One of the biggest criticisms of Shadow Warrior 2 was the more modern inclusions: procedurally generated levels and a nod towards looter shooters. In Shadow Warrior 3, the developers are scrapping that and returning to a more classical, linear Lo Wang experience.
New gameplay of Shadow Warrior 3 was shown off during the Devolver not-E3 showcase recently, which you can rewatch below. But prior to that, local press were also given a look at a 15 minute segment of gameplay from a Shadow Warrior 3 mission. Some of the main enemies were shown off in the trailer below, but the longer gameplay video was an opportunity to see the broader level design, traversal mechanics, and enemy AI.
In the mission, Lo Wang starts by asking his mentor about a magical mask that he’s carrying around. The mentor gets sucked into another dimension of sorts — some “kind of sanctuary” with demons, he warns — and it’s up to Lo Wang to sort it out.
The mission from that point on is largely wallrunning, grappling, shooting and slicing your way through. There’s a strong Charlie’s Angels vibe to some of the cut-scenes, with a lot of tri-panelling and comic timing. In the video, the player runs into a new enemy type every minute or so, each of which get their own short intro, Borderlands 3 style.
The whole level, which Flying Wild Hog describes as “Neo-Feudal Japan”, has a strong vibrant look that’s reminiscent of Sekiro with the digital vibrance slider set to 100 percent.
According to the developers, the “Way to Motoko” mission will be one of the earlier levels in Shadow Warrior 3. An interesting feature is that every major enemy you kill — like the Oni Hanma brute, the bizarre Slinky Jakku that constantly runs away while firing circular saws or the tri-sword wielding Hattori — will drop a special weapon that you can use for about a minute.
The frequency of the larger fights was so much that I asked Flying Wild Hog’s game designer, Pawel Kowaelwski, whether players could expect a similar frequency when Shadow Warrior 3 releases next year. “The game is going to have multiple boss fights and they will be greater than in any Shadow Warrior game before,” he said over email.
“In terms of frequency of running into new enemy types, it won’t be as frequent as shown in our gameplay walkthrough. Some of the enemies that you saw will be introduced in different sections of the game, thus some of the encounter configurations will be rearranged in the final game.”
Kowaelwski added that the upgrade system is going to be much more streamlined, although the final design is still being locked in.
“We’re not focusing solely on the scale of the whole encounter with the boss, but also turning our attention to designing the battles in a way that challenge the Player’s familiarity with all of the weapons and abilities obtained up to that particular point in the game. “We want to keep the upgrade system streamlined and intuitive so that it won’t drive the player’s attention away from the action,” he said.
With upgrades sounding more like a deliberate, linear form of progression, I wanted to know how much players would have to slog through the game before unlocking all the basics. Kowaelwski said players would unlock everything they needed by the first half of the game, with the second half focusing more on giving players opportunities to combine all the tools as they desired.
“Early in the game Players will unlock the Chi-Blast (a palm strike working on close-to-medium distance) and a Grappling Hook that aids traversal throughout the levels and adds an extra dimension to the combat,” Kowaelwski said. “The remaining equipment will be unlocked throughout the journey. Our plan is to ensure all mandatory equipment (weapons and abilities) will be acquired during the first half of the campaign, with more focus on upgrading obtained weapons and abilities throughout the remaining hours of the journey.”
Shadow Warrior 3 comes out on all major platforms sometime in 2021. There’s some more gameplay info on the Steam page.