Splatoon 3 Review

A splattastic — yet quite familiar — experience.

by Marc Magrini

It’s likely that very few people thought Splatoon would become as large of a franchise as it is. Splatoon 3 makes it clear that this ink-filled series is here to stay, refining many elements from previous games while also adding a few of its own. There’s plenty of content for long-time fans and new squids on the block, though some might wonder how substantial all these additions really are. Is Splatoon 3 filled with new features and incredible depth, or are its additions as shallow as a puddle of ink?

Fresh Characters and Trendy Threads

Splatoon-3-Shiver-Start-Screen

Something Splatoon is well-known for is its character. This doesn’t just include actual characters; the many customization options also add to the franchise’s spirit. Fans will be pleased to know that this character returns greatly in Splatoon 3, with better customization options than ever before. Players can equip titles, emotes, and badges to personalize their character and show off their achievements. There are also lockers that players can customize using items found in Story Mode or at the new General Store. In addition to these aesthetic changes, players have more options than ever when it comes to customizing their clothing. Primary abilities can now be swapped and new abilities can be added without a need for sea snails. It’s easier than ever to take advantage of your look in Splatoon 3, and that also means there’s even more incentive to try out plenty of different loadouts.

Of course, plenty of character from Splatoon 3 comes from the characters themselves. A few new shopkeepers offer some varied dialogue and personalities for fans sick of the same faces from Splatoon and Splatoon 2. They won’t be rid of Sheldon and his talkative nature so easily, but it’s still possible to hurry his dialogue along. The main attraction in terms of new characters comes from Deep Cut, this game’s set of idols. The banter they provide is something fans will be familiar with, but they offer some pretty unique personalities (especially in the case of Big Man). They even play a massive role in the game’s story mode, allowing players to get even more attached to them.

Massive Mammalian Adventures

splatoon-3-story-mode-return-of-the-mammalians

The new Story Mode of Splatoon 3, Return of the Mammalians, is the primary method of play for those without the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Thankfully, this mode is more expansive than ever before. It nearly has double the number of levels from the campaigns of Splatoon and Splatoon 2, though it falls short of Octo Expansion’s selection. Even so, many levels take quite a bit of inspiration from the expansion, with some providing alternate objectives outside of reaching the end of a stage. This unfortunately means the return of shooting targets while grinding on rails, but thanks to the wide-open nature of this game’s story mode, many levels can be skipped entirely to focus on more traditional stages.

The bosses, interactions, and lore of Return of the Mammalians are all fantastic. The game provides a deeper look than ever at the origins of Splatoon, and the rewards for doing optional content are fantastic for people who love customization. However, casual players might prefer to skip any content that isn’t required. Many of the optional challenges can be infuriating for the wrong reasons, with their main difficulty only being resolved through trial and error. This is at its worst in the Secret Kettle where you’re put up against waves of Octolings. These AI-controlled opponents only show up a handful of times in the main story. As such, players will be ill-trained to battle against these numerous foes. The open layout of the arena kills any chance of cover, and the constant flow of canned specials trivializes the difficulty into a contest of which side can spam their special attacks more effectively.

Return of the Mammalians is at its best when it builds upon traits that already existed in Splatoon and Splatoon 2. This is a trait seen in all of Splatoon 3, unfortunately highlighting its biggest weakness.

Fuzzy Details and Unremarkable Additions

Splatoon-3-Ranked-Anarchy-Battle-Lobby

For players that have many, many hours in Splatoon 2 already, they’ll find that Splatoon 3 doesn’t have much to offer on its own. Outside of the aesthetic changes and quality-of-life improvements, the base game is still pretty much the same as it always was. Regular Battles are still just 4v4 Turf Wars, Anarchy Battles are just Ranked Battles under a new name, and the only brand-new game mode — the Tricolor Turf War — is only available during Splatfests. Tableturf Battles might offer something new for long-time fans, but as it requires special cards and has its own unique ranking system, it’s largely irrelevant for Splatoon 3’s main multiplayer matches. Salmon Run has more new additions than the main PVP modes, and even with the chance to play it without limits, it’s still quite sectioned off from the rest of the game’s online features.

The few new mechanical additions to Splatoon 3, such as Squid Surges and Squid Rolls, are largely situational. It would be an outright lie to say they massively change how the game is played. The same goes for the new weapons; while they offer some interesting challenges in story mode, there’s not a whole lot that they do differently from other weapons. This will obviously change as new weapons are added in future updates, and the same can be said for new modes and features. But there are clear signs of content that should have been in the game from the start, such as the Gold Dynamo Roller found in many promotional images and screenshots. It would have been better to give Splatoon 3 some extra time to build its content because at launch it simply doesn’t offer much that couldn’t have been added as a massive Splatoon 2 update.

The Little Things

Splatoon-3-Sheldon-Tickets-Weapon-Store

Despite the game’s shortcomings, where Splatoon 3 truly shines is in the small adjustments it made to long-standing features. For example, there’s no longer a need for a player to grind their levels to obtain their favorite weapon. If they want to use the Ballpoint Splatling normally only unlocked at level 30, they can get their hands on it as early as level 5 with just a few weapon licenses. This feature will become less relevant as one plays through the game more, but it’s essential for early players. Finding the right weapon and sticking with it can go a long way in increasing the game’s longevity, and that truth is made extremely apparent in Splatoon 3.

Another minor addition in this game that goes a long way is the Lobby. Whereas previous games simply had you sit on a loading screen, the Splatoon 3 Lobby gives you a training area to warm yourself up in between each match. After completing a match and sticking with a team, you’ll even see other players hanging out in the training area. It’s even possible to check out other players’ customized lockers. They can’t be opened while waiting for matches, which is a shame, but you can still check out the fresh stickers posted on their door. Waiting for matches was the most agonizing part of earlier games, so replacing that wait with something to do outside of minor minigames is a very positive change. Once more, the added interactions and increased player engagement give Splatoon 3 a chance to shine above previous entries.

Final Verdict

Splatoon 3 is at its best when it’s improving or building on previous games. Brand-new additions outside of characters and story can feel somewhat half-baked, and the need for post-launch updates makes the base game feel somewhat bare. In spite of these issues, the game’s quality-of-life improvements make it difficult to call it anything less than the definitive entry to the series. It’ll be some time before making that statement turns from difficult to impossible, but it can’t be denied that the future of Splatoon is looking brighter than ever.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

"liked"
liked

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Nintendo EPD
  • Genre: Action Shooter
  • US Release Date: September 9, 2022
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "Splatoon 3 makes many fantastic improvements and changes to the games before it. These minor additions will surely go a long way in retaining a large number of players, even if most of the brand-new content feels somewhat lacking. Splatoon 3 is the best game to start with for newcomers to the franchise. It might be tougher to convince die-hard fans of its merit, but future updates and changes will likely sway their opinions as well."
Review Policy
Trending on AOTF