Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 Review
The Dynasty Warriors Gundam series is sort of like caviar or kim chee—you have to be something of a gourmand to really appreciate it. Spun off the main Dynasty Warriors franchise, the Gundam games' multitude of mechs, labyrinthine back stories and absurdly large casts of characters are what anime fans live for; these same characteristics often make them off-putting for non-anime fans. Despite the addition of several new features meant to broaden the games' interest, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is perhaps the least-accessible in the series and ultimately fails to overcome the deficiencies of its predecessors.
The most obvious change developer Koei has implemented in Gundam 3 is the use of cel-shading. The approach definitely makes the game prettier although considering the sameness inherent in every level's geometry, the benefit is limited. More successful is a gameplay tweak whereby death no longer means an automatic level retry. Gundam 3 introduces a range of different fields and the point is to capture and hold as many of these as possible, thus gaining various benefits (like armor regen and fast travel via catapult) and demoralizing the enemy. That means that as long as you have control over your own base, you're able to respawn upon death and continue the fight.
Theoretically, that should add a whole new element of strategy to the game but weirdly enough, it doesn't. There really isn't much urgency to conquering these fields and so map after map, you run around taking fields over at your leisure until the enemy's morale gauge falls below a certain threshold and a boss appears. Once that boss is defeated, you go back to the main menu and start the process all over again. The main motivation for doing this repeatedly (and ad nauseum) is apparently, the ability to level your characters up and to unlock new and better mobile suits for them. For some masochistic players, this might be enough. For the rest of us, it's basically torture.
The game is characterized throughout by pointlessness, tedium and mind-numbing repetition. Starting with a typically histrionic beginning featuring lots of mech battle scenes and philosophical voiceovers, we're given a confusing story premise wherein roughly a hundred androgynous, goofily-named characters (my favorites are “Gingham” and “Schwartz”) have all been mysteriously summoned to an unknown planet by a strange “signal”. Once there, they simultaneously start pondering the futility of war and kicking the crap out of one another. As you work your way through what feels like a thousand instances of the same mission, you're given uncompelling drips and drabs of story that mainly consist of previously separated characters being reunited with one another and discussing whether or not to become allies. During battles, you’re forced to listen to totally non-contextual, repetitious voice lines that say stupid things like, “Secure some essence of rose for me. Before my next bath time if you could.” I mean, what? Trust me, no matter how many hours you spend, you still won’t know what the heck is going on.
If the story offers no real hook to pull you through the game, the gameplay offers even less. Dynasty Warriors, at heart, is a hack 'n slash and despite the Gundam series' addition of ranged attacks, endless melee fights are still mostly what you're in for. To be fair, it's sometimes fun to execute a stylish special and go plowing through an army of mechs in a fireworks-like display of sparkly visual effects but it also gets pretty tiresome bashing and bashing and bashing and BASHING....oops, sorry. I got carried away. Anyway, while some players may take the time to really learn how to use their attacks effectively, it's still entirely possible to get by with mere button mashing. And be warned: learning the attacks doesn't actually do much to alleviate the button-mashing feel anyway, thanks to a limited number of attacks and a completely ineffective fake target lock.
Seemingly ignoring all these problems, Koei tries further to make things interesting by letting you call upon one of your allies during battle when you've filled up your partner gauge. Sadly, due to clumsy implementation, this feature doesn't add a whole lot. Hitting the right trigger button, you watch breathless as a powerful ally drops out of the sky—and then groan as he or she proceeds to utterly waste a special attack by executing it while facing the wrong way. Further, while the game offers a slew of different mission types, each of these plays exactly like all the others. The result is that Gundam 3's combat and missions feel hastily and lazily designed without even half an eye turned toward promoting variety, interest or progression. Koei might be banking on players enjoying the collection and customization of umpteen mobile suits but outside the exclusive circle of hardcore Gundam players, it’s fairly unlikely.
With Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 it seems developer Koei has become either complacent or indifferent to its audience. Much as we might not like it, there’s really no other conclusion we can come to after experiencing this flashy-looking but clumsy combination of poor story telling and boring, repetitive gameplay. Be warned: anyone not a hardcore Gundam fan should leave this one on the shelf.