Running the Gauntlet in Warriors Orochi 3

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One of the most interesting modes in Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate Definitive Edition (and indeed earlier versions of Warriors Orochi 3 from the original release of Ultimate onwards) is the Gauntlet mode. While the Story mode of Warriors Orochi 3 focuses on, as the name suggests, an accessible narrative-driven experience, the Gauntlet mode is the opposite: it’s a challenging, mechanics-centric mode, and one you’ll want to get to know if you really want to get the most out of the game.

The story setup for Gauntlet mode unfolds separately from the events of the main Warriors Orochi 3 story, and thus is implied to be unfolding in some sort of parallel timeline or dimension. You’re not given a lot of explanation as to what is going on to begin with, but honestly it doesn’t matter all that much; Gauntlet mode is all about clearing stages, levelling up characters and getting lovely, lovely loot — for anyone who has ever doubted that the Warriors series are actually action RPGs rather than button-mashing beat ’em ups, this is the mode to explore.

Warriors Orochi 3 Gauntlet Mode

When you first start Gauntlet mode, you pick a team of five characters from those you have already unlocked via Warriors Orochi 3’s Story mode. From this point on, this team of five represents the only characters you are able to make use of in that run through Gauntlet mode, until you recruit other characters over the course of your adventures. You will often encounter and recruit characters in Gauntlet mode that you’ve seen no sign of in the Story mode, since there’s a heavy degree of randomisation throughout.

Your aim in Gauntlet mode is to make it through four “layers”, each of which consists of a number of stages, each of which is made up of one or more battlefields. Completing stages rewards you with Keystones, which allow you to unlock new stages or make modifications to existing ones, and randomly occurring special events may jack up the difficulty of existing stages while simultaneously increasing their potential rewards.

When you dive into a Gauntlet mode battlefield, your basic objective is simple: find the exit. In order to do this, you’ll need to activate various “Dragon Portals” around the map by standing on them while holding a button; one of them will be revealed as the exit portal, at which point you’ll need to activate it a second time to escape with all your ill-gotten gains intact — though unlike Story mode, if you’re defeated in Gauntlet mode, you at least retain the experience and increases in character bonds from your expedition even if you lose all your loot.

Warriors Orochi 3 Gauntlet Mode

Gauntlet mode’s maps are based on the existing battlefields of the main Warriors Orochi 3 Story mode, but they’re shrouded in a misty miasma, and the map is obscured by fog of war at the start of each stage. As you explore, you’ll reveal the map, including the location of the Dragon Portals and various treasure chests. As you might expect, treasure chests can be a good source of loot — but they also often have traps in them, which might reveal powerful new foes or tip off nearby enemies to your presence.

A key mechanic you’ll need to manage in Gauntlet mode is the miasma level. When you first enter a Gauntlet mode battlefield, enemies will be weak and easily dispatched, even by low-level, poorly equipped characters. As you fight and defeat enemies, though, the miasma becomes thicker, which increases the power level of enemies to a considerable degree. Particularly in the early game before you’ve really beefed up your characters, there’s a real “press your luck” feel to Gauntlet mode, where you have to make some very difficult decisions about whether to risk hunting down any more loot, or simply making a bee-line for the exit.

Thankfully, you can manage the miasma to a certain degree. The miasma thickens near where you’ve been fighting, so simply moving far away on the map can make things a bit easier on yourself. Also, re-activating Dragon Portals that you’ve already opened can also reduce the miasma level — as can some randomly determined treasure chests. The art of Gauntlet mode is having a good handle on your current capabilities, snagging as much loot as you can, then escaping safely before you get overwhelmed by enemies. And you will get overwhelmed; Gauntlet mode features some of the biggest enemy swarms in the whole of Warriors Orochi 3.

Warriors Orochi 3 Gauntlet Mode

Thankfully, you’re not fighting alone in Gauntlet mode; you have a team of five, remember? While you only control one at once, the other four members are also active at all times, and will fight independently of you while (most of the time) sticking near you. They’ll even gain their own experience and proficiency levels while fighting like this, albeit at a slower rate than if you’re actively playing as them.

At any point, you can switch between the five characters in your team to make use of their unique abilities. This is particularly important given Gauntlet mode’s “Formation” mechanic, which not only provides passive bonuses to the entire party according to the formation selected, it also equips each member with a special Formation ability that can be triggered by clicking the right stick; this consumes part of a special Formation gauge and has one of many different effects.

The Formation abilities are where the game feels at its most “action RPG”, because they’re not simply different means of performing spectacular Musou-style attacks. Rather, many of them are supportive in nature; you can debuff enemies, buff allies and even set up healing zones to stand in while you fight. And, just to add yet another layer to the game’s already formidable amount of progression mechanics, these formations level up and become more effective as you use them more.

Warriors Orochi 3 Gauntlet Mode

The party-based gameplay and “co-op with yourself” nature of Gauntlet mode has a very different feel to Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate Definitive Edition’s Story mode, and its freeform nature makes for exciting gameplay. Do you push your luck and try for more treasure? Do you hunt down the famous officers roaming the map in the hope of adding them to your party? Can you safely deal with that huge force guarding that Dragon Portal, or are you best off luring them away and coming back?

One thing you’ll quickly need to get into your head in Gauntlet mode, particularly in your early hours with it, is that this is not a mode where you are expected to play “perfectly”; indeed, it’s nigh-impossible to play perfectly. Characters will fall in battle, but if you keep the survivors safe for long enough, they’ll revive. You will fail to complete stages and lose big piles of loot on more than one occasion, but you’ll still have progressed your characters. And you will make poor strategic choices that, from time to time, will necessitate a hasty retreat rather than a heroic fight — and there’s zero shame in that.

Gauntlet mode is a fantastic contrast to the main Story mode of Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate Definitive Edition, plus a great means of “grinding” characters without feeling like you’re just replaying the same things over and over again. You can jump into it right from your first moments with Warriors Orochi 3, so long as you’re careful — but the mode is solid and substantial enough to also make for excellent endgame content, potentially keeping you busy into perpetuity.

Warriors Orochi 3 Gauntlet Mode

And there’s still yet more than this game offers on top of what we’ve explored over the course of the last couple of pieces. But let’s leave further discussion for another day — I hear the loot calling me once again…

Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate Definitive Edition is available now for PC. Thanks to Koei Tecmo for the review code.

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Pete Davison
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