I spent almost 12 solid hours on Saturday the 27th of August playing Splatoon 3’s free demo with two of my friends. I’m talking maybe 30-ish minutes of breaks in there, though there was a bit more downtime considering the average queue time for a match was about 45 seconds and I kept getting booted out of matches right around the top of the hour. Any match that started within 2 minutes of a new hour, before or after, would end prematurely with me getting kicked out due to a communication error. It was too dependable to be an internet issue on my end (not to mention my voice call didn’t drop once), so it was clearly some kind of odd communication bug. Aside from that and the way that Team Scissors got absolutely massacred by the unbalanced Tricolor Battles, it was an amazing and fun experience.
No joke, this was probably the most fun I’ve had in a 12-hour video game experience, especially given that I was able to work my way through the mechanics of the game and wind up being a consistent top-performer on my team (barely beating out my friends some of the time, barely behind them most of the rest, and with an occasional poor performance round here or there). Thanks, of course, to the feedback and support of my friends, who helped me figure out how to be successful at the game and who supported me even when my performance was clearly dragging the team down. They were wonderful and supportive and I cannot help but recommend finding a group like that to play games with. They are one hundred percent the reason I will keep going back to Splatoon 3, given that this conclusion to the series is the first time I’m dipping my toes into the franchise.
I have a different friend who raved about the game in the past, but he only ever spoke on the worldbuilding and language, which seemed cool, but also seemed a lot like something that people were mostly inventing and discovering for themselves, rather than through standard play. I’m not sure if that perception of Splatoon 1 is right or wrong, given the number of years that have passed since then and how big the world has gotten, but it wasn’t enough to pull me in back then.
Now, I’m excited for the game to fully release later this week so I can dive in with my friends and do my best to catch up on what I’ve missed. I got a really good summary from one of the friends I played with during the Splatfest demo, but a lot of that didn’t stick because I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed by other stuff at the time and a lot of it won’t stick until I see it play out somehow. Maybe I’ll look up cutscenes or plot summaries, or just wait for a sale and go play through the old games. I’d already have dived into Splatoon 2, but that game is still going for a full sixty bucks which feels like a bit much to pay on top of the sixty for Splatoon 3 when I pick it up later this week. Eventually, maybe, but right now I’ll just have to pick up and make sense of the plot as I go along.
To be honest, I’m a little on the fence about playing a new shooter, given my usual reservations about gun culture in the US, but a lot of this game’s framing (so far) makes it pretty clear that the people you’re firing at aren’t getting killed or hurt by this. The whole thing is depicted as a pretty fun competition to literally paint the town instead of fighting enemy combatants. Friendly competition for bragging rights instead of earnest conflict over territory. That said, it uses a lot of language that makes it feel closer to the latter than the former, but I also might be overly sensitive to that sort of anything, given my distaste for gun culture and gun worship in the US. Honestly, I was fully expecting the cartoonified violence to actively get on my nerves, but the creators of the game did a great job distancing it from everything I was worried about. The game fulfills barely even a shadow of my concerns about making guns seems cool rather than deadly, but I also know there’s a plot to the series that involves spies, war, and invasion by weird fish zombies, so I suspect I’ll have a better grasp on how I feel about the game once I’ve played through the actual game rather than just the demo.
For now, though, it was enough to have a good time playing with my friends. Our claims to fame include winning three Tricolor Battles in a row and winning one 100x point battle. We got the Tricolor wins by being much better than the other teams involved and by no small amount of luck (it is so much easier to win as either of the two-person attacking teams than the 4-person defending team given the mechanics of the match type as a single mistake on the 4-person team’s part can put them behind in a way they can’t recover from). It took a dozen or so losses for us to figure out a strategy and then a few lucky matches against people of similar skill levels that we could out perform (only one felt like we were way more skilled than the other team), but we managed three in a row toward the end of our 12 hours of playtime. The 100x match was a great comeback and a reward for our hard work after we lost an earlier 100x match by .2%, which was absolutely devastating.
My claims to fame were being a popular target thanks to my excellent engagement and disengagement skills in the later half of the day (I love to play tanks in PVP type games) and being a consistent top performer in not getting taken out. I occasionally would do pretty well on splats (the word for what happens when you take an opponent out), but I couldn’t hold a candle to my friends who routinely hit the double-digits in splats. I don’t think I ever broke out of the single digits on splats, but I did complete one or two matches without getting splatted at all. I also eventually figured out terrain coverage and how to play the objective in what initially felt like a pure PVP game, so I was able to consistently rank highly in terms of terf covered and even bought my team a couple clutch victories with some last-second maneuvers (which I feel very proud of, as a newcomer to the series). We made a great team, the three of us, all of us supplementing and complimenting each other’s skills in ways that made us stronger as a team than inviduals. I don’t think I’d have made it through the whole 12 hours of the demo without them.
Now all that remains is to play the game when it comes out and hope that my experience with the demo translates into the fully-released game. And to hope that they fix tricolor battles so you don’t need to dominate the other teams in order to emerge victorious when you’re playing defense.