Splatoon 3: Side Order DLC Review

Splatoon 3’s Side Order DLC Review: A Colorful Spin on a Monochrome World

“Splatoon is so damn cool,” I thought to myself as I blasted through overwhelming hordes of fish skeletons with a souped-up umbrella-shotgun hybrid while vibing to the beat of a catchy, far-out electronic soundtrack. Splatoon 3’s unparalleled sense of style is on full display in its Side Order DLC, even as it risks swapping its iconic, vibrant color palette for an equally alluring black-and-white dystopia. Nintendo’s first big swing at a highly replayable, single-player roguelite mode does come with some growing pains, including repetitive boss battles, inconsistent difficulty, and occasionally poor pacing. But Side Order still thrives thanks to bonkers new abilities that let me completely shatter what’s usually possible in Splatoon, a clever new enemy class with top-notch designs and mechanics, and its appetizing twist on the phenomenal look, sound, and feel Splatoon fans have come to expect.

The Influence of Splatoon 2 Splatfest on Splatoon 3’s Setting

It’s endlessly cool to me that Splatoon 3’s Mad Max-inspired setting was the direct outcome of a Splatoon 2 Splatfest in 2019: squidkids the world over got to fight for either Chaos or Order, with Chaos winning the day and impacting the style of this sequel as a result. Five years later, Side Order cleverly shows us what the Splatlands would have looked like if Team Order had won that fateful Splatfest, replacing its post-apocalyptic wasteland with the sterile, monochrome Order Sector. I love not only that the Splatoon team is brave enough to leave huge game direction decisions like this up to the community, but that we’re also getting a look into that alternate Inkling and Octoling reality after all.

Our Thoughts on Splatoon 3’s Single-Player Experience

Splatoon 3’s single-player campaign takes all the highs of Splatoon 2’s creative Octo Expansion missions and places them in a satisfying hub world where freedom of choice lets you get as much as you want out of your playthrough — confident that you’ll be back for more. Even when it relies heavily on familiar enemies, smart level design and objectives, and bosses brimming with personality keep things fresh for the whole ride. – Brendan Graeber, September 7, 2022

And this side of Splatoon is incredibly cool. Draining all the color from both Splatoon 2’s Inkopolis Square and the levels housed in the Spire of Order gives Side Order its own identity, distinct from the color-soaked splattlefields of Turf War, Salmon Run, and Splatoon 3’s campaign. One of the few real criticisms I had of Splatoon 3 is that it lacked its own hooks by reusing the same look and feel as its predecessors, and Side Order’s inclusion confidently puts that issue to rest with its striking new style and memorable electronic, robotic soundtrack to match.

Exploring the Unique Features of Side Order DLC

After a somewhat chatty tutorial reintroduces Splatoon 2 fan favorites Pearl and Marina, you’re set loose to fight your way through the Spire of Order’s 30-floor gauntlet… although, I use the word “gauntlet” lightly, as I beat the final boss waiting at Floor 30 on just my second attempt. That’s my biggest problem with Side Order: it’s just too easy. Roguelites are supposed to be about incremental progress where both your character and your own skills improve with every run. But while those progression systems are in place, I felt robbed of that loop of failure, advancement, and eventual triumph when I was already watching the credits roll after less than two hours. Granted, I have over 100 hours in competitive multiplayer and have hit S+ rank multiple times, and Side Order started me out with the dualies – which happens to be my weapon of choice – so someone coming in after months away will probably have a tougher time climbing this tower. Still, it was a disappointing outcome when I came in hoping for a challenge that would force me to flex my mussels.

Thankfully, rolling credits is just the start of Side Order, as it quickly dares you to reach the end with all 12 available weapon types in order to reach what I currently assume is its “true” ending. This is a much taller task than winning a single run, as it has forced me to get comfortable with weapons I’ve barely touched, most of which have to be unlocked with keys earned as you do runs. After more than a dozen hours, I’ve only reached the top with about half of them so far, but I’m determined to continue until I’ve cleared the Spire with every weapon.

Enhancements and Challenges in Side Order DLC

I wouldn’t stick around to 100% Side Order if it weren’t for the fantastic ways this DLC expands upon Splatoon 3’s basic gameplay. Unshackled from the balance requirements of a competitive online game, Nintendo really lets you get weird with it. Side Order’s impressive suite of new abilities are held within color chips, which you earn on each floor during a run. There are over 60 different color chips to find, which can enhance your Octoling’s power, speed, range, and more. Stacking the right color chips can create some crazy combinations, turning a short range weapon like the Octobrush into a long range sniper rifle with homing shots. It’s a ton of fun to see how far you can push Splatoon’s mechanics, transforming standard weapons into unrecognizable death machines. The undemanding missions may not necessarily keep me coming back, but imagining the next power trip I can create with its color chips is certainly inspiring enough to start a fresh run.

Overall, Side Order DLC for Splatoon 3 offers a fresh, unique experience that expands on the game’s core mechanics while providing a new challenge for seasoned players. With its striking visual style, engaging soundtrack, and innovative gameplay elements, Side Order is a must-play addition to the Splatoon series. While it may have some minor issues with pacing and boss variety, the overall package is a welcome addition to an already fantastic game.