (one that has defined this genre) and honestly I would recommend playing Doom for your first, or even second time, before purchasing this. It did have some half-decent moments but they are completely overshadowed by a lackluster story and so many relentless dick jokes that wouldn’t even be funny to a teenage boy. Sure this game can be pretty but at the moment I would not recommend it to anyone unless it gets heavily patched or is on sale, considering the game it blatantly steals from is significantly cheaper.