Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars
With the release of the 3DS comes a new Ghost Recon game, one that more closely resembles a SRPG than a 3rd person-shooter. It features a group of ghosts: Duke, Haze, Richter, Saffron, Banshee and Mint; who must put a stop to the chaos that is descending upon Europe.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars follows a small team of Ghosts as they travel through the land of Kazakhstan in a quest to defeat the evil bandits and raiders plaguing the land. On top of the usual bandit fare, there is also a government conspiracy as well as talks of war.
The game follows the squad of Ghosts, with their leader Duke, over the course of 5 chapters, each with their own missions and sub missions for players to work their way through. However, you may not be able to use all of the members of the squad depending on the mission.
Oh hey, it’s the squad. Banshee is awesome.
Over the course of the story the player will gain access to new squad members, gametypes (I mean some of these scenarios feel like they were made for multiplayer then tacked on in the story campaign) and command abilities.
Ultimately, I didn’t find the story at all that engaging and I frequently found myself skipping over chunks of pointless banter between squad members. Though, at the beginning of each mission, the Duke will often have something to say about the background of the area that you are investigating in the mission that you are on.
Ghost Recon does not play as similarly to previous titles in the series as you would expect. The squad based gameplay is still in, as are the guns and bad guys. But the game has gone from a more real-time 3rd person behind-view game to a 3rd person birds-eye view turn-based tactical game. The game is closer to Fire Emblem than it is to a Ghost Recon game. While this is not a bad thing, it obviously looses some of the tension that the other titles in the series generate by having the player in the thick of what’s happening.
The game is all about being tactical and I’ve often found myself restarting an entire mission just because I didn’t plan ahead accordingly. Usually the missions revolve around completing certain objectives (and by usually, I mean always) and how you approach it early on can often have an impact on your success later. For example, in the first mission that involved me capturing certain devices to gain command points I just rushed forwards with no real strategy and, while I managed to capture the middle point, my team got out flanked from either side where the other two points were and I had to restart. The second time I did it, I took the bottom base first and worked my way up, ensuring victory and overall awesomeness.
Tactics are a definite recipe in the winning formula.
Command points are gained through capturing these command point structures and accumulate in batches of however many of the points that you hold at the beginning of each turn. For instance, say I hold 3 points. I will then gain 3 points (1 point for each location) at the beginning of my next turn. These Command Points are used to call in various kinds of Command Powers, like an air strike, that do devastating amounts of damage, or Reactivate, which allows you to re-use units.
The length of each mission varies, usually by a players tactical decisions in the game, and can range from 10 minutes to enormous amounts of time (sometimes 1hr or more). The campaign is a huge amount of missions, something like 30+, which you can tell will lead to a pretty huge playtime. As well as the campaign, players also unlock special missions to undergo in Skirmish mode, which are extra challenges for players to utilise and challenge themselves in. I quite like how the extra challenges are included in the game and that you are not required to fork out extra money for DLC challenges. Thanks Ubisoft!
Each of your units can be outfitted with different kinds of equipment after you reach a certain point in the game, which allows you a certain amount of flexibility and tactical planning of your team. As well as a method for a potential winning strategy, mentioned in a below section.
Explosions are prettier in 3D.
Each character moves across a grid on the battlefield that is limited by various factors, such as a characters maximum movement, obstacles and things like that. If a part of the movement grid is a green colour, then when that particular character stands in that spot they can attack an opposing unit. Each weapon has a range that they can hit up to, but that doesn’t mean that they can go through obstacles or anything like that, which definitely adds to the tactical feel of the game. I do have to mention, though, that at least one member of your squad is strong enough to take out an entire army when played correctly and that member is your stealth unit, Banshee. I’m not going to tell you how this is, as it would be up to you to work out, but I will mention that it involves stealth and knives, as well as (when done correctly) having things that can get her to move around more than once per turn.
While having an over-powered unit can often help tide the battle, not worrying about your overall teams tactics will still get you killed. So be warned.
The game also has a small multiplayer component in the form of hot-seat multiplayer. not many games utilise hotseat anymore, which is unfortunate as it is one of the most funniest ways of hosting a multiplayer session. Taunting, screen-peeking, beers and all around goofiness. Need more hotseat in future Shadow Wars titles if they are ever made!
The sound in Ghost Recon Shadow Wars is fairly good. The music takes on a more ambient role, as opposed to an entertaining one, which helps to set the mood of the area quite well. However, listening to the same theme for (sometimes) over an hour can start to grate on you. Thankfully, you can turn the music off in the options menu. Or if you’re like me, you have your PC headphones nearby and can listen to some music. The music isn’t terrible and you are supposed to take 10 minute breaks every 30mins or something, so when you take that into consideration, it isn’t so bad.
You’ll often find it’s hard to get a picture to play a sound.
The game also has a sound-effect component where most things have a sound associated to them. While the game doesn’t appear to have recorded actual weapons fire, the sound effects for each weapon do their job and you can tell the difference between a Sniper Rifle and an Assault Rifle. Most objects sound similar to what you would expect them to make the sound of when used. So it all fits quite well.
Graphically the game consists of two-dimensional sprites over a three-dimensional environment. This may sound a bit awkward at first, but it integrates very well and it scales beautifully with the 3D capabilities of the 3DS. The interface is all 3D when the 3D is turned on and it gives the menus this awesome feeling that you’re kind of looking into or at a hologram projection. It’s really quite amazing.
Each sprite is finely detailed, from the shoulderpad on Dukes arm to the ponytail on Saffron, and have several predefined animations. Each animation is attuned to the action that is being undertaken by that unit, for example a running animation would occur when a unit runs. All animations are quite smooth, even with the 3D on at full and even when it was not. Each weapons animations also play quite well, with a firing effect playing from the end of the barrel and a thick shot being hurled towards the enemy, not too quickly and not too slowly… just right. It just all fits together so well.
Blue is the colour of awesome.
The 3D environments, while plain, are quite tactical in appearance and do well to suit the locations that they represent… or at least I assume they do. I mean, like, in Kazakhstan, it felt as though I could have actually been there. I’ve never been to Kazakhstan, so it could be a lot different to how it appears in the game, but it felt right. And as I said earlier the 2D sprites fit into the environments quite well.
The environments aren’t just the ground and sprites sitting on top of them, they also have other things surrounding them, like buildings to take cover within and well places walls, dividers and plantation. The one gripe I had with the environments is that a lot of the buildings look the same (though there are some variations) or that they could have been copied and pasted into multiple locations. While it would be ideal to have every single building be completely different to each other visually, they all server the same function anyway so it kind of works out in the end.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars is an amazing game (not just as a launch title for the 3DS) that offers players plenty of hours of challenging entertainment as well as even more challenging Skirmish missions. It is visually pretty good and offers a pretty decent soundtrack. I’d recommend this game to anyone who loves Strategy Role Playing Games like Fire Emblem or Super Robot Taisen (Wars).