When I first picked up Ghost Recon, I was excited. A shooter on the 3DS? At launch? Color me surprised. However, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is not a shooter. If you are expecting a portable version of GRAW, then you are going to be instantly disappointed, as this game is actually a turn-based strategy game. Being a huge fan of the strategic simulators myself (in the vein of Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics), I can give this game a hearty recommendation to fans of tactics-based gameplay. In fact, even if you aren’t a big strategy nut, the learning curve is balanced enough that you’ll still enjoy Shadow Wars’ campaign.
Though I’m hesitant to say it, Shadow Wars is like an introduction to basic strategy games. But let me qualify that quickly by adding that it certainly isn’t tactics for dummies. The game introduces the basics quickly with a few tutorial levels, and then launches headlong into a deep, lengthy campaign that challenges you to use different classes and troop formations to conquer the enemy. There are six different classes, and you’ll have to weigh stealth against utility, and brute force against durability. The great thing about Shadow Wars is that even though the game gives you subtle hints about how to go about missions, it never locks you in to using one class over another, and if you feel confident using stealth and healers in a wide arena where a heavy-arms class might be better suited, you can get away with it. You just might spend a lot of extra time in battle.
And speaking of time, that is one thing you won’t have to worry about with Shadow Wars. The campaign is extremely long, and will take you at least ten hours to beat. Levels themselves start out simplistically, but as the maps get more complex and new elements are introduced, it’s not unusual to need up to two hours just to complete a single mission. And that’s without replays. Fortunately, Shadow Wars allows you to create checkpoints and save at any moment in the game, so if you don’t have large blocks of time to devote to handheld gaming, you won’t be penalized.
The game has an interesting progression system where you gain battle point levels based on your difficulty settings (which can be adjusted at the beginning of every level) and your performance in-game. As you gain levels, you will unlock new scenarios and content, which is great for hardcore strategy enthusiasts. And of course it ups the play value, as replaying levels to get more points towards your ranking has some serious appeal.
The game’s progression system is definitely one that sucks you in, but if you are in it just to win it, you can certainly beat the campaign mode using the lowest difficulty setting every time and still have a worthwhile experience. However, if you are looking for an awesome story to hold your interest, I’m sorry to say that you won’t find it here. Essentially the setup involves some bad Russians that must die. Now go kill. The end. It’s not very compelling, and you’ll forget about it fifteen minutes into the gameplay, but it’s obvious that the real star of this show is the gameplay, which more than makes up for the story’s lack of depth.
The 3D visuals in Shadow Wars look great, but aren’t essential to the gameplay. The 3D mainly adds depth to the top-down visuals, and immerses you in the game. However, if you are looking to save on battery life, you can turn the 3D off completely and not lose any of the experience.
The only feature that is somewhat disappointing here is the multiplayer. Shadow Wars includes a simplistic single-system multiplayer mode that has you passing off the entire system when it is your opponent’s turn. This mode is really barebones, and I wish they would have used the 3DS’ feature set a little better and included either download play options, online multiplayer, or even some kind of StreetPass mode. I can’t really see anyone using this mode very often, which is a shame, as tactical multiplayer matches are always fun. If this handheld ever gets the sequel treatment, I would hope better multiplayer would be first on the to-do list (followed swiftly by a better story!).
Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is an excellent game, and its tactics-based gameplay is extremely addictive. The game does a great job including content for both strategic newbies as well as stalwart tacticians, and I can’t think of any group of gamers that wouldn’t get some enjoyment out of this title. With at least ten hours of gameplay (more if you want to unlock everything), some decent replayability, and a well-designed tactics system, Shadow Wars is definitely a 3DS title not to be missed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Visuals are highly detailed, though the game doesn’t make special use of the 3D feature. 3.9 Control
Control pad is perfect for the grid-based gameplay, and camera control is seamless. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound is satisfactory, but nothing to write home about. 4.1 Play Value
The campaign mode is lengthy and includes several unlockable situation modes, but the lackluster multiplayer offerings are disappointing. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best