The Butterfly Effect is a theory about how the smallest of actions can have major repercussions down the line. It's often used in RPGs, but never to the same extreme as Way of the Samurai 3.
This open world RPG takes just over four hours to complete, but it has been designed to be replayed multiple times. You play as a masterless samurai who's caught between three warring clans during the unification of Japan.
As a free agent, you can choose to dedicate yourself entirely to one leader, or play them all off against each other. There are 21 different endings to discover, depending on who you side with, who you kill and how you behave.
Acquire doesn't pigeonhole your decisions into basic 'good' or 'evil'. Instead, decisions are tied in with the samurai code of honour. If you're seen scavenging a dirty vegetable from the floor or you surrender too quickly to a rival, your reputation will be lowered. On the other hand, if you stand up for the poor and helpless or don't back down in a fight, you may get an entirely different ending.
Unusually for a game about a professional killer, you don't actually have to slay your rivals. Instead, you can turn your sword over and use the blunt edge to knock them out. The combos and timing for each of the lethal and non-lethal styles are markedly different and feel authentic.
Each weapon also has several different attack stances which modify the combos further.
The world is deliberately compact, consisting of three major castles and a few towns and country roads in between. Yet despite the game's relatively small area, there's still a lack of detail.
It looks slightly more realistic than the Dynasty Warriors series, but not by much. There's an awfully short draw distance, and at night it can be ridiculously hard to see where you're going.
Without much signposting, and very few in-game hints to help you decide on a specific quest line, it's very easy to get lost. The HUD really could have done with a mini-map, because having to access it from the pause menu can be a chore.
The English voice-acting is dire as well - we'd recommend playing the game in its original Japanese. The script's good for a laugh in either, with the consistently and inexplicably rude pensioners being a particular highlight.
Most of the characters are recognisably unique, which lends a pleasing touch of period authenticity, but the effect is spoiled by rough animation and the occasional weird fracture of the fourth wall when someone announces "I hope you don't unsheathe your sword using the RB button!"
Way of the Samurai's freedom is also its biggest problem. There's so little to guide you along a specific storyline or to help you choose an agenda, that the experience can be vague and unsatisfying. To get the most out of this game, you have to be willing to create your own adventure.
Offbeat fun, but lacks focus
- Tons of replay value
- Likeable characters and quirky humour
- Authentic fighting styles
- Vague missions and storyline
- Low-fidelity environments