Way of the Samurai 3 is an odd mix of both Open World and Simulator were you can spend your days exploring, fighting or working for one of two factions. The closest comparison I can give to this game has to be the Dead Rising series as both work on a day system where each one leads to unique events as well as both having a bunch of interconnected areas that serve as the world. We play as a nameless and fully customizable character that awakens wounded and battered in the aftermath of a pretty big battle. Right off the bat we are approached by two villagers and are introduced to this games dialogue system where you can either pick from one of three responses or unsheathe your sword which can lead to either them running in fear or a fight. This title does not hold your hand at all and from the start you can go whatever direction you want and learning as you go.
You can lead a peaceful life and find a partner to settle down with you or you can go up to a faction leader, murder him and get paid for doing nothing but letting your bandit like faction do their thing. Way of the Samurai 3 offers much freedom to the player with noticeable consequences and effects which makes this a highly replayable title. The lack of guidance really harms the experience for the first few hours as you don’t know how to fight, you don’t know much about what is going on or even what to do. To learn how to fight you must visit the dojo in a location called “Guard Gate” where you are given basic instructions on how defend yourself. Unfortunately dialogue in this game is a absolute pain since every time you ask a question you are returned to the beginning of the conversation and must make your way back to the questions branch. Kind of a hard thing to describe so I’ll use an example. Imagine asking your wife or friend how her day was and she goes on and on with no end in sight. Finally you get to ask a question but if you want to ask another one you will have to listen to how her day was all over again.
All that just to learn how to properly fight and learning about some skills such as jump kicking or throwing weapons at enemies that you will likely not find out about by yourself. The lack of handholding is fine but some form of manual for the basic things such as these would have helped greatly. As for the dialogue there isn’t much of it, for better or worse. Outside of the tutorial characters that teach you about the game there is usually only small tidbits text to read so that annoying problem mentioned a while ago becomes rare. This is really not the type of game you get for a compelling story or interesting characters. The story is interesting in that neither of the two factions are benevolent but aside from that nothing of interest is to be found. The few unique characters to be found are bland and unmemorable as well. What makes Way of the Samurai 3 interesting is the effect you can have on the world and characters. Whether they bow down at the mere sight of you, run in fear or plot for your death is solely based on you and your actions.
This however is no GTA game. You are punished for random murder or harming an innocent NPC by losing out on some “Samurai Points” that are given out at the end of a playthrough for all your noble actions. Samurai Points unlock new clothing, fighting styles and other goodies so it is in your best interest to not play like a psycho which is easier said than done. The combination of the awkward combat and the NPCs gathering in a small circle to watch a fight make it very easy for your enemy to dodge a blow causing you to kill or injure an innocent and receive a point penalty. Each area and faction of the game has their own opinions of you so you can terrorize one village and be a hero in the next if you so choose. Those two villages are the only ones in the game, the rest of areas are stuff like guard posts or faction strongholds. It’s not a big world by any means and you will have seen every location in no time, especially if you fast travel. What keeps such a small world interesting is all the minor things that can happen the next day that was not there the day before.
Traveling the world is kind of confusing at first as the layout of the lands and where areas lead to feel pretty non-intuitive but with the world being so small you’ll know the layout like the back of your hand sooner rather than later. Fast traveling may take up more of the in game’s day than simply walking there in real time. The environments hold nothing interesting and with the sever lack of character models you will be seeing the same few people over and over again which doesn’t make the prospect of walking to your objective all that attractive. The lack of character modules is one of the major thing that makes this world feel empty especially your first time through when you are wondering which one of these clones are giving out the quests.
Completing quests is the only to gain the respect and the favor of the people your doing them for but none of them are interesting. The first quest you are likely to find and not even realize is the only way to get the villagers to accept you is finding an old ladies underwear. This is not the kind of modern game where items unspeakably glimmer when you approach or you have a waypoint telling you exactly where it is. I’d normally consider that a good thing but finding a pair of randomly generated underwear in a game that is mostly made of different colors of brown is not how I would want to spend my gametime doing. There are much more boring quests to be found such as delivering messages to people seemingly hiding from you and discovering which one of the triplet twins is a thief by waiting for one of them to whistle. Each quest giver has the same two or three quests that they will give out time and time again. It is seemingly designed to give you something to do and a from of making money but get so intolerably boring. One thing that is unnecessary is having to go find a street performer to save and have him talk before letting you save. Minor annoyance that adds humor but an annoyance nonetheless.
Money is used to buy clothing, items and upgrading your weapons. If you have the materials you can even create and name your own weapons as well as choosing one of multiple fighting stances to take when using that sword. Combat is based around stats, hit points and other other RPG aspects so sword play is not all that great as your weapon is either as effective as if it was inflatable toy sword or makes the fight far too easy. It is no doubt a good feeling seeing your weapons becoming more and more effective so be aware the combat is far more RPG centered than action based. You can parry and beat enemies far better equipped than you though the amount of hits they can take make it clear that you are not supposed to beat them. One combat mechanic I found very interesting is the durability meter for weapons. Depending on how much stress a sword is under from too much blocking or hitting it may break leaving you with just the hilt in your hands and your death likely nigh. It keeps you from simply button mashing and makes the fights feel more tactical. This game suffers from a 30fps lock however which really harms the feel of the combat and the overall game unfortunately.
It is a poorly made game with an empty world, uninteresting characters & plot and to top it off that accursed 30 fps lock. Yet it seems to know that it is not all too great and revels in it’s weirdness with beat-boxing pedestrians, catgirl companions and old ladies that have the hots for you. Way of the Samurai has a certain uniqueness with it’s charming weirdness and all of it’s features like being able to attack with the non-lethal blunt end of your sword or just ignore the war entirely and try to get a wife. This is one of those titles that can be is a guilty pleasure which I do want to go and play some more of for some unknown reason. In the end of the day if you are looking for a unique title Way of the Samurai 3 may be one to consider as long as you have quite a bit of patience since it is a slow burner and takes a while for it to click.