Shadow Warrior 3 is the newest installment in the long-running series developed by Devolver Digital. With an overhaul to movement and a simplistic story, this fast-action FPS will have you zipping around brutalizing demons to save the world from a menacing ancient dragon.
The story picks up right after the end of Shadow Warrior 2 with an ancient dragon apocalypse. Our hero, Lo Wang, has been unsuccessfully attempting to bring it to heel. There are a few minor zigs and zags, but overall that’s it. Stop the dragon. It’s fine, but it feels a bit uninspired. The story is delivered nicely with most dialogue through cut scenes or running between fights. This is great to keep you in the action, but the story just isn’t that great. The voice acting was fine, but the writing feels flat. Shadow Warrior games have always been silly, but the humor feels forced and generic.
The combat is definitely the best part of the game, but even that has some issues. The weapon pool is fairly small with a few passive upgrades as you progress. These weapons look really cool, but they don’t feel that impactful when shooting enemies. Same with melee combat. You swing the sword, but you don’t really feel the weight of it which is needed with melee FPS combat.
Ammo is very restricted per gun, which forces you to switch between guns quite often. This is countered by ammo drops from melee kills. Given how fluid switching between guns and melee is, the combat feels very satisfying with the constant weapon changes.
There’s an added grapple hook that assists with traversal, escaping demons, and pulling yourself towards enemies. Along with that, Wang is able to wall run on certain surfaces. With both of these tools, the combat feels very agile and fluid. Most of the arenas have grapple points and wall-run patches to make combat more exciting. Each arena is always littered with explosive barrels and environmental traps, some of which are pretty freaking brutal.
There’s no denying that the combat feels similar to DOOM Eternal with arena-based encounters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but, unlike DOOM, there’s not much for secrets or exploration. Level designs are linear with a platforming hallway to an arena encounter. Rinse and repeat. There are a few secrets here and there, but don’t expect to be rewarded too much for checking every corner.
The rewards you do get are in the form of upgrade points for your character and weapons. For a Shadow Warrior game, I expected more from the character upgrades. You get chi blast, but that’s pretty much it for powers. The coolest upgrade was elemental attacks to sword attacks. It adds much-needed flavor to otherwise mediocre melee combat.
The environments are mostly ruined Chinese temple landscapes that work very well as a backdrop for the carnage. Admittedly, it’s a bit odd piling up demon bodies by the truckload in such a bright, almost happy setting, but in the end, it works.
The music does a great job of setting the mood. It transitions from upbeat modern classical Chinese instruments to heavy metal when the fighting is the thickest. The change from a light-hearted, albeit vulgar joking with Lo Wang to pulverizing hordes of enemies is smooth and well-executed.
While the combat loop and action can be quite fun, there, unfortunately, isn’t that much of it. The main campaign will take 4 to 6 hours depending on how quickly you zip through the levels. With minimal collectibles and no new game plus, there’s not a lot of replayability or reasons to go back to revisit the campaign.
This could have been combated by adding a co-op mode as they did with the previous game. I understand fans may feel this is a step backward, and that is justified. However, the level designs and combat in SW3 aren’t conducive to being played in co-op. Either way, no multiplayer or co-op gameplay means even less replayability, and with such a short campaign, it’s hard to recommend this at full price.
What’s the verdict? Shadow Warrior 3 doesn’t fuss around with new gaming innovations. If you’re looking for a fast-paced frantic demon-slaying adventure, then, by all means, check it out. If you’re looking for a good story, a fresh lengthy FPS experience, replayability, or even a familiar revisit to the series, you’re not going to find much of that here.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Shadow Warrior 3 for PC provided by Devolver Digital.