One of the interesting things about the Warriors Orochi series is quite how many playable characters each installment has had on the roster. And, of course, this is a number that has only expanded over time.
In fact, the most recent installment at the time of writing, Warriors Orochi 4, scored itself a fairly meaningless Guinness World Record for “most playable characters in a hack-and-slash video game” thanks to its 170 cast members. Warriors Orochi 3 isn’t far behind, though, with a full 145 peeps to take charge of in the Ultimate release of the game.
But when presented with that many playable characters, what exactly do you do with all of them? Are you expected to level them all up? Where do you start? Let’s talk progression!
As anyone who has spent a substantial amount of time with the Warriors series as a whole will tell you, the core appeal of these games is in ongoing character progression. There’s a very action RPG-style loop of gradually levelling up your character, and boosting your power even further with appropriate equipment. And as the series has gone on, more and more influences have been drawn from sources beyond this basic formula, with Warriors Orochi 3 specifically displaying more than a few hints of mechanics from modern mobile RPGs in many place… minus the microtransactions, thankfully.
There are a number of different aspects to progression in Warriors Orochi 3, so let’s look at them a bit at a time. We begin with the simplest and most obvious: each character has an experience level, and on every level up, their stats rise slightly. Experience can be obtained through battle, or “Growth Points” acquired after doing pretty much anything in the game can be cashed in for experience, providing a quick and easy way to bring fresh characters up to speed, or simply to give your favourites a bit of a boost.
Warriors Orochi 3 also incorporates a rather entertaining in-game effect that helps with character levelling — though it’s luck-based as to whether or not you’ll encounter it. As in the other Warriors games over the years, more powerful foes on the battlefield will drop either loot for you to make use of after the battle, or temporary power-ups that last for a short period. Typically, these have allowed you to temporarily double your attack power, defense power or speed, or provide you with infinite Musou power to use on your character-specific special attacks for a short period. But Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate adds another possible power-up to the mix: EXP Fever.
By picking up golden “Scrolls of Enlightenment”, you will enjoy a short period of massively increased experience point gains; rather than simply getting the base experience value for an enemy, all enemies will drop EXP+150 scrolls. If you time picking up the Scroll of Enlightenment for just as you’re wading into a large group of enemies, you can level up at least five or six times in the space of a few seconds. And in the game’s intriguing “Gauntlet” mode — more on that another time — there are a variety of ways to get hold of the EXP Fever effect, with some stages practically raining down experience on you for very little effort.
There’s a reason why Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate specifically is so generous with the experience gain, and it’s because levelling up a character to the cap of 100 is not the end of things. Not by a long shot. Nope; in the proud tradition of many dungeon crawlers, you can “promote” a character who reaches the level cap, returning them to level 1 but providing them with higher base stats. The more times you do this, the more benefits you get — with one of the most noteworthy being Upgrade Stones.
You start receiving these on every level up after a character’s first promotion, and each one allows you to give a specific stat a boost of two points on top of the normal stat growth from levelling. Bonus points from Upgrade Stones also persist into subsequent promotions, so by the time you’ve promoted a character nine times and levelled them to 100 for the last time, it’s very possible to have a completely maxed-out character. It’ll take you a while, but it’s possible!
Levelling isn’t the only way to beef up a character, though. In fact, it’s just the beginning. The next area of progression you’ll probably want to engage with is the weapon system. This is fundamentally fairly similar to the one found in Warriors Orochi and Warriors Orochi 2, with a couple of little twists. The basic concept of how it works is that each character has a single weapon equipped at a time, and this can either be replaced with loot that is acquired in battle, weapons purchased from the blacksmith in your home camp or weapons acquired through “lottery tickets” that characters occasionally provide you with — or it can be upgraded by “fusing” it with other pieces of loot that you find.
Unlike in Warriors Orochi and its sequel, fusing two weapons together doesn’t increase the weapon’s base power, however. Instead, this system focuses entirely on transferring weapon abilities from one weapon to another. These are abilities that attach to a weapon and either provide flat passive bonuses while the weapon is equipped, or provide a chance of various special effects occurring when you make use of the character’s more powerful attacks.
The passive abilities are fairly straightforward — they do things like increase the rate of experience gain or make enemies more likely to drop items. The special effects, meanwhile, are elementally themed, and mostly focus on inflicting additional damage or helpful status effects. The Ice effect, for example, has a chance of completely freezing an opponent hit with a charge attack, leaving them vulnerable for a few seconds, while the Wind effect is similar to the Flash ability from the first two Warriors Orochi games in that it makes your attacks more difficult to block.
Each weapon can have up to eight abilities attached to it, and you can’t replace any of these abilities until the eight slots are full, so choose wisely while you’re first building a weapon. Each slot can then be upgraded multiple times to make the ability in question more effective — as you upgrade the aforementioned Ice ability, for example, it will be more likely to trigger the freezing effect. Damage can be boosted quite considerably with careful use of weapon abilities, so it’s important to review your loot after every battle and keep powering up your favourite character’s weapons.
Weapons have another consideration, too. While you can’t upgrade their base damage by simply fusing them together as in the first two Warriors Orochi games, you can power up a weapon by the character continually wielding it for a long period and defeating lots of enemies with it. This causes a Compatibility bar to grow, and as the bar grows a bonus to the weapon’s base damage is added, up to a cap. When the Compatibility reaches maximum, it won’t get any stronger other than through fiddling with the weapon abilities.
