Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars review
This is the surprise release of the 3DS launch. Seeing just the title, most people probably expected it to be a meh third-person shooter, but when screens started popping out, it turns out it was a turn-based strategy game, made by the guy behind the old X-com series… Well I was interested.
Read on and see if it was any good!
(Note: This was just a rental, so I didn’t get to the end of the game… take this review as you will)
Date of Release: March 27th 2011
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Turn-based strategy game
Rated T for Teen
What’s good about the game
The gameplay starts out as fairly standard turn-based strategy fare. you can move all your characters during your turn, then it’s your opponent’s turn, nothing special there.
When you choose a character to move, if any enemies are in attack range within your movements, the spots you can attack from with your currently-equipped weapon (you can swap with the R button) are marked, and the enemies that can be attack get a red circle around them. If you select an enemy instead of a space to move to, it will show colored squares on the ground, with the different colors representing the attack range (which affects the damage), and you can choose which square to attack from like that (this also shows which enemies will counter-attack you). Some weapons can only shoot if you move within a certain range. The big dude with the gatling gun, for example, can only attack with that gun if you move no more than 2 squares (though he can get a secondary weapon to counter-act that problem).
If you are within any enemy’s attack range (including the enemy you’re attacking) and they have a weapon with counter-attack functions equipped, they will attack your character after you’re done with your attack. Some weapons have only a slight chance of counter-attacking, others do it all the time. Only exception is when Banshee attacks, since, unless she was visible before her attack, she cannot get counter-attacked. So this element really forces you to choose your attacks carefully.
Each attack gives your characters power points, and they get more if they kill a target. When they’re at 100% in their power points, they can use them for special skills, like Rapid Attacks, which give them another turn (as well as being stronger), or Super Shots, or Super Healing, amongst others. Different weapons also get different special skills (Duke’s weird rocket-launcher-ish thing can hit a wider area). Proper use of those special skills can be really helpful in battle.
Some missions have flags you can capture. Those will give you 1 Command Point per turn, which can be used for special commands, like giving power points to all your characters, letting a character get another turn, or sending down a powerful air-strike that kills anything in the area you select (though it cannot be used indoors, obviously).
You have a good variety of characters at your disposal, each with different abilities. You have a medic, a sniper, a standard machine gun guy, a stronger guy with a gatling gun, a guy who can place a strong turret and a girl who can cloak, making her impossible to attack unless an enemy is standing right next to her (AKA she’s awesome).
In addition to the having different basic skills/weapons and movement/attack ranges, you can level the characters up. In each missions you get a few objectives, and each objectives give you an amount of stars (in the parts I played, it wasn’t really possible to fail any of the objectives, but maybe that changes later on). You can use those stars to level up any of your characters up to twice per mission. Each level will do different things. Some will give extra health, others will give new primary and secondary weapons to equip, as well as armor (which gives HP in exchange for slower movement speed), others will give you passive skills… So you’re basically always getting stronger as you progress through the game.
Overall, the gameplay is really good. Every element here meshes really well and makes for a fun and fairly diverse gameplay experience.
Calling it bad would be a bit much, but the difficulty is annoying. The big problem is that you can let NONE of your characters die. If one dies, you have to restart the mission, and some of these missions can be pretty long. At least some games like this (like the Fire Emblem series) will have characters leaving the party forever or something, but failing the mission because just one character died? It’s really annoying. I mean, can’t they just send a rescue team and revive the dead member or something? Maybe just make him/her unavailable for a few missions? Sounds like a good compromise to me. As it is, you CAN randomly lose if the enemy somehow decides to send all its units on one character in the same turn… and randomly losing is never fun.
Otherwise the difficulty is pretty good. Your characters are basically tanks compared to everything else, so even fairly large enemy forces won’t completely overwhelm you (as long as you fight them strategically), and if you find it too easy there’s 3 difficulty levels.
They keep talking!
During missions, your characters will keep on having useless conversations, constantly pointing out what you have to do next, making you waste your time (I mean, aren’t the big flashy icons enough?). You can skip those conversations by pressing the B button, but that still wastes your time, since you have to skip any time there’s a camera movement during those conversations, so you’ll have to skip multiple times before getting back to gameplay. It really annoyed me.
What’s bad about the game
They’re BAD. And by that I mean that early DS titles looked better. This looks like it should be on a second generation iPod Touch (heck, some games that work on the second generation iPod Touch look better than this). Design-wise it’s very uninteresting, due to the grey-brownness of it all and the total lack of character design (real humans with no distinctive features=no character design). It’s just really not interesting graphically. The characters have a super-low polygon count, the cel-shading makes them look even worse since they’re pretty small and makes whatever texture that’s on them look bad… It’s just not really nice to look at overall.
The story just isn’t interesting at all. All the characters are basically blank slates, the overall plot makes little sense, and the cutscenes in-between/during missions put me to sleep. I had no interest in what was going on and just wanted to go back to the gameplay. After the second cutscene I just decided to skip them all since they were so boring. (so I can’t even tell you what the story is about… sorry… it’s the game’s fault for being so boring)
It obviously does nothing gameplay-wise. But playing with the 3D on makes it look a bit like if you’re looking down at a board game on a table with some figurines on it, the effect is actually really cool in that sense… nothing more to say on that one. Not useful, but it slightly enhances the crappy visuals. The smoke effects are good though, with the smoke popping out of the screen a bit.
There’s really no reason for this to be on the 3DS, other than… hum… Yeah, I can’t find any point for this being on the 3DS…. ANYWAYS, this is probably the most interesting launch title of the 3DS, but not due to how it uses the console’s capabilities, but rather because it’s a really good strategy game. To some people it’s the best launch game for the system, and I’d tend to agree.
Despite the bad graphics and sleep-inducing story, this is a good game. Not a must-buy on the 3DS launch (well, none of the 3DS launch games are must-buy), but you can’t really go wrong with this one if you like strategy games. It’s probably not going to end up being the best strategy game on the system (heck, Devil Survivor Overclocked is coming in 2 months), but it’s good enough if you’re looking for something to play on your 3DS.
Pros and Cons
- Great gameplay
- Balanced difficulty
- Some replay value in the form of skirmishes, multiplayer (which I didn’t try) and difficulty levels
- Boring story
- Gameplay constantly interupted by boring dialogues
- Bad graphics
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