Way of the Samurai 3 follows the same principles as its predecessors and is once again designed to offer an authentic settings, a deep sword-fighting system, and cause-and-effect role-playing. This time around the game takes place during the Sengoku Period and puts the players into the sandals of a lone samurai. As the only survivor of an epic battle, he enters the world of Amana which is currently ruled by Shuzen Fujimori who had overthrown the former superior Lord Sakurai. But the Fujimori Clan isn’t very liked in the region so Shuzen has to rule the area with an iron fist in order to keep control.
The player is thrown into this struggle and has to decide if he wants to join Fujimori Clan, Ouka Clan (formed by former members of the Sakurai Clan), protect the villagers in Takatana who just want peace or just get out of Amana for good (which will lead to a complete reset of the game). The game offers the player almost complete freedom to roam the eight zones of Amana while looking over the shoulder of his avatar. The overall story arc allows for over 20 possible endings. Which one the player gets, depends on his actions and choices throughout the game – including if he always bumps into people, making them angry and attack the player. To that end, the length of the game greatly varies depending on what the player does. The shortest way e.g. would be to just go and kill both faction leaders which can theoretically be done in less than an hour thanks to the ability to often even act during cut-scenes and dialogues.
While they play out and even during normal gameplay, the player has three choices: listen, apologise/beg or attack. Begging a merchant will earn the player a free item but will also greatly reduce the respect the merchant has for the player which in the end may lead to less Samurai Points after death or completion of the game. The game is divided into different scenes with the next possible ones marked on the in-game map, making it easier for the player to follow the red ribbon.
The game features a realistic day and night cycle which has a great affect on the NPCs who live their ordinary lives even without the player interfering. The player can talk to various characters, accept different jobs (only one at a time) and shop for new items. In addition are also a few mini-games like chopping up vegetables or fillet fish. Decisions influence the relationships with the different groups changing the way they interact with the player and there are dozens of swords, hammers and spears to choose with which he can defend himself. He has to to keep the variable quality and durability level in mind though. With these weapons, the player can perform both offensive and defensive moves depending on his fighting style, and even special actions. There are several dozen moves available for unlock which will even stay available for each new game. More importantly the player can decide if he wants to kill an person or fight with a blunt weapon. While killing can be bad for the reputation, throwing down an enemy only with a blunt attack will result in another meeting further down the road for sure. If the right weapon isn’t dropped by an enemy, the player can go to the blacksmith and forge a new one out of spare parts or enhance and upgrade an existing one, according to his fighting style and in exchange for money.
During the course of the game, the player will also meet several possible partners. While some will join him in exchange for money, other can be “romanced”. In any case the person will then follow the player around, giving him an additional edge in combat and also unlocking access to mini-games and side jobs which can only be done with two people. The romance with the partner can even go as far as the partner deciding to live with him in his home in Takatane village. There the player can sleep till a certain hour in order to restore his health and has access to a weapons safe as well as a closet where he can story his stuff as he can only carry three weapons at a time and no additional clothing.