Way of the Samurai 3 is the first of the series to make it to the Xbox 360 console, promising greatly improved graphics and a revisit to the same premise that held our interest in the previous titles. You play a lone samurai with the ability to make every decision as to your fate. Join the side of good or the opposing evil force, or just jump between the two and take everyone down. Explore at your own pace, help folks out with their tasks or just converse with them, or even take to the battlefield; the world is your oyster in a game that should be highly re-playable due to its 15 different possible endings.
The premise of the game sounds great. We all love games with actions that affect the end result after all, games that help us to feel tied to the plot as it unfurls before us. Unfortunately though, while the idea is certainly sound, the previous Way of the Samurai games have never quite been able to pull it off. The gameplay has always felt a bit too structured, and the plotlines too bland. While this, the third game, takes strides to attempt to counter the problems of its predecessors, it still falls down in some key areas.
There’s no lack of killing in Way of the Samurai 3, with pretty much everyone you encounter, aside from children, fair game for a fight. In fact, midway through the majority of conversations you will have the opportunity for a tussle. The people that you kill will remain dead for the rest of the game, but some roles will instantly be assumed by another, very similar character. Kill the leader of a clan or organisation though, and you just might find yourself taking command of it. Unfortunately this doesn’t actually give you much reward, but it’s still nice to see your subjects bow as you walk past them.
For a game with so many options as to what you can do, you would expect there to be a lot to explore. This isn’t the case however, with only a handful of places to look around, all of them quickly scouted. The ability to only have one active task at a time won’t help in the limited exploration that you can enjoy; there is no stumbling across a task and completing it there and then if your hands are already full. This will often leave you feeling like you’re running endless errands if you choose a less violent path, or just in trouble with guards all of the time if you go for another route.
Despite the limitations to what could be a truly fantastic game, there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had. You won’t tire quickly of changing your strategy to see what the end outcome will be like, the decisions that you make will make a difference after all. It’s just a shame that you will so quickly exhaust new places to discover.