Shadow Warrior 3 is a fast-paced first person shooter game. Developed by Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital, the sequel to Shadow Warrior 2. The world of first-person shooters is plentiful, which makes it significantly more challenging for games to stand out in the genre. The Shadow Warrior series has become known for its fast-paced action and constant barrage of jokes. Flying Wild Hog released the first in their trilogy of games in 2013, but just how much growth is evident now that we’ve arrived at Shadow Warrior 3?
Shadow Warrior 3 follows the series protagonist Lo Wang on his mission to kill an ancient dragon that he may or may not be responsible for releasing. Players take control of Lo Wang as he works with Orochi Zilla to put the dragon back in its eternal prison. The story itself does not feel too deep or extremely interesting, unfortunately. I never found myself really caring about Lo, Zilla, or any of the other characters that make an appearance. The characters felt really shallow, with the story concerning them feeling secondary to the gameplay loop. The cutscenes were essentially just filler between the different levels, none of the gameplay actually had any real bearing on the story itself. The story seemed to be missing all of the meat, instead of presenting a predictable paint-by-numbers for the FPS genre. You have to fight your way through hordes of enemies in order to stop the dragon you’ve unleashed, but the reason for what you are doing doesn’t matter nearly as much as actually doing. Thankfully, the main focus of the game is the gameplay loop which helps make up for the surface-level story.
The gameplay of Shadow Warrior 3 is relatively straightforward. You travel through levels at lightning-quick speeds using your arsenal of weapons and abilities to defeat hordes of demons. The gameplay loop, along with the extreme amount of gore, does feel reminiscent of the DOOM franchise. There are even finishing moves that you can use to gruesomely defeat your enemies. While the finishing moves are cool, the animations are limited and can feel awfully repetitive.
The weapons themselves also feel just ok to use, with the katana being my go-to instead of any of the guns. The guns themselves are hip-fired and were somewhat difficult to aim, which is why I defaulted to using my grappling hook to move myself to enemies to cut them down with my katana. The upgrades to weapons and abilities are also pretty limited, which was a little disappointing. Each weapon only has 3 upgrades, which mostly just add elemental damage or, in the case of the shotgun, unlimited fire. The elemental damage, like the finishers, seems cool at first, but the use of only three elements (fire, ice, and electricity) severely limits the options. The katana does use all three elements though, which is most of the reason why I preferred it over the gun options.
While some of the aspects of the gameplay like limited use of the elements are disappointing to me, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. The high-energy combat is really exciting almost the entire time, with locations that look different enough to keep the encounters interesting. The levels are linear, but the speed and traversal using wall running and grappling hooks makes zipping along and killing demons incredibly fun. Sure, the guns aren’t the best to use out of all the shooters I have played, but blasting the heads off of demons is still extremely satisfying. The time spent running around trying to survive and kill as many demons as possible is both enjoyable and, from time to time, quite challenging. The game may only take about 10 hours to complete, but there is definitely plenty of replay value thanks to the fun of the core gameplay mechanics.
Visually, Shadow Warrior 3 is also quite nice to look at, with a very well-done art style that brings the locations and characters to life. It doesn’t have the refinement that many next-gen games have, but that doesn’t mean the art style of the different locations doesn’t look good. There are several locations that are very stylized and colorful, which really helps keep the gameplay from feeling too repetitive. I do wish the enemy models were more varied, but I overall they still looked pretty dang good.
My biggest complaint about Shadow Warrior 3 is the writing. For a series that has been around for as long as Shadow Warrior has, it is a shame that the writing does not seem to have evolved at all. I can count the number of times the jokes in the game made me laugh, or even chuckle, on one hand. I’m usually one to laugh at immature and childish jokes, but the ones in Shadow Warrior 3 just felt plain bad. One of the jokes is calling an animal a “furry little ball sack”, and that was one of the more creative ones. The other issue with the writing stems from the fact that Shadow Warrior 3 is a game by a German studio about Asian characters. While the lead characters are performed by Asian-American, the writing at times really pushes the line towards being overly stereotypical. One of the more common refrains is the number of wang jokes, making a play on the character’s name while also making lazy and outdated dick jokes. It’s supposed to be funny because the main character’s name also means dick, get it? No? Well, maybe a flood of constant wang jokes will make it more obvious. All of that comes together to feels like a game that would have released in the 2000s, and I am incredibly disappointing the writing couldn’t grow with the times as the gameplay has.
Overall, Shadow Warrior 3 feels like a teenager that still has a bit of maturing to do. Humor that tries to be edgy overshadows the fun gameplay, and the lack of an intriguing story does not help either. I would not necessarily say Shadow Warrior 3 is a bad game, but it was disappointing that I often felt like I was playing through a 15-year-old’s video game fantasy. Still, there are moments of fun to be had, and I hope Shadow Warriors 4 if it happens, can fix some of the writing mistakes to make the enjoyable experience of actually playing the game worth the time.
Shadow Warrior 3 releases March 1st 2022 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Shadow Warrior 3
Overall, Shadow Warrior 3 feels like a teenager that still has a bit of maturing to do. Humor that tries to be edgy overshadows the fun gameplay, and the lack of an intriguing story does not help either. I would not necessarily say Shadow Warrior 3 is a bad game, but it was disappointing that I often felt like I was playing through a 15-year-old’s video game fantasy. Still, there are moments of fun to be had, and I hope Shadow Warriors 4, if it happens, can fix some of the writing mistakes to make the enjoyable experience of actually playing the game worth the time.