Many years ago, before my life became consumed by video games, and even before I discovered the delights of Games Workshop’s particular brand of table top games, I used to play wargames. Simple affairs revolving around massive approximate scale battlefields and piles upon piles of little plastic soldiers. I imagine this to be the reason why I spend so much of my time playing strategy video games in the here and now. Although I get a lot of enjoyment from the strategy games that I now play, there has always been something missing.
When I first heard that a Ghost Recon title was to be coming to the Nintendo 3DS, I was not really that bothered. Then I heard that it was turn based strategy and my interest was piqued. A lot of time has been spent playing Advance Wars on the DS and if this was similar, I would be a happy bunny. But what I found instead was a game that was not only superior, in my mind, but also had the one thing that it turns out I have been looking for all these years.
Anyone who has played any tabletop wargame in their lives will understand the godlike feeling that comes from looking down onto a battlefield and actually moving the soldiers around. Of all of the video games that I have played, Shadow Wars has come closest to replicating that feeling, and that is all thanks to 3D. By pushing the 3D slider to the max, the play areas within the game take on an incredibly realistic depth. Features within a given area take on a visible purpose, the player can actually see the effects of line of sight and elevation. Everything becomes that bit more involved and immersive.
Of course, without a decent game behind it, all of these 3D shenanigans would be completely wasted. But coming from Julian Gollop, creator of the X-COM series of games, this is almost guaranteed. As a turn-based strategy, the players take it in turns to move their soldiers and perform actions such as firing and healing, in an attempt to achieve their objective. As with all Tom Clancy games, Shadow Wars has a story line firmly based in the realm of possibility and sees the player controlling a team of Ghosts as they go about preventing a Russian Ultranationalist from seizing power. The story, for what it’s worth, is interesting and helps guide the player from one of the 37 story missions to the next.
Players have six classes of soldier to control: Commando, Sniper, Recon, Engineer, Gunner and Medic. Each have their own weapons and abilities that the player will need to master in order to progress. The game actually has an impressive level of depth for a turn-based strategy on a handheld and new ideas are introduced throughout. This is done in such a way that it feels like natural progression without ever getting overwhelming for the player. The learning curve is set at an almost perfect level. There is a lot for the player to take into account before each action, such as return fire, terrain, levels of damage, supporting fire etc., but with on-screen indicators and the easy learning curve, this all comes very naturally and the player will pick things up without even realising.
Alongside the 37 story missions, players will unlock 20 Skirmish missions with adjustable difficulty to lengthen what is already an impressively long game. Added to that there is the local multiplayer which is played on one 3DS unit with players handing the console to each other after completing their turns. For this there are currently 11 duel maps available, adding yet another dimension to the game. Although handing the 3DS back and forth may seem slightly “old school”, it actually works really well and things can get quite heated between players.
With the extensive story mode and other modes further extending the game, there is a lot here to keep the handheld strategist happy. But the impressive use of 3D adds a whole new dimension and the light learning curve ensures that new comers will get the most from this game. Whilst there are a couple of good launch titles for the Nintendo 3DS, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is perhaps the most surprising. Do yourself a favour and pick this game up now.
As if I didn’t mention this enough in the review, the 3D effect in this game is simply stunning. But not only does it look great, it is also functional and allows the player to get more out of the game. Pump up the 3D as much as your eyes can handle and enjoy.