In every new system launch line-up, there is always one surprise; the one game that you didn’t even know to look forward to. Sure, you always know to get the hot new fighting game or mascot-based platformer, but what about the box with assault rifle toting Special Forces guy on the cover? At first glance, the game looks like it could have been whipped up in a very short time just to take advantage of the consumers starving for one more game on their new piece of hardware. However, sometimes a system launch will define itself by a game that flew under the radar. Well, Ubisoft has invaded that special section in my gamer heart, the one reserved for tactical turn-based strategy.
Ghost Recon Shadow Wars is a tactical turn-based strategy game for the Nintendo 3DS, and it has a lot going for it. First off, anyone versed in the ways of the classic strategy game “X-Com” will be delighted to know that one of that game’s key designers was directly involved in the making of Shadow Wars. My friends, this is the “little engine that could.”
GR Shadow Wars takes place during an insurrection within the government of Russia. You will witness the downing of a special forces top secret aircraft that you will have to destroy in order to keep its secrets from not being discovered by the enemy forces. Your forces will begin the game separated, and the first major objective in Shadow Wars is to get the gang back together. These first several missions are great because they will slowly pull you into the game and teach you the specific gameplay mechanics for each of the six major characters.
The setup for each of the missions is a top-down grid that makes up the mission’s terrain. You will chose the actions of the Special Forces unit, each of which feels very much like a cast member from the live-action G.I. Joe movie. Even the music sounds like it came out of G.I. Joe.
Many people have compared this game with the likes of Advanced Wars, or even Fire Emblem. While this might be true on the surface, there is a lot of number crunching involved that extends beyond simple elevation tactics. As you move your units to victory, you will have to keep track of other stats such as speed, cover fire, and even the rate of return fire from the enemy. As you become more and more familiar with how each of the six main characters control, you will be able to level them up and equip them with more powerful weaponry. Among the six units, there is a great level of depth due to the specific talents of each team member.
The presentation in Shadow Wars can be viewed as a mixed bag, but I feel that it is very adequate for this type of game. On the surface, it looks like it could have been done on the original DS, and it’s possible that development began on that system, but don’t let that be a deciding factor in your purchase of this game. The cut-scenes are mostly made up of static profile pictures with text boxes handling conversation. Sure, you may have to use some imagination while following the game’s plot, but in what great game don’t you do that?
Something magical happens when you turn on the 3D. The look of game makes sense. Shadow Wars comes alive with the inclusion of the 3D capability with all of the those static profile pictures in the cut-scenes looking like 3D holographic imaging windows that one could imagine actually using in the near future. The game’s top-down perspective also improves with 3D. Elevation differences and even the red beam from the laser sighting get an extra pop that just looks great.
Overall, Ghost Recon Shadow Wars is a must-buy for anybody who likes strategy games. The game makes a modest but cool use of the 3DS’ capability. The developers even included a multiplayer mode that can be played hot seat style with a single 3DS system. The level of depth and upgrading is high enough, while at the same time somehow feels much simpler then most strategy games, and at the very least a good time. Ghost Recon Shadow Wars is an approachable gem of a title that just feels so right, and is highly recommended!
Review copy provided by publisher.