“There are missions in the game where the player’s specific aim is to kill 1000 enemies every five to ten minutes.” This little tidbit of information, kindly provided by our friend over at Tecmo Koei, sums up fairly well what you can expect from Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3.
At its heart, the game is in the hack and slash genre (albeit with a heap of added extras), taking gameplay elements from the popular Dynasty Warriors franchise and inserting them into the Gundam universe. For those of you who may have stumbled into this review by accident (oh God, your mind is going to explode), a ‘Gundam’ is a powerful mech and the tool of destruction used in the Gundam animes… of which there are many.
DW: G3’s story is set in the future, although it’s not the easiest to get to grips with. Rather than follow the antics of just one character, every new character you unlock has their own version of events to play through. Good guys, bad guys, and those who are simply neutral; you’ll get the chance to step into all of their shoes.
Characters play a large part in DW: G3. There are over 50 to unlock, and each one can have their stats upgraded, making them a better Gundam pilot. You can take the long road and level up via mission completion, or you can spend a hefty chunk of money and pay to be ‘trained’, which boosts your stats a certain number of levels depending on how much money you have parted with.
As with an RPG, you can level up fairly quickly during the early stages, but by the time you get to levels 30+ you really have to grind to progress. This adds some much needed focus to the game, as there is an actual goal to be achieved by ploughing through wave after wave of enemies.
It’s not all about you, though. Due to the interaction with other Gundam pilots, you can work on your relationship with them. Befriending these characters works in your favour, meaning you can unlock them as a character to play through, or team up with them at a later date. There are five tiers when dealing with friendship, with a different effect or power being unlocked for you to utilise at each one.
Then there are the Mobile Suits. So…many…Suits! The official press release claims over 70, from all corners of the Gundam universe. What started as a hack and slash, with an RPG element, turns into Pokemon as you really want to catch them all! Defeating certain Suits in battle will see you collect their ‘plans’, which are added to your library. Each Suit has its own set of stats, as well as a limited number of upgrade slots. For example, if a Suit has only two slots you will only be able to increase its stats in two areas (out of several).
Occasionally you’ll come across plans for a suit already in your library, but it will have better stats. You can either keep both plans, or sell the weaker one. As you level up you will also unlock special items to equip to your suit, for a price. Once again you are limited to the number you can use, so choosing well is essential.
The Mobile Suits you collect, Gundam or otherwise, can originally only be piloted by a certain character. After you fulfill certain criteria, though, you are given the option to buy the Suit’s license, meaning it can be piloted by anyone.
I’m pretty sure that now, after 650 words, is a good time to actually talk about the gameplay in DW: G3. Most maps you enter are split into several fields; some under your control, which are marked in blue; some under enemy control, which are marked in red, and some neutral. The idea is to take control of these fields, weakening the enemy and forcing their most skilled pilot to appear for an ass-kicking.
Rather than run about aimlessly, it pays for you to study the map before starting. Scattered throughout are key fields which can turn the tide of any battle. A couple of examples are that taking control of the catapult field will allow you to quickly propel yourself to other parts of the map and, if you have control of the missile base it will periodically launch missiles at other parts of the map. If these fall under enemy control they will become a thorn in your side. Your Home base is the most important field, as if this falls then so do you.
Keeping in line with the anime, the Gundam Suits you pilot are very powerful indeed. Each has a melee attack, various shot attacks and a boost which can be used to charge through enemies or quickly get out of the way. You can also hover for a short while, which opens up some additional attacks. Effectively combining these is the key to success. You’ll also gain access to a powerful special attack, which refills at a reasonable pace, and a ‘Partner Strike’, which calls in your partner for a devastating one-hit attack. If you get close up to your partner you can also link up (no, not like that) and perform a brutal flurry of attacks.[drop2] The Gundam Suits all behave differently, too. My personal favourite, Nu Gundam, is a fairly large Suit that moves at a middling pace. Switching to a Suit called ‘Gundam’ to complete a mission I immediately noticed how much nimbler it was. The trade-off was the fact that it lacked Nu Gundam’s firepower and armor.
When everything kicks off the game is absolutely manic, with ridiculous amounts of on-screen enemies all firing rockets and trying to bludgeon you to death. The aim of the development team was to make you feel all-powerful, walking through lesser Mobile Suits as one might walk through a field full of flowers; brushing them aside with no more than your fingertips.
They have succeeded, as you can happily jump into most fights safe in the knowledge that you are a lean, mean, laser spewing death machine. Crank up the difficulty, though, and suddenly the wave of lambs to the slaughter all gain teeth, and they bite hard. You can still hack through them, but they will push back.
As alluded to above, you are never alone on the battlefield. Fighting in your corner are hundreds of lesser Suits, as well as your partner, who pilots a Suit of a similar strength to yours. The basic grunts aren’t very useful, but your partner will happily go off and capture parts of the map for you, as well as engage stronger enemies. In fact, there have been times where I have caught up with my partner dueling with two enemy commanders at the same time…aren’t I meant to be the hero? Unfortunately my attempts to make him have a laser related ‘accident’ never quite came off.
One of the most satisfying features in DW: G3 is the ‘Chain Explosion’. When you destroy an enemy with a charged shot or special move, the explosion they produce can damage any other nearby enemy units. If you sucker a large group of enemies in close to you and nail it just right you can set off a chain reaction as one enemy destroys another, who in turn destroys the one beside them. Seeing a “field gained!” message after launching only one attack is immensely satisfying.