So, how does one go about reviewing the latest title in the long running Dynasty Warriors franchise? Does one accept its now niche appeal and aim the review squarely at the hardcore devotees? How about a review appealing to those who lost interest as the series grew stale and failed to keep up with modern tastes and trends? I could even have a punt at reeling in those who never gave the series a chance in the first place? What to do, aye? Well, if I can, I’d like very much to aim my review at all of the above and everyone in between, as Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3, the third title in the anime/Musou spin off, has enough up its sleeve to appeal to just about any gamer out there………well, most gamers anyway.
The thing is, unless you’re a fan of the series, or the anime upon which it is based, Gundam 3’s gameplay will look very samey at a glance, while its plot (including 52 playable characters) can certainly appear somewhat indecipherable to the uninitiated. While I can confirm that the plot will remain just that for all but the most hardcore of fans, I can also confirm that subtle refinements to the Dynasty Warriors formula, and a raft of improvements over the already impressive Gundam 2, serve to make Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 easily the finest release in the spin-off series, and one of the very finest Musou titles to date.
Like any Dynasty Warriors title, Gundam 3 is a game that demands a pretty hefty time commitment to get the best from it. Although the relatively sprightly missions and quick fire gameplay make it an immediately accessible experience, it’s only through committed play that the nuances and depth that set this release apart from its predecessors truly makes themselves apparent.
With the aforementioned 52 playable characters and a campaign that spans numerous time lines and literally hundreds of battles, there is more than enough to keep fans busy for months on end. I appreciate that Dynasty Warriors titles have never been short of content – it’s usually fatigue that puts a stop to proceeding rather than the sight of the end credits – but Gundam 3’s loot drops, customization options and power upgrades all serve to make it a consistently entertaining ride that really captures that collect everything addictiveness enjoyed by so many of today’s most popular RPGs.
Beyond the ability to customise and upgrade your own mech and pilot, the ability to create some very outlandish mechs of your own design via the Gundam schematic loot drops make the whole experience extremely moreish, while the strategic gameplay keeps the somewhat rudimentary core mechanics feeling fresh for the duration. With the relatively short missions requiring constant quick thinking and a strategic approach to battlefield domination, Gundam 3 offers a surprisingly deep and nuanced experience and is without question the place to start for newcomers to the series…..believe me, you’re not going to pick up the story by playing the first two Musou Gundam releases.
The aim of each battle will be extremely familiar to Dynasty Warriors fans: pick off a number of battlefield grids so that your army can spawn from that location. Take 50% of the battlefield and you can then take your army onto a boss battle against an extra tough robot general. Take him out and you’ve won the battle….simple. The thing is, via a combination of teleport points and a huge improvement to mech agility, moving around the battlefield has never been more enjoyable or satisfying. Sure, the simple pleasure of cutting a path through hundreds of thousands of enemy mechs is as enjoyable as it has ever been, but it’s the actual controlling and managing of the battlefield that gives Gundam 3 its longevity and overriding quality.
It’s not just the gameplay that has been improved either,Gundam 3 is easily the best looking Dynasty Warriors game to date. It still suffers from the repetitive, slightly dull level design that the series is famous for, but in fairness to Koei and Omega Force, there has clearly been some work done on improving both the quality and variety of the games environments. Don’t get me wrong, they’re hardly masterpieces but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
As usual though, it’s the actual mechs that prove the real stars of the show. All lovingly recreated and beautifully detailed, all of the game’s many, many mechs look absolutely fantastic. The thousands of enemies on screen are once again repeated en-masse and certainly aren’t animation rich, but they all look cool and do there job as basic cannon-fodder. While basic enemy movement remains sluggish and limited, the animations of the core mechs and the end of battle generals are smooth, distinctive and lightning fast. In fact, the movement of your own mech has never been better realised with a combination of boosts and attacks coming together to create a host of super-agile mechs that feel fully connected to the world around them.
The biggest and most successful change to the games visuals though, has to go to the new cell-shaded design. The cell-shaded visuals give each mech greater weight, helping them to jump off the screen while inevitably doing a great job of tying the game to its anime roots. The screenshots may look pretty good, but it’s only when you’ve got the game up and running that you realise just how big a difference the cell-shaded visuals make to the overall experience – Gundam 3 is a very pretty game in motion.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is a feature-rich, deceptively deep hack-and-slasher with a great loot system and an array of customization options. The inability to take custom-made mechs into the 4 player co-op online missions is a bizarre and hugely disappointing omission, but the ability to create wildly inventive mechs customised specifically to your play style, combined with the huge collection of upgrade options available for your core mech make Gundam 3 a hugely addictive experience. It still feels a little out of touch with modern tastes, but the slick gameplay, great visuals and wealth of content make Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 a title deserving of the kind of recognition that its predecessors have so rarely been afforded.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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