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Splatoon 3: Side Order review- An inktastic expansion

Sam Cawley

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| Last updated 

Splatoon 3: Side Order review- An inktastic expansion

Featured Image Credit: Nintendo

Splatoon 3: Side Order is a fantastic expansion to the gameplay and lore of Nintendo’s third-person shooter, complete with new challenges and gameplay innovations that’ll test the mettle of die-hard fans.

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The DLC is accessible at any point in your time with Splatoon 3, and require’s nothing except the expansion pass itself to get you into the action. Your weapons and gear don’t carry over from the main portion of the game, so you needn’t worry about how prepared you are, putting casual and pro players on equal footing right from the word go.

Check out Splatoon 3: Side Order below

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Upon booting up the DLC you’ll awaken as Eight, an Octoling who fans will remember from previous Splatoon story content. After choosing your appearance, you’re greeted by Pearl, one half of Splatoon 2’s Off The Hook duo. She informs you that her other half, Marina, is missing, before you both learn she’s somewhere in an ominous looking grey tower.

With splatguns in hand, you charge into the tower, meet a mysterious new character called Acht in the elevator, and begin your ascent to the top which is easier said than done.

The gameplay of Side Order is exactly the same as the base game, though of course you’re working with the equipment the game gives you, not your personal loadouts though that does change later down the fishing line. The main difference is instead of arena battles like in the game’s multiplayer, players will undertake a Splatoon-themed rogue-like, complete with various challenges, weapon and skill buffs, as well as dire consequences upon death.

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Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo
Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo

Each floor must be cleared out one after the other, and arriving on them will grant you a Chip. These are colourful little things that slot into your palette, and grant you a range of power-ups to take with you on your playthrough. Examples include more damage for your splatguns, faster reload times, or bonus abilities like a dodge roll that hurts enemies while getting you out of the way of incoming attacks. Collecting these felt oddly addictive, and it was great to put together a unique build on every attempt, finding out which Chips were worth grabbing and how they complimented each other in the long run. Whether you favour being a glass cannon or would rather focus on area denial, there’ll be Chips in the DLC that work with your playstyle, and experimenting with ones you wouldn’t usually go for was half the fun of a fresh ascent of the tower.

The challenges you undertake on each floor are different every time, with some involving clearing the room of enemies, defending an area or playing a round of golf. The mission you play can be selected before making your way up in the elevator. They’re categorised by difficulty, with the higher ones yielding the best rewards but will of course put up more of a fight. It’s up to the player to decide if they want to play it safe and try an easy level, or if they want to try their luck at a harder one and risk death. This high-risk, high-reward layout works really well, and there were several times where my overconfidence got the best of me and earned me a one-way trip back down to the ground floor of the tower.

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Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo
Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo

Upon dying, you’re booted out of the tower and lose all the chips you’ve collected up to that point, which can be absolutely devastating when you’ve put in so much time and effort. That being said it never felt unfair, or unjust, your deaths are very much skill-issues, and as you grow accustomed to the tower and its tricks you can make short work of the early floors and get back on track.

There is a way to acquire permanent upgrades for your character, and that’s by tracking down Marina. Once she’s been rescued she’ll appear at the base of the tower and sell you an assortment of goodies to help you along your way, like extra lives, increased defence and even some Chips to be shuffled into the tower’s offering.

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You can also unlock some goodies and new weapons through a huge locker, which requires keys found on specific floors to be opened. This will give you the option to switch up your weapon, preferably to one you use in the main game that you know how to use.

On certain floors you'll throw down with a colossal boss battle, though the variation of these was actually quite lacking, which can be said for the challenges on all floors to be honest. Once you’ve done several playthroughs you’ll quickly realise there isn’t much variety in the task you have to complete, which can sometimes be to the DLC’s detriment during long play sessions.

Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo
Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo

That being said I was pleasantly surprised by how challenging the expansion could actually be. As someone who’s played a fair few rogue-likes in his time, I was pleased to realise that this would require a good few hours of my time to beat, which is great to see considering this is a paid expansion. The harder missions were definitely the ones I enjoyed most, as many required careful concentration on the area around you, often interacting with an objective while being swarmed by enemies. This encouraged me to be oddly tactical with positioning, making sure I had a good portion of the terrain covered in ink, and even farming enemies at times to build up my super move meter.

As for the style of the expansion, it looks gorgeous. The world design gets top marks, as black and white area you find yourself in is jarring for a game series known for its vibrant colours, and even proved to be quite sinister at times to see the world drained of its essence. It also turned every floor into a blank canvas, which by the end was a beautiful, ink-covered masterpiece where you could trace every move you had to make in order to complete the level. The soundtrack was also on point as usual, again, ushering in a darkened atmosphere that has you pondering exactly what’s happened in this place and how you’re going to fix it.

Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo
Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo

The thing I liked most about Side Order though was how different it felt to the main game. While the concept of rogue-likes is nothing new, it is new for the Splatoon series, and I was amazed how seamlessly the two merged together. The most important thing in a good rogue-like is keeping the player entertained, after all the whole point is if you die you’re sent back to the beginning and if you’re not having fun you likely won’t want to make a second attempt, let alone a 30th. Splatoon 3: Side Order nailed that feeling of progression, as even when I perished and lost all of my Chips, fated to start over the from the top (or bottom) I went back in with a greater understanding of what to expect, as well as a bolstered build thanks to Marina’s upgrades.

It was a lot of fun, and it was a great feeling to finally overcome that floor that was giving you trouble, only to completely smash it in every following attempt. There was rarely a time where I felt like I couldn’t go on to preserve my own sanity, every attempt was enjoyable, even if the mission variety could have been better.

Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo
Splatoon 3: Side Order- Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo smashed it out of the park with this DLC, and it has to be the best piece of solo-content that’s been made for the series so far. It’s got something for everyone, and the best part is there’s no requirement to have played the expansions for previous games, you can hop into this one regardless of your knowledge on the series.

If you’ve done all there is to do in the multiplayer part of Splatoon 3, have gotten bored of it, or just fancy partaking in some singleplayer content, Side Order has you covered. It packs brilliant story content, stunning visuals and gameplay that’ll keep you hungry for more even when you’ve rolled the credits.

Pros: A fresh addition to the game modes, gorgeous presentation, welcoming to new and old fans of the series, varying levels of challenge

Cons: Levels can sometimes feel repetitive,

For fans of: Splatoon, Fortnite, Foamstars

9/10: Exceptional

Splatoon 3: Side Order is available now for Nintendo Switch. Code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Topics: Nintendo, Nintendo Switch

Sam Cawley
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