Weapons are stratified into distinct tiers, indicated by star ratings between one and five. When you max out the Compatibility of a weapon, it’s probably time to start looking for the next tier up. Assuming you’ve collected enough Gems — the main currency of Warriors Orochi 3 — you’ll be able to create enough sockets in the new weapon and attach all of your old weapon’s abilities to the new one, so you won’t lose out on anything; you’ll just get stronger. Whether or not you’ll find weapons with high star ratings is somewhat luck-related, though; weapon drops in battle tend to be rather low-quality early in the game, and the stock in the camp’s blacksmith only upgrades with the completion of major milestones in the game’s various modes.
There are also a few special weapons available of various types; these often require Crystals, which are a secondary currency sometimes dropped when you defeat enemy officers. As Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate opens, you have the potential to purchase some silly “comedy” weapons that were originally downloadable content for the older versions of the game, but as you progress further into the game and meet various conditions, you’ll have the opportunity to acquire a character’s Mystic weapon as well as craft the powerful “X” weapons. The latter is considered to be the ultimate goal of character development, since its maximum compatibility bonus is the highest of all weapons in the game.
The next piece of the progression puzzle is Proficiency, which has had a bit of a revamp since the first two Warriors Orochi games. Rather than being a simple, gradual increase to a character’s capabilities based on number of kills rather than experience gained, in Warriors Orochi 3 the Proficiency system ties in with a reimagining of the Abilities system from its two predecessors. Abilities are no longer unlocked globally by fulfilling various conditions with different characters during battle; instead, your party of three characters enjoys passive bonuses (now known as Skills) according to the specific characters you have chosen. Some characters might increase the speed or life gauge capacity of the party; others might boost the abilities of a particular type of warriors; others still might affect drop rates. If you’re struggling to pick a party to play as, choosing a lineup of Skills you like is a good way to make a decision.
Each character has a single, fixed Skill as the game starts, and making use of this character in battle gradually builds up their Proficiency in that Skill, working through the ranks from G (the lowest) through A, to the maximum S. Skills are stackable for increased bonuses if you want to focus on boosting your capabilities in a particular area, but you have the flexibility to build your team however you see fit based on the Skills you want to add to your party.
Skills tie in with the Promotion system, too; upon promoting a character for the first time, they unlock a second Skill, immediately making them an even more valuable addition to a party — particularly if you also take the time to level up the Proficiency in this second Skill, too. With a full party of three characters that have been promoted at least once, that’s six Skills in play at once, providing you nearly as much flexibility as the earlier games’ Abilities system offered. The difference here is that you need to think about the lineup of characters in the party to take advantage of these Skills, rather than just setting your Abilities and letting everyone in the game make use of them!
The final area of progression you may want to pay attention to is the matter of the bonds between your characters. Each character has a bond rating with every other character in the game, and this is reflected as a meter that gradually increases through three distinct “tiers” at various milestones. The meter can be increased in a few ways. Firstly, characters being in the same party as one another for successful battles will raise their bonds with one another — and this is important, because higher bonds means both a greater likelihood that a secondary character will jump in for a support attack if the one under your control takes damage.
Secondly, you can raise bonds between the three characters in your party and other characters who play a role in the stage by completing simple “missions” for them. These usually take a similar format to the Ability unlock conditions in the previous two Warriors Orochi games — “defeat [x] enemies without your health dropping below [y]%” or “defeat [x] enemies within [y] minutes of the start of the battle”, for example — but their rewards are an increase in friendship between your three party members and the mission giver. Be warned, though; failing a mission causes the bond level to drop slightly.
Thirdly, you can increase the bonds between the character you choose to control in the between-missions camp screen — who can be any of the playable characters you’ve unlocked — and the rest of the cast you have unlocked by throwing a party for them at the camp’s teahouse. These parties cost Gems to throw and there are several available levels of revelry to take advantage of. It’s important to note that parties are unable to “level up” a bond to its next tier, however; in order to reach a new milestone in two characters’ relationships, they must either fight alongside one another for a mission to push them over the edge, or one must successfully complete a mission for the other.
Bonds are important for several reasons; notably in terms of the overall game structure, unlocking a number of missions in the main story mode requires you to develop bonds between a specific group of characters in order to trigger a conversation between them. This provides incentive to experiment with different party formations and characters that you control rather than simply committing to a “main” at the beginning of the game and concentrating on maxing them out. Of course, you can still do that if you want to — the non-linear nature of the story mode, which we’ll talk more about another time, means that you can easily go back and clean up loose ends later — but if you want to make your way through the game reasonably “efficiently”, it’s good to mix things up a bit in the early hours, then commit to your favourites later in the game.
There are other aspects to progression that tie in with the parts of the game beyond story mode, but we’ll save that for another time. Suffice to say, as noted last time, if you do nothing but play through the story of Warriors Orochi 3, you’ll still have a hell of a lot of interesting things to do, characters to experiment with and progression to enjoy — after all, bear in mind that everything we’ve talked about above applies to all 145 characters if you want to be a true completionist about all this.
As with so many other Warriors games, the story is just the beginning. The beginning of a very long journey — one that we’ll continue to check in on now and again as I explore this gigantic game in detail. Until next time!
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