Shadow Warrior is one of the oldest franchises in the FPS genre, and one that has gone through several revitalizations over the decades. Flying Wild Hog’s 2013 reboot marked the beginning of something new, and since then, every entry has felt fresh mechanically, and narratively. It’s one series that keeps coming back and continues to not only impress but one that evolves in the right ways. In our Shadow Warrior 3 review, we take a look at what Lo Wang has been up to this time.
Story and Writing
The story takes off where Shadow Warrior 2 ended, with Lo Wang and series antagonist, and his former employer Zilla unleashing a massive dragon that is bringing devastation to the world. Your goal throughout this entry is to take that dragon out somehow, with the help of your returning, and new companions that we won’t give away.
The premise is simple enough, that anyone who hasn’t been keeping up can join in, and still follow along, but for returning fans, there are some touching and conclusive moments for characters you’ve come to like so far since the start of the reboot trilogy.
Something that has always stood out in the series, is how talkative, and expressive Lo Wang is. His crass humor, one-liners, and contextual dialogue managed to make him one of the highlights of the franchise. Shadow Warrior 3 is no different in this regard but manages to improve on this in fascinating ways. There are enough one-liners, that Wang says during combat that it’s only near the end where you hear a repeated one. It’s pretty impressive how much variety there is, and for the most part, his jokes seem to land well.
The first two games, while still being hilarious, still had a generally more serious tone, while Shadow Warrior 3 is far funnier, and something that expands on Wang as a character. Getting your mojo back after unleashing a massive dragon is one of the core themes of the story, and something the writers nailed with different encounters.
I also liked how many scenes there were with side characters, and the voice performances were a standout. Hearing SungWon Cho’s (also known as ProZD on Youtube) take on Zilla was refreshing, and one that fits the character very well.
I do want to point out that the lip-sync during cutscenes isn’t perfect, and something that does make things look a bit weird. It wasn’t immersion-breaking but definitely stood out.
Gameplay and Controls
Unlike Shadow Warrior 2, you have a fixed arsenal of weapons that you acquire throughout the game. Your Katana plays a vital role in combat, and there are plenty of smart ideas implemented in this entry. There is also a Chi attack, which is basically Force Push, with a small cooldown.
You can upgrade Wang’s Chi, health, and certain environmental bonuses with one type of upgrade point, while the other focuses on your arsenal. The Katana allows you to earn ammo by slashing, and health by finishing off enemies. This is why it becomes a big part of combat, and not something secondary. Weapons can be upgraded to improve functionality, add more ammo slots, and elemental damage. You can also earn upgrade points by doing various challenges throughout the game. It’s a good idea to keep track of those in the Challenges sub-menu.
Wang’s movement allows him to double jump, wall-run, and even use a grappling hook. Combat arenas are usually designed in a way to make use of your traversal abilities. Staying in one place is never recommended, and jumping around the arena, switching your weapons, and slashing is constantly encouraged.
As you fight and slash, you’ll fill your “Finisher” meter. This lets you perform special moves on different enemies to earn some kind of gore weapon. These weapons can be used for a limited time, but do insane amounts of damage, or have some incredible area of effect taking on multiple enemies.
I also want to stress how diverse the enemy roster is. Each enemy has a pretty funny introduction, usually with a cutscene. The animations are expressive, and their movement fits in so well with the pace of combat. One particular gore weapon I really liked comes from the Mogura Twins. This weapon lets you essentially grind through hordes of enemies in a pretty nasty move. The finishers are similar to the glory kills in DOOM, but a bit slower, and more detailed.
The general feel of the combat is fast-paced, and one were running out of ammo isn’t a concern. If I was to compare it to recent releases, it’s closer to DOOM 2016 than DOOM Eternal. You can have favorite weapons, and taking out certain enemies requires you to understand the arena, instead of the weapons themselves. The combat is definitely a highlight of our Shadow Warrior 3 review.
As you upgrade your Katana, you’ll unlock the ability to do random elemental attacks. These can freeze enemies, cast lightning to stun those, or set them on fire.
It adds another layer to the already satisfying melee combat, making the Katana an even more integral part of encounters.
There are some bugs though, and something I hope is improved with future patches. During a combat encounter, you can’t progress to the next area until “bigger” enemies have been taken care of. The problem is, sometimes the last enemy will either become stuck in a location that usually isn’t part of the arena, or they won’t follow you.
You have to spend a bit trying to locate that one enemy that somehow got stuck under a platform, or outside the arena while fighting grunts that respawn till you take them out. It’s a bit annoying, and something that definitely causes some frustration.
For fans of the genre, I recommend bumping up the difficulty to hard. I had a great time on Normal, but the game felt a bit too easy at times. On my second playthrough, I enjoyed the game even more at Hard which felt like the appropriate difficulty for returning players.
Even though I recommend playing on Hard, it should be noted that a vast majority of enemy encounters in the latter part of the game are fairly long. These can range anywhere from 5-10 minutes at times, and you’ll have to start over if you die.
Most of the sections in this game where you aren’t fighting yokai will be spent in the fast-paced traversal. Reaching other areas usually means you’ll be wall-running a lot, and talking to your companions along the way. It’s well-paced and makes sense for Wang, who is a Ninja after all. Simply walking to other areas would’ve negatively impacted the general pacing of this game. I’m glad they took this approach, filling in the spaces with some great sightseeing and set-pieces.
While the set-pieces and wall-running sections are a lot of fun, there are some bugs that can be a problem. In one particular instance, jumping on the required platform teleported me into space, and there was nothing I could do but restart the checkpoint. Other times, you won’t land in the exact location you were expecting due to an incoming platform rendering a bit far from where you jumped.
Visuals and Audio
Shadow Warrior 3 is a bright and colorful game. Every single enemy feels distinct, and it looks great seeing so many different characters jumping around the arena until you soak them in the blood of their companions, that is. This visual direction was apparent in the previous entry, but Flying Wild Hog has managed to create some spectacular levels in this one.
There’s a wide variety of environments, too, from mountain top monasteries to dense caves filled with underground towns. Every environmental transition somehow made sense as you navigate this beautifully rendered location. It’s full of ancient imagery, statues, and something I’d like to see even more from the series.
The ever-present gigantic Dragon feels like something out of older God of War titles, and seeing it loom through different locations of your journey is a technical highlight.
I’ve already praised the voice acting, but I’m not too sure about the soundtrack. Recent FPS releases have shown that a memorable soundtrack goes a long way in amplifying combat, and while Shadow Warrior 3 has a decent score, it doesn’t stand out.
It took me around 8 hours to complete the game on Normal, but I can imagine it taking longer at Hard. The excellent pacing is something that will allow for repeated playthroughs. If you were a bit turned off by the looter shooter design of the second entry, this is the perfect title for you. It’s much closer to the original reboot, in not just length, but general design as well.
Shadow Warrior 3 is a fantastic shooter that shows a great sense of focus. Its creative enemy designs, excellent progression, tight pacing, and satisfying combat continue to keep the series fresh. Lo Wang is better than ever and managed to make me laugh more than once. It’s held back by occasional bugs in both combat and traversal, but nothing that was too detrimental to the experience.
You can now pre-order Shadow Warrior 3 on Steam at the following link. The title is also coming to PS Now at launch on 1st March 2022. If you are planning on getting the PC version, we recommend checking out the system requirements.
What did you think of our Shadow Warrior 3 Review? Share what you think about it in the comments below.