So you have got yourself a shiny new 3DS and have decided to scour the store shelves for something to play. Whilst the launch line-up is not the strongest, this game is worth considering for those after a little bite-sized turn-based strategy; certainly Tom Clancy has slapped his name on worthy title for commuter generals not interested in the complex.
Mechanically we have seen this game many times before, select your squad members one by one, give them an order, watch them carry it out, do the rest of the squad and then wait for the AI opponent to have their moves.
It is much the same here, your Ghost squad is tasked with stopping a near future group of Russian leaders and their plans for local and [zzzzzzzz!] world domination. Your squad will battle well equipped foes from bandits to army regulars and elites, essentially however it is the weapon they carry that defines them, that and how much armour they wear.
More often than not you will have a full squad of six at your disposal, but from time to time you will be forced to select fewer members for a particular mission. Based on the brief, errrm, briefing, you will need to decide the best mix. Will you need stealth and speed? The cloaked Banshee is always a good choice. A medic for support in a heavy open terrain fire-fight could be handy or perhaps Mint, the turret deployment expert should be chosen over the heavy weapons guy or sniper.
Add to this a small variety of equipment choices and the barriers are minimal before hitting the kill zone.
Once in a mission turns play out on a square grid, as most strategic board game players (and plenty of strategic computer game players) will tell you, square’s versus hex grid doesn’t really give the tactical realism in a game like this. Still it makes each choice relatively easy, and the game does a good job of delivering the capabilities of each Ghost’s available options at a glance.
Terrain movement modifiers, cover and equipment usage options are clearly marked, though the system for LOS (Line Of Sight) is clunky and could have been incorporated into the movement system. The lower screen does a good job of being the map by default, and character info during others, lacking only in weapon effect against different targets.
All the info is available to make correct decisions for each Ghost, and nary a stylus is needed at any point, after a few missions players will fall into a rhythm of knowing where to move characters, how to provide support fire or healing and where to deploy turrets or best position a sniper. There is still an element of randomness in damage delivered by each Ghost, before an attack is performed the game will tell you how much damage will be done, as well as potential damage on top of that. It adds an element of gamble to each encounter that I like.
The game is relatively easy even on veteran or elite settings; it delivers exactly as expected, but perhaps delivers all it has to show, too early on in the campaign.
You will have your Ghost squad levelled up with equipment, traits and health pretty quickly, and it is only rarely that the challenge may end with the loss of a Ghost member, making you wish you saved the game sometime after the start of the hour long mission.
The 3D depiction looks okay, though it is by necessity a layered approach. Higher ground gives an advantage in the fire fight except when lower foes can use the terrain to avoid enfilade fire. The best maps are urban street battles rather than the somewhat boring to look at bunker cleanse missions.
As the lengthy campaign progresses, single player challenge missions will unlock, as will multiplayer hot-seat scenarios (no fancy networked multiplayer here). Why multiplayer needs to be unlocked is not exactly clear.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is a top release for the 3DS providing an addictive, not-too-shallow bite of strategic game play for fans of fifteen minute sessions. It could have easily been a DSi game sans 3D, but that 3D screen certainly looks a treat during the action.