He’s baaack. Lo Wang graces us again with his quirky delivery, phallic humor, and remarkable combat skills in Shadow Warrior 3. Despite being the 3rd entry into the rebooted Shadow Warrior series, there’s even more guts and gore than ever before. Yet somehow, the developers at Flying Wild Hog have learned their lessons from the previous entries and have narrowed down the purpose of this franchise: fast-paced fun and adrenaline-pumping combat.
Given that it’s been years since Shadow Warrior 2, the events of the existing narrative may have escaped your mind. Luckily, Lo Wang gives us a monologue recapping the primary details of the previous titles. So rather than having exposition shoved into your face, you get immersed into his recollection of events. Going through his memories, you’re warped into a tutorial of sorts as you relive what Wang had to experience. While the story itself isn’t necessarily captivating, the presentation and combat immediately caught my attention.
Within the intro sequence, the first major spectacle to set the scene is the sight of a colossal dragon flying in the sky. As it roams, you’re trying to find a way to slay this beast. But it isn’t easy as you must traverse through the rugged and dangerous mountain range. If the dragon’s details don’t wow you, the environmental landscape should. The immersion is astounding, from the immense and varied textures to the superb shadows and lighting.
To complement the pleasing visuals are the Japanese cultural aesthetics woven throughout the world. In addition to the gorgeous landscapes are enemies and architecture that are themed off of feudalism and Japanese folklorism. Furthermore, each enemy displays prominent influence from popular yokai. Yet, regardless of a historical imprint on the aesthetics, modernity is also woven in with technology and dialogue. There may be a contrast between these two themes, but it works in the game’s favor, giving it an imaginative and fantastic atmosphere.
If you’re not spending your moments staring at the level design, you’ll be running through the terrain, learning the basics of movement and combat. Compared to the previous entry, combat variety is far simpler, focusing on a select few weapons and techniques. Still, despite the significant decrease in weapon variety, there’s enough diversity between each weapon to make them feel distinct and enjoyable to use. The simplicity of the combat allows for nimble movement and rapid fights.
This aspect of simplicity carries over to the gameplay and story once you’re past the tutorial. Flying Wild Hog reduced the complexities of the previous entry by a significant margin, as Shadow Warrior 3 goes back to its roots as a more linear game. Rather than side quests taking up a bulk of your time, you’re enjoying a wild and chaotic narrative that spans from 8 – 12 hours.
Just like its predecessors, the narrative isn’t a strong point. The story mainly exists to enable Lo Wang’s immature humor, usually including a phallic joke. Even with the childish nature of the jokes, I must profess that I found myself chuckling quite a bit. However, it does lose a bit of steam and becomes flaccid over time, especially as the game nears its climax. The voice actors perform strongly with their dialogue, even if some of the lines are mediocre. Unfortunately, there’s no real substance to the story, especially as most of it is predictable and cheesy.
Regardless, the real highlight is action. Not only is the combat swift, but it feels smooth and intense. Each gunshot feels powerful, and the finishers you can perform are gory and gruesome. In fact, finishers are the best way to kill as using them grants you access to certain boons. Outside of the guns, you have a sword that can slice through enemies. Swinging is fun, but I found the sword’s impact lackluster compared to the firearms.
Alongside your holster of weapons, you have access to a pushback ability and other perks, all of which can be upgraded. These upgrade chains are easy to use and stack, aiding you in your fights. Most fights occur in a spacious battle zone with waves of enemies running towards you. If you’re hoping to solely rely on combat for these hordes, it can quickly become overwhelming.
That’s why it’s essential to understand the importance of nimble movement. You can double jump, air dash, wall-run, and even use a grappling hook to get around these zones, making for a gratifying experience. You’ll need to as health and ammo packs are scattered around, and it’s easy to run out of both. To add even more spice to the mix, the combat arenas include hazardous structures that can be activated to help level the playing field.
As the quantity of weapons is small, there are moments when combat can feel repetitive. Luckily, new enemies continually get introduced, adding more variety to how you approach fights. Moreover, each enemy has something worth providing if they’re killed with a fatality, such as an eyeball that auto-attacks enemies or a drill to run right through hordes. Despite the regular inclusion of new enemies, there were, unfortunately, a few moments where I felt there was more lull than action. A few fights are slog fests, slowing down the moments of intensity by a notable margin.
Shadow Warrior 3 has one goal in mind, providing players with an enjoyable and intense experience of slashing and shooting through hordes of enemies. Admittedly, the scope does become a bit too narrow-minded at times, as you sacrifice the potential for solid storytelling, pacing, and novelty. Nevertheless, I can’t deny just how fun it was to brutalize the waves of monsters and become the biggest dick I could ever be.
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