Monday, August 15, 2011

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars

Alrighty, you’ve had enough with the philosophical waxing. Lets do a game review.

I have a special place in my heart for Turn Based Strategy (TBS) games. All the way back from Tactics Ogre to Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (essentially the same game). This probably had to do with my obsession with forcing others to blindly follow my orders. I usually pretend to be the benevolent dictator that I wish would come and fix this country. Leading us to a brighter tomorrow where all decisions are made for the collective cause of the common identity. RISE my minions and I will lead you all to Eudaimonia: the sovereign collective fatherland!


The tedium of playing stupid Ocarina of Time for the 30-bazillionth time was really starting to get my goad. I went to check the reviews for 3DS games and the superfluously named Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars: The Final Tussle: Clancy Edition 3D: Chapter One: Episode 3: These Wretched Days: and A Bag of Chips by Tom Clancy caught my attention. I was interested because to my surprise the game had gotten good reviews but also wary because of the phrase “good for a 3DS game” came up a lot.

This worried me but I gave it a whirl anyway. Well, it’s 2 weeks later and according to my activity log I’ve been playing Shadow Wars for 18 hours 45 minutes and average a 1 hour session when playing. Needless to say Shadow Wars is not only good for a 3DS game but it is good, period.

First there is the story.

I’ve never read a Tom Clancy book or even played any games that he’s had a hand in creating. However, Shadow Wars almost makes me want to change that fact (I said “ALMOST”!). One thing that I noticed about Clancy or at least this game is that it is essentially a Westernized Ghost in the Shell/Appleseed story. In fact, I would say that this plot could have been written by Masamune Shirow if he one day decided that he was terrified of Russians and their pesky ideals. The anti-Communist sentiments are a little heavy handed but you can always pretend the Russians are the Others and you’re a mercenary hired by Charles Whitmore and BOOM season 4 of Lost.

TBSs are kind of like chess. Certain fighters have specific way that they can attack and you build strategies based around what you’re given. Shadow Wars can boast one of the most well-balanced and thought out approaches to TBSs that I’ve seen. Generally when playing a TBS it starts off simple enough but by the 10th mission your options get so out of hand you feel like you’re trying to order off the Cheesecake Factory menu.

In R-Type Command you start off with a easily understood fleet of a few ships. By the time your fighting the Bydos in a black hole you are inundated with so many options of fighting tactics that it’s nearly impossible to choose between the long range fighter that can cloak itself within 3 moves and not use it’s secondary weapon or the long range fighter that can cloak itself within 2 moves but you can use the plasma cannon. Does it really make that much of a difference?!?!

What I like about Shadow Wars is that you are given a core group of 6 soldiers who have specific jobs. They can be tweaked a little but not enough to feel overwhelmed with the “spice of life”. What happens a lot in TBSs is that you pick a team based on some light intel. Whether or not that team bodes well depends on your ability to pick a team that will strategically give you the upper hand with info like: “there will be a battle, it happens in space”.

I hate this approach.

What this boils down to is that there is no strategy involved. You play a battle, figure out what you’re fighting, typically lose and restart the battle with a reformed party that is based around the weaknesses of the baddies you just fought. You basically use your first battle as a cheat sheet for the second go around. Shadow Wars builds maps based around the party that it already knows you are working with. This translates to maps are created with an answer built into them. Essentially, the problem has a solution.

This is what makes for a great TBS game. If you like Final Fantasy Tactics or Advanced Wars but hated playing the same level 50 times because you didn’t have the clairvoyance to know exactly what you where up against. Well, my friends, Shadow Wars will quell that nagging irritation and also hold you over till Nintendo starts throwing free games at you.

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