Devolver Digital rarely miss when it comes to publishing a good videogame and the streak looks set to continue with Flying Wild Hog’s Shadow Warrior 3. Set some time after the events of Shadow Warrior 2, our protagonist, Lo Wang, accepts the responsibility of destroying an enormous dragon that has been slowly destroying all remnants of Earth. Shadow Warrior 3 focuses strongly towards its gameplay and does not pretend to be anything other than a fast-paced, gruesome and action-packed first-person shooter.
When first starting a new game, the player can choose between three difficulties in Easy, Medium and Hard. This reviewer played on normal and never really hit and major hurdles with the feeling that this is how the game is intended to be played and that easy would be reserved for a more casual gamer.
While there is a platform for a story within Shadow Warrior 3, it’s generally breezed through and used as filler between the frenetic action sequences that players’ have to survive through. In short, Lo Wang teams up with ex-employer and enemy Orochi Zilla in order to take down an ancient dragon. The explanation for the dragon’s existence is briefly told throughout the tutorial, but it is rather short-lived and leaves some questions unanswered.
I consider Shadow Warrior 3 a bit of a “palette cleanser” as a lot of modern games continue pushing the envelope in the size of their world and story where Shadow Warrior 3 sticks to its more tried and tested linear story model. Shadow Warrior 3 keeps the action at an all-time high and allows the player to run through enemies with their trusty katana, alongside an arsenal of weapons that vary from a pistol and shotgun through to an array of much stronger weapons that are unlocked later in the game and offer up limited ammo while dealing a much greater amount of damage.
These weapons are used against quite a number of unique enemies. There are small, weak enemies that can easily be taken down with the katana and farmed for health and ammo, while the stronger enemies take a bit of strategising to defeat and often need a few good hits to fall. The player is cut off from progress at the beginning of each new area and the only way to make it through is defeat all enemies, sometimes having to complete a number of waves before getting through. Those that have played DOOM Eternal will be familiar with this method of level progression and the replenishing of health and ammunition. Focusing on a single enemy at a time and staying on the move is often how I managed my fights, but plans do fall apart quite quickly when things get a little crazy.
While there are a number of weapons that allow an opportunistic player to take shots at a safer distance, there is generally enough enemies in an area to force a close-range combat situation. Finisher orbs can be collected from fallen enemies and when collecting enough the player can perform a finishing move on an enemy that both refills health and ammo, and when performed on a stronger enemy type it provides the player with a unique weapon that is available from that particular fallen enemy. These finishing moves should be used regularly in the more difficult sections of a battle as it assists in clearing the enemies quite quickly, and finisher orbs will regularly drop for enemies to keep it charged.
Close-combat and constant movement is encouraged for players’, with an overwhelming number of enemies that, when slain, can drop ammo and health pick-ups. Remaining agile during combat can often be the difference between life and death and there are a number of abilities at the player’s disposal that assist in that. Lo Wang can slide, double jump, dash and also use a grappling hook that can be used on grappling points that are strewn throughout the world. Lo Wang also has access to a Chi-Blast which forcefully blasts enemies to a safer distance. Between combat sequences Shadow Warrior 3 remains very linear and there are
a number of platforming sequences that the player must complete to advance to the next area, where a lot of the aforementioned abilities need to be used. The movement is extremely smooth and gives players total control of Lo Wang’s maneuverability, however there is very limited options for managing controller sensitivity, which would have been nice to see.
The combat and progression the player will find and collect upgrade orbs that can be assigned to weapons or character abilities. Each weapon has three upgraded slots, the first being an increase in the ammo pouch size and the second and third upgrades being reserved for increased damage output or an additional elemental damage. Character upgrades include increasing Lo Wang’s health, the power of Lo Wang’s Chi-blast, increased amount of resources dropped by fallen foes and an increased damage output when exploding the many elemental barrels within the world.
Shadow Warrior 3 is overflowing with colour, set inside an otherworldly Asian setting full of personality and, in the rare occasions that enemies aren’t being blasted into the stratosphere, it’s nice to stop and smell the roses a bit. The game brings frequent onscreen action and the in-game engine runs it very smoothly during gameplay, however the cutscenes did seem a little janky at times. While the world of Shadow Warrior 3 is very soothing to the eye, the amount of grotesquely gory action sequences is very much a predominant part of gameplay, so I would not recommend this one in front of any kids, though pausing and resuming at any time is very simple.
To complement the world and the combat is the sounds throughout the game which sees a hint of oriental music that takes a background seat to the sound of enemies surrounding the player at any given time. There is so much happening at any given time during combat and each enemy, weapon, sword swing and hit is so satisfying to hear. It is a joy to play through with a decent headset as the sounds just pop.