Review: Splatoon 3: Expansion Pass / Side Order


Wave 1 of the Splatoon 3: Expansion Pass launched over a year ago, adding Inkopolis Plaza from the original Splatoon as an additional hub area that you can travel to, shop at, and experience Splatfests from. While the first wave was neat for a bit of harmless Wii U nostalgia, for most Switch owners, there wasn’t nearly enough content to justify the price of the paid DLC (£22.49/$24.99). Those quick to purchase the Expansion Pass likely did so in anticipation of Wave 2, “Side Order,” a brand new single-player campaign planned for release in 2024; with Inkopolis Plaza being treated as nothing more than a pre-order bonus at the time. Now that the second wave has been released as of Feb. 22nd, 2024, is the Splatoon 3 Expansion Pass finally fresh enough to be worth the cost of admission, or does it do a bit too much squid-kidding around?

One of the biggest omissions from the single-player campaign that was included in the base game (as mentioned in our Splatoon 3 review) was the mysterious absence of Marina and Pearl, the main characters from Splatoon 2 and starring members of the in-universe pop idol band Off the Hook. As it turns out, that was because they were set to be featured as the leading characters in the DLC, with the fan-favourite duo now playing a prominent role in the story. In the story of Side Order, you play as Agent 8, the octoling protagonist that was first introduced in the Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion. After falling asleep on a train to Inkopolis Square, the main hub area of Splatoon 2, you wake up in a strange colourless world, where you are soon greeted by Pearl. However, something is different, as instead of looking like her usual inkling self, she’s a… drone? She instructs you to help her find Marina, who is implied to be at the top floor of a tower similar to the one in Inkopolis Square.

You’ll soon realise that the story goes far beyond this, and finding Marina is only the beginning of a much larger narrative. There is a pretty major plot twist that happens early on in the game, so in order to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, I’ll be opting to skip straight to the gameplay details instead of going too much further in-depth. As for my thoughts on the story though, it expands the world of Splatoon in a way that fans are sure to enjoy. As you may recall, the final Splatfest of Splatoon 2 was Chaos vs. Order, with Team Chaos winning, leading to the chaotic, post-apocalyptic themes of Splatoon 3. Now, the Side Order DLC flips the script, so those who were on Team Order get to see what would have happened if their team won.

Side Order is essentially a roguelite mode; a first of its kind for the Splatoon series. As you progress up a 30 floor spire, each floor is a new level with a different objective that you need to clear. You’re given three objectives to select from on each floor that are labelled by difficulty (easy, normal, hard, or rigorous), with bigger payouts of “membux” rewarded for completing the more challenging ones. Membux can then be used on floors with Vending-Machine Corners where you can purchase lives, colour chips, and different sub and special weapons. What are colour chips, you ask? When reaching a new floor, you’ll unlock one of 62 “colour chips” that provide passive abilities in the categories of range, power, support, mobility, lucky, or drone.

There are five main types of objectives: destroy the portals, protect the zone, escort the turbine tower, sink the ∞-balls, and defeat the fleeing foes, as well as a boss battle that occurs on every 10th floor. In typical Splatoon-like fashion, the gameplay consists of splatting hordes of enemies with ink using your weapon, sub-weapon, and special weapon to stay alive and complete the objective, but this time, you have a Pearl drone helping you out. You have a limited number of lives, and if you run out of them, you get kicked out of the spire and must start back at the first floor. When this happens, all of your membux and colour chips are converted into “prlz,” a currency that can be used to make things a bit easier on your next attempt by unlocking different permanent upgrades such as an increase in max lives or reducing the amount of damage you take from enemies. Of course, starting from the beginning can be frustrating, especially when you fail the dreaded final boss, but earning prlz helps make it feel like it wasn’t for nothing, and what happens on each floor isn’t always exactly the same.

As a veteran Splatoon player with nearly 1000 hours logged across the trilogy, I was expecting Side Order to be a walk in the park, but it actually provides for quite the fun challenge. If you consider the game to be completed after finishing the main story, Side Order is only about a 4-7 hour experience. However, as a roguelite, the campaign is designed to be replayed over and over again, and there are plenty of unlockables to still collect even after the credits roll, including plenty of special cosmetic items that can be used in the multiplayer modes. In order to see everything that Side Order has to offer, it can take over 20 hours to reach 100% completion. Due to the lack of variety in the stages/objectives, it can start to feel a bit repetitive after playing for a while, but I enjoyed my time with the game more than enough to complete it using all the available weapon types (you start off with just “order dualies” but are able to unlock other weapons as you progress).

Although the first wave of the Splatoon 3: Expansion Pass was a bit underwhelming, the release of the second wave, Side Order, makes the DLC an absolute must-have for Splatoon fans and those who are fond of the roguelite genre. The Splatoon IP has always primarily focused on online multiplayer, but Side Order further proves that its single-player offerings shouldn’t be overlooked either. If you already own Splatoon 3, getting the Expansion Pass is a no-brainer for the price, but if you don’t, now is a better time than ever to join in on the splatastic fun. Splatoon 3: Expansion Pass is available now via the Nintendo eShop.



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