Single-player gubbins in the Splatoon series has always been ruddy good fun, but always feels like it’s playing second fiddle to the online multiplayer, which is largely to be expected but it’s still a shame that it gets forgotten from time to time. Splatoon 2’s Hero Mode was a strong evolution on the first game’s offering, but for many there wasn’t quite enough for them to sink their teeth into. Nintendo’s solution to this is what this entire preview is about, if you hadn’t already guessed.
Octo Expansion is a great big dollop of 80 brand new single-player missions for you to dip your toe or tentacle in. You take the role of Agent 8, an Octoling whose task it is, as far as we can tell from what’s been revealed, to overthrow a militia of discoloured Octarians who appear to have been infected by something that’s making them go all Captain America: Civil War on you.
It’s important to refer to these 80 new ‘things’ as missions rather than levels, as they vary quite a lot from the stock Octo Canyon adventure which mostly required you to get from point A to point B. In the demo we played, we were asked to guide a giant 8-ball around a track using our ink, defeat waves of enemies with a Slosher on an entirely destructible floor made of crates, navigate a semi-standard level using nothing but the Inkjet, and ride around on grind rails in a vain attempt to destroy all the targets within a criminally short timeframe.
Let’s make this absolutely clear right away; Octo Expansion is hard. If you breezed through Hero Mode without breaking a sweat as we admit we did, you’re still going to have a tough time making it through this DLC. The grind rails/target destruction mission in particular took us no less than 11 tries to finally complete, and not a single mission from Octo canyon can make that claim over us.
The game adopts a similar approach to Super Mario Odyssey’s in terms of its lives system, presumably to take the sting out of difficulty for those less experienced. You have three lives for each mission and several checkpoints throughout for most examples. If you lose all three lives however you can get three more and continue from your last checkpoint at the cost of some of your in-game currency, which is also required to enter a mission in the first place. It’s a brilliant way to introduce a penalty for failure that isn’t totally crippling to players with less experience, and it fits in very nicely here.
Each mission bears an uncannily similar feel to the Shrines from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a sort of bite-sized but totally unique and standalone challenge that plays off the game’s mechanics in ways you won’t be able to predict and would never have considered before. It’s a really refreshing approach.
Although we’re not able to say for absolute certain as a nameless Nintendo representative hid the console from view each time we changed missions, it appears that you navigate from the hubworld to each mission seamlessly. Whenever we were given control we were able to walk around and see the hubworld around us before tapping our Oyster Card-like device onto a gate to start that mission. If this is indeed the case it would give a great sense of a connected world that was missing in Hero Mode.
From what we’ve played, Octo Expansion is looking to be a very substantial and expertly crafted addition to Splatoon 2. The difficulty has been ramped up substantially, but without leaving those with less developed skills in the cold. This isn't just another helping of Hero Mode, this is something all of its own.
What do you make of Splatoon 2's upcoming Octo Expansion? Is it a worthy addition to an already stellar experience? Share your thoughts below...