Booyah – I got my inky hands on a Splatoon 3 Side Order DLC preview and I’m excited. Side Order serves up some mayhem akin to Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion, taking us into a grayscale Inkopolis Square.
As you enter this drab and sad-looking version of our beloved city, you become Agent 8, awoken by a familiar voice. Turns out, Pearl is back, but she’s a drone this time. Yes, a real, flying drone. It kind of suits her, to be honest. She rouses you and then you get to fully customize your looks, hair, brows, and all.
Once you’re all fresh and ready to go, you start to get a handle on the situation. Something has happened to leech the life out of the area and enact ultimate order across the land. Remember the final Splatfest of Splatoon 2, with the theme Order vs Chaos? Well Chaos won, and so now Order is mad. That’s the jist of it, but we’re sure to find out all the ins and outs in the full DLC.
So, you and drone-Pearl set out to rectify the situation and find yourselves at the Spire of Order, modeled after the Deca Tower in Splatoon 2, but bleached of color. Now, don’t let this Spire fool you. It offers a great challenge. Your goal is to ride the elevator to the top and sort out the mess going on, but to do that, you’ve got to beat it floor by floor.
Each level offers you three choices of challenges, which in turn offer you different rewards. These rewards are color chips – but we’ll get onto that in a moment. The stages range in difficulty including easy, normal, hard, and rigorous. Usually, you’re offered an easy, and then a normal or two, but the further you go, the harder the options usually get. For instance, I met my demise when offered one hard and two rigorous options.
I should note here that you have finite lives. You start with very few but can purchase more as you earn currency. If you die in the Spire, you have to restart. That’s right – the Side Order is a roguelike! Every ten levels you face a boss, so prepare for that, too.
As for that the stages are, well, there’s a very nice range. Like most single-player moments in Splatoon, there are items to make use of and new mechanics to learn in a variety of stage types. There are options based on the Splat Zones, Tower Control, and Salmon Run modes in the game, and plenty more fun challenges.
You get up close and personal with the new enemy types as well, called Jelletons. There’s a whole encyclopedia of them with a few hellish variants to taunt and chase you around each stage. As per usual, hit ‘em with streams of ink, and they’ll perish. By the way, when you hit things, you see how much damage you do! I love this addition as it makes me feel incredibly powerful while blasting through waves of ghostly, skeleton-looking fish monsters.
So, as this is a roguelike, it follows the usual route and gives you tons of updates and helpful items along the way. I mentioned color chips – you get to pick one at the start of each stage, which you can equip to your palette. Each weapon has its own palette, and you can fill it however you wish. When you’re presented with a choice of stage to play, pay attention to which chip each stage gets you. You can, of course, go for the easy ones and you’ll still get some very handy boosts, but where there’s risk, there’s reward – the rigorous and hard stages offer better color chips.
These chips can help add damage and ink-tank refills to you and Pearl’s drone, you can make it so your ink is poisonous to enemies, or simply increase your firing range. Fun fact, your ink color changes on which color chips you have the most of, as there are a few different colors related to damage, support, and other classifications.
Every so often as you climb the tower, there are extra challenges you can try, which give you bonus currency to spend. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t manage to complete it, as the only challenge I got was to not use my main weapon… I mean, I tried, but then I perished immediately. This leads to my initial thoughts on the Spire’s difficulty. I went in with swagger and thought, psh, this is easy. But oh, my hubris. Around floor 11 I was proven wrong and got my squiddy butt handed to me by a swarm of Jelletons.
Outside of the challenge levels, there’s the previously mentioned boss stage, which rewards you with keys you can use on the locker outside the Spire. This holds a selection of items that you can use both in and out of combat. There’s also a handy vending machine that pops up at random intervals, where you can purchase up to three items, including color chips and new subs – so if you get bored of the sprinkler, perhaps you can pick up a suction bomb.
I could go on and on about this DLC and I’m ready to take on the challenge in full. There’s another album of good music to accompany a really fun story, filled with excellent cutscenes which give plenty of personality to Agent 8 and co. While I may not ever actually finish the tower and its 30 stages – my highest record was 14 – I’m gonna have a blast with it. You never know, maybe you can fudge it like the Octo Expansion where you can pay Marina to just do it for you…
The Side Order DLC releases on February 22, 2024, so there’s not long to wait before we dive into Inkopolis once more.