Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars

8 Overall Score

Strategic depth and complexity | Pitch perfect learning curve | Subtle 3D Usage | Single-system Multiplayer

Bland plot and characters | Game can feel slow | Limited multiplayer options

If you’re disappointed the new Xcom game has turned into a shooter, don’t worry, Julian Gollop has found a new home on which to hock his strategic wares: the 3DS. If we’re honest with ourselves, the launch lineup and more amorphous ‘launch window’ isn’t exactly jammed full with amazing must have titles. There are many great first party titles coming in the fall, but if you want something to play on your 3DS now, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is a great place to start.

If you have any preconceived notions of what a Ghost Recon title should look like, forget them. Other than brand recognition, there really isn’t anything about this title that you would expect to be Ghost Recon. Sure, there are generic soldiers fighting a mostly generic war against generic bad guys, so I guess they picked that part up from the later Ghost Recon games. But don’t let that put you off the game, it actually overcomes the forgettability of the set dressing, and lets you focus on the strategy and combat that you actually came for.

That’s partially helped by the graphics, which aren’t exactly what you’d think. Instead of it being the traditional 3rd person Ghost Recon style, or the 2d isometric perspective that we’ve come to know and love in our strategy games, it’s… well actually it’s hard to describe. Isometric projection is used so you have some depth to a 2d plane, being your screen. This is a 3d isometric projection, which would technically not be a projection at all. It’s confusing, but when you start playing, it fits very well. The playing field sinks into the screen, while the the buildings, barbed wire, ruined walls, bushes and everything else pops back out at you, to create the playing surface you always knew was there, but was just behind the screen. It’s not that the graphics are impressive, as the 3D doesn’t add a massive amount and the environments are actually a little bland, but the more subtle nature of it sucks you into the playing field and helps you immerse in moving your little cel-shaded units around the world.

Which, is really what it comes down. If I haven’t sounded that up on the game yet, it’s because the presentation isn’t what the game is really about. It’s much more about the Fire Emblem type combat, think of a human scale, slower and more deliberate than the Advance Wars series on the original DS. You have a squad of six Ghosts – medic, heavy, sniper, engineer, recon and commando which you use various numbers of alongside support units you spend some missions commanding. The classes are cliche, but their abilities and skills, along with their upgradability and unlockable specials really add a great depth to the game. For example, the engineer has a turret and the heavy has a minigun which deals a great deal of damage. He’s great to have standing next to your weaker units, which is something you really should do. The reason for this is two-fold: the enemy AI is smart enough to flank and attack weaker units such as the medic, or ones that are damaged. Also, he along with some others, are able to return fire when neighbouring friendlies are firing upon. This can turn the tide in combat, it really is a cover and support game. They can also each take a variety of secondary weapons, which you’ll actually use.

A good dinner party crowd.

The cover and support is where the strategy deepens, as terrain, vantage points and range all have an impact on the damage your weapons are able to do, or if they can fire at all. You’ve got houses and bushes to hide in or use as launching pads for counter attacks and covering fire, walls to exploit lines of sight with and different levels of terrain that give 10% damage bonuses and penalties as well as affecting line of sight. They can also cost you movement points, of which your units have varying numbers of anyway, so keeping everyone together and in proper support can be quite the juggling act. If this all sounds a little difficult to keep in your head, it can be. There is a great difficulty curve however, and three different difficulty levels that are selectable before every mission. If you do have any of your Ghosts die however, you do have to restart the level. Thankfully you can save after every move, so that shouldn’t be too much of a penalty if you’ve remembered to do so. But so you don’t have to rely on that, the touch screen is chock full of all the information you’ll need to kill some bad guys.

It has as much as you need about every square, including lines of sight, retaliation lines from enemies, movement costs, cover values and places you can attack from. It’ll also tell you what the randomized damage values you can expect from the square you’re going to be attacking from are. This is really what you need to be triumphant, knowledge wins the game. You’ll have to do some planning to make sure you can actually get your team into cover, so they don’t stagger in the next move having been shot from three different angles. This complexity really brings it from a generic turn based strategy game into something special. You get the feeling that Gollop and crew were creating something wonderful and had a big name license and publisher thrust upon them. Thankfully what’s great still shines through.

Shines… or explodes through!

The campaign stretches out past the 20-hour mark depending on your difficulty level and therefore the amount of planning you need to be doing due to the lack of health and further toughness of enemies. It will take you into Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and along the way you unlock challenges in which you use generic soldiers to take on some interesting spins to the strategic formula. Both modes add on to your persistent rank and helps you unlock more, which actually gives a nice feel of progression to the game. In what is hopefully not an ominous sign for the 3DS, the only multiplayer is local. It’s an interesting ‘pass the system’ style multiplayer that uses a variety of maps and soldiers to give you a surprisingly large amount of content to enjoy. Normally I would question this decision, but as the only one of my friends with a 3DS, it actually made perfect sense to be able to share the game with a single system.

With some interesting local multiplayer, quite a deep strategic system and a lengthy campaign with persistent progression and unlocks, along with rich environments and action that really keeps you going, you forget about the window dressing and enjoy the ‘one more mission’ you’ll inevitably be playing.



Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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