Massively on the Go: Splatoon 3’s Big Big Run highlights the big problem with its PvE


As I shamelessly teased in the WRUP last week, I managed to make some time for Splatoon 3’s new Salmon Run event, the Big Big Run. Big Run normally is just a more major Salmon Run with a high score list and maybe a new King Salmonid. Big Big Run was essentially the same, but instead of offering a new King Salmonid, the game tossed all three together. It sounded like a ton of fun and made me slightly irritated about the timing, but I still got a chunk of play time in.

And sadly, it wasn’t great. In fact, it reminded me of some the game’s issues, at least from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have a small, skilled group to tackle the game with. So for this edition of Massively on the Go, I want to talk about not only Big Big Run’s issues, but what it means for Splatoon PvE in general.

While the idea of three bosses at once is fun (and probably one of the things I love about the Monster Hunter series), there were a few issues, the least of which was that the bosses didn’t really interact with or against each other. That might have been cool, but just tossing them together was kind of overly simple. It’s not bad per se, but it wasn’t a great call.

The real issue in my opinion is that the challenge – as usual – really seemed geared towards tight-knit groups, and I say this as someone who regularly ranks silver and just wants to get to the victory screen, as opposed to those who push hard for the high scores.

In fact, I think I often say this about the Salmon Run PvE modes. Salmon Run is generally a decent challenge – in theory – but the people I get matched with have wildly different skill sets; some seem to know the basics, while others seem to belong several rank groups down. The matchmaking seems extremely poor, probably prioritizing queue speed over skill. Remember, you don’t get to choose weapons in Salmon Run; you get automatically assigned one per round based on the (usually) four options per rotation.

This can be especially hard when all the weapons are randomly available. That is, instead of granting one of four known weapons, the game assigns one of any weapon the game contains, plus an OP Grizzco weapon or two, if you’re lucky. Even I have to admit that certain weapon types are tricky for me, but most of the time I can make do for a round or two.

Getting stuck with the same type for multiple rounds is good practice I guess, but during a limited event, it’s frustrating. It’s bad enough that I can go matches without my full boss meter being used, and sometimes, I just let it get wasted, and that’s during non-events. Making it past three rounds to just see the boss can be incredibly difficult, and good luck actually taking it down! The fight and failures just to reach a boss means you aren’t getting in a lot of practice, especially since you won’t be facing the bosses back-to-back because of needing to refill your meter and actually being successful enough to get there.

Naturally, this is magnified during Big Run, when you have prizes you want to hit but only a few days to do so. Again, I have access to a nice Discord and make use of my friend list and Pool, but they’re big groups that still have a bit of a skill range (and admittedly, I know about a quarter of my active friends list are light years ahead of me in skill). I have casual friends, but they don’t play this content partially because they don’t have the time to master the absolute basics of Salmon Run, but Big Run is just a horrible reminder of how out-of-the-loop they are.

So when Big Big Run has the same difficulties and then tosses three bosses at you when you may struggle just to complete the level, dangling three bosses as a rare encounter isn’t fun. In fact, my Discord channel had people focusing on losing so they could de-rank low enough to really tackle the bosses, which I didn’t want to do even if I’d had the time to do it. The idea of the bosses all being out at once is great and made me pretty excited about the weekend, but in practice, I think I saw them only one two or three times after maybe six hours of gameplay, with the last one occurring after falling several ranks and being with players who almost all immediately died twice at the start of the fight.

An emphasis on high scores is fine. It certainly lights a fire in the Discord I’m in. But at least for events, Nintendo should consider actually scaling down the difficulty so players not only participate but enjoy the content. Again, my Discord is extremely competitive, but they were downranking themselves for this event. It’s a bad look and should be a big red flag for the studio.

But again, this is also an overall problem with Salmon Run. In general, it just feels like there’s a big emphasis on skills that a large portion of the playerbase lacks. In the same Discord I’ve mentioned, I’ve frequently linked our Salmon Run tips to new players, and that Discord was one of the main sources of inspiration and testing! Your average player certainly isn’t that invested, and it’s a big part of why doing the mode with the matchmaker is so very, very painful.

I’m a day-one player, but I burnt out on the mode pretty quickly owing to the time it takes to assemble a group and get anything done. A full run can take 10 minutes, unlike the PvP modes, which can take roughly five minutes or less. Ranking in PvP also feels less painful, so while Salmon Run may offer some neat rewards, the pain to get them often outweighs the fun. In general, lowering the mode’s difficulty could maybe make it more enjoyable, but keeping the high-score aspect of events would still leave something for hardcores.

Splatoon is a much-loved franchise, but outside of PvP and especially Splatfests, the people I know just don’t care about Salmon Run, and it’s really a shame to write off such a big part of the game.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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