Should I Buy? – Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3


I don’t make any secret of the fact that I really like the Dynasty Warriors games and the associated spinoffs, something which is not common among a lot of professional reviewers due to how “formulaic” and “repetitive” the games are.

Usually I take umbridge with those words attached to a Dynasty Warriors game as I roll my eyes and go through the mental Rolodex of redesigned maps, new mechanics, tweaked movesets, overhauled weapon systems, brand new characters or gradual improvements in storytelling each iteration brings. But with Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3  those words really do feel applicable, at least to the game itself.

By the way, if you’re a Gundam fan looking to see if your favourite characters, Mobile Suits, musical tracks or whatever are recreated for you to play with I’m afraid I hadn’t seen a single episode before playing this game so I can’t help you there. Also, I haven’t played the two preceeding DWG games so I don’t know how much has changed for this third installment.  I’m sure it’s a big deal to some of you out there that Ribbons Alamark and Char Aznable can go Mobile Suit-to-Mobile Suit or have Setsuna and Amuro fighting hoardes of Zukos back to back.

Despite the same huge cast of loosely connected characters and frantic button-mashing combat being in place from the DW franchise, this game feels a lot different from the main series.

All the battles take place on a handful of small maps, made up of connected “Fields” that you battle for control for. Whenever one side loses a Field, their special gauge at the top of the screen drops by a certain amount. Once below 50%, an army’s Ace Pilots can no longer respawn and the powerful laser cannons at their Headquarters are powered down, making it that easier to move in for the kill.

In and of itself, this promotes moving fast from Field to Field, taking them from your enemies and claiming neutral ones in a furious, explosion filled tug of war. Thankfully, this isn’t all there is to it, as certain Fields are special bases that confer bonuses to the army that control them and provide incentive to pick a certain route through the battlefield and prioritise your target instead of just hitting everything you come across with laser swords.

Given