The Fate of the World is in Your Hands!
What started out as an immensely popular series of books by Tom Clancy has now evolved into an extremely popular series of video games inspired by these books – funny how things work out like that. The newest installment in the on-running series is called Tom Clancy’s EndWar, and it brings handheld, world-conquering strategy to the DS. How does it stack up with the console versions of the game?
Story-wise, EndWar isn’t particularly impressive. The premise is an engaging one, but the development team never really went anywhere with it. The game is set in the future; World War III has broken out and the entire planet now has a huge mess on its hands. You can take the role of three different factions and experience a war story. The plot itself is weak, and the writing is even worse. The dev team fit about every war cliché possible into EndWar, which is disappointing, especially considering the potential there was to do something really interesting with the plot.
When it comes to gameplay, EndWar is a fairly typical strategy RPG. You command a variety of different troop types, all obviously modern-day units. For example, during the game you’ll order such units as fighter jets, battleships, infantrymen, and lots of others. The unit variety is pretty good, and overall I think the strategy is better than average.
What keeps it from being all that great, however, is the fact that EndWar feels too much like Advance Wars. Just looking at some screenshots is enough to make such a connection. The way the maps are laid out and the visual encounters between enemy troops seem to be directly taken from Advance Wars.
There are some things that differentiate EndWar from Advance Wars but, for the most part, these were not particularly positive aspects. For example, one feature of the game is you cannot cancel a move or a command. This can become really infuriating. For example, if you accidentally moved a unit to an incorrect space or if you realize the move you made was strategically unsound, there’s no way of undoing it. This is a feature obviously in place to encourage you to think carefully before you move, but it requires that you don’t make any mistakes ever.
The game is easy enough, however, that this is seldom a problem. There are variable difficulty levels – each campaign has a different difficulty. Even on the harder campaigns, however, I never found EndWar to offer much of a challenge. On the one hand, this does mean that the strict movement and attacking implementations aren’t such a problem. But on the other, it also means that those looking for a really solid SRPG probably won’t be incredibly happy with EndWar. The genre is by nature difficult, but EndWar never proves to be that hard.
The other significant gameplay aspect that distinguishes EndWar from Advance Wars is that moving is designated to one phase of the game, and attacking is designated to another. The twist here is that you and the enemy are always performing opposite actions. So, while you’re moving all your units, your foe will be issuing commands (such as attacking), and vice versa. It’s an interesting system at first, but it becomes a little confusing once you realize that it doesn’t really have much bearing on the gameplay. Again, I think the point here was to force you to be careful and thoughtful with your moves, but even messing up occasionally seldom results in a loss.
The graphics follow the same trend set by the gameplay: decent, but not particularly stand-out. The game’s visuals are fine, but I found myself missing the colorful, animated style of the original Advance Wars games. The fact that I felt I was playing Advance Wars rather than a new, different game highlights what’s probably the biggest problem with EndWar: lack of originality. It’s not bad, but it steals so many admittedly successful mechanics from Advance Wars, yet Advance Wars does everything so much better. Regardless, the visuals are muddied and bland, and generally boring to look at.
EndWar on the DS does contain some voice work, but it’s about as trite as the game’s script. The voice acting is not particularly good and does nothing to dispel the ridiculous stereotypes and clichés that essentially characterize the game. The music doesn’t fare much better. Again, not because it’s particularly bad, but just because there’s no reason to remember it.
There are 30 campaign missions total, and each can be played by the three different factions for three slightly different gameplay experiences. Where the real replay value comes from EndWar is in the map editor and the scenario maps, of which there are many. The level-creator is a nice tool (though it’s difficult to notice that it’s a feature that Advance Wars had as well), but the lack of WiFi to share the maps with other people is a huge drawback. I suppose if you succeed in talking several of your friends into buying this game, then the map-maker might hold some value. But otherwise, it’s just an interesting tool that you probably won’t use much.
While there’s nothing that really breaks EndWar, there’s also nothing that ever makes it stand out. It’s just a run-of-the-mill SRPG without much depth or strategy. The simple rock-paper-scissors system is uninteresting and overdone, and the game is easy enough that you’ll never really need to use particularly clever tactics to win missions. It might be worth a rental if you’re really into this type of game, but otherwise Advance Wars does everything that EndWar does, and does it a lot better. With that in mind, I see no real reason to buy this game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
Not bad, but not good. The game could use a more varied color palette and more interesting environments. 3.7 Control
Typical DS controls work fine. Maneuvering your army is done easily. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music isn’t particularly good, and the voice acting is no better. 2.4
Lack of difficultly and necessity for sound tactics, plus repetitive campaigns and lack of WiFi, are all particularly noticeable flaws.
2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.