Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Giant Robot On: Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3

I decided to put my pursuit of a Platinum Trophy in Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends on hold in the name of a little variety in my gaming so have instead decided to start playing......Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 instead.  Yes, I understand the thought process is a little wonked on principle, but they are in all honesty different games insomuch as two FPS games are different games:  One can argue that all you're doing is running around and shooting things in the first-person perspective, but there are fundamental differences regardless.  I'd argue the Dynasty Warriors Gundam games are as different than other Warriors games than they could be and have in fact made that argument, but I'm sure that falls on a lot of deaf ears.  And in fact, DWG3 might actually be a little closer to the other Warriors games than the previous two incarnations have been, which I'm not sure how I feel about yet.

The previous two DWG games have been all about utilizing Dash properly; and by properly I mean dash all of the times.  Said wackily to accentuate just how many times you want to dash, because the correct answer is a lot.  This was a vital tool in DWG1 since it was the great equalizer with the characters and Gundams present, though this was a little downplayed in DWG2 with the change to the dash attack system but it was still fairly viable and it remains viable in DWG3....In theory at least.  I'm not sure what the difference is between DWG2 and 3, but the fodder seems to be more resistant to mass dash slashing which is...quite unfortunate as you can imagine.  This might be early-game-only as well, considering the way they've handled Gundams is a bit different so everyone starts off quite a bit weaker than I imagine they did in DWG2, but my initial impressions were put a bit off by this.

Before moving on, I should explain how they're handling Gundams Mobile Suits this time around to instantly clear up how they could be a bit weaker.  You see, before the Gundams Mobile Suits and the Pilots both were more or less constants that you improved on which worked and made sense, whereas this time around the Mobile Suits are....almost disposable, really.  Getting a hold of the Plans for one (previously Parts) is no longer a momentous occasion, but a possibility of a future annoyance because every set of Plans is for a whole version of that Mobile Suit that you have to pay to build.  Doing this, you can have up to four different versions of a single Mobile Suit before you have to sell one to clear up space.  Doing this makes them feel a bit interchangeable and cheap which I'm not a fan of; they seem treated more like actual weapons to be judged and placed rather than vehicles to be improved upon and fine-tuned.  This is pretty much counter to what is established everywhere and feels like they were looking for a better system, couldn't figure out one and just threw in something else so as to not be called out as a rehash of DWG2.

Several times while playing now, I've asked myself whether or not if I would prefer that DWG3 is more of a rehash of 2 than it is - specifically because both games are very easily different in important ways and I'm not sure that 3 carried over enough of the important things.  For one:  Map design.  If you'll refer to the picture above, you'll see the mini-map in the upper right corner of the screen and see that the map literally consists of giant boxes with little pathways between them.  If you judge that against this image from Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2, you'll see a mini-map of a map that is far more organic and if you trust my word, you'll know that DWG2's maps are far more varied than the fare offered with DWG3.  It's really unfortunate that the map design is so simple, purely because I honestly cannot figure as to why it -is- as simple as it is.  Yet every new map I've encountered is a bunch of boxes inter-connected with little pathways and is inexplicably terrible.  If anything, I guess this is to accentuate the greater focus on Fields, but I don't think you have to make the entire map consist of boxes for that and would in fact argue against it in any case presentable.

Another strike against it in the department of map design is the simple fact that I have not found one map that takes place in outer space.  As in, open space like DWG1 and 2 feature quite frequently.  Mobile suits fly, sometimes through space.  This is simply a fact that DWG3, I think, wants us to forget in favor of....I don't know what, really.  And while outer space levels didn't fundamentally change -anything- in DWG1 or 2 (other than looking neat) since the vertical space was not utilized in any fashion other than flavor, it still carried flavor and that is sorely lacking in DWG3 in...most every form.  Of course, this is all opinion derived from playing the game for only a handful of hours, having only dipped in, really, to two of the many, many pilots and just a handful of the many, many Gundams, so it's entirely possible that there is quite more variety to be found in the departments I've been complaining about elsewhere.

What Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 does do and do quite effectively is to better integrate Mission Mode than DWG2 did, so that you feel like it is an actual mode with depth at start-up rather than when you've bothered to give it a try after exploring the stories available.  Of course, the way this is done completely cancels out the praise it's earned because in doing what they've done, they more or less eschewed the Stories with prejudice.  There are still missions that deal with stories not only from the original series (As in, missions that put you in the shoes of Amuro Ray while he takes on Ramba Ral and the like of that nature) but the actual story of DWG3, but with the cut-and-dry mission-based style they've taken, everything with anything resembling impact has more or less been stripped away, leaving us to feast on the scraps told through messages in the Terminal.

From what I can tell, there are a few different arching stories for DWG3 that tells the overall story from different viewpoints.  Which means that certain characters are just in a group and they get -that story- which is -the story- they can play through.  This open-ended application is more or less why anything personalized has been stripped from the missions themselves so that every mission becomes "Capture fields, reduce enemy efficiency to zero, kill boss" with absolutely nothing beyond vapid chatter in between.  No story has really been conveyed during a mission and if it has, I've completely missed out on it.  I think I've seen maybe two cutscenes as well which look -wonderful- thanks to the new art style but are ultimately as pointless as you might have been alluded to think they are. 

As I said before, all the 'Story' is told through messages in the terminal where you get all your information in an e-mail like way.  Messages such as "Heero Yuy is now available as an Operator." and random messages from some of the various characters that serve only as vessels to explain that you are now able to form friendships with these characters are the bulk of the purpose here, as it was in Mission Mode from DWG2 itself, but now anything story-centric has an "!" at the start of it letting you know that it is, indeed, important.  Opening those will bring up talking heads (well, portraits) and dialogue that is neither helpful nor entertaining, nor voiced and generally end with you being able to play more story missions.  It is unsatisfying, completely and utterly, and kills any and all desire I have to try and understand the piecemeal story they've tried throwing together as an excuse to have all these robots and pilots in the same vicinity.

Regardless, I'm really really enjoying the game, and I'm sure with the way it's going to open up (as I've only been dealing with one story currently, first as Amuro then as Heero by my own choice) that I'll get used to the way it's presented, but I'm not sure I'll ever really want it the way it is.  Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 was fantastic and set the bar really high, and I suspect the idea with 3 was more to test out the new art style (which probably required a new graphics engine or something) and the online features so that with 4, they'll be able to bring it back up to that standard in a newer, better way.  At least that's what I'm being optimistic about, since I can't imagine there's a way for them to go a step -backwards- from DWG3 unless they strip any semblance of a story from it or disclude some of the Pilots or Mobile Suits they've put in so far.  I guess my big thing that's been bouncing around in my head is that with most games you can generally eschew the game that came before it for the new model (though you can still go back to it fondly), but with DWG2 and 3, I'd suggest you play them side-by-side for the best experience which is something that isn't said a lot.

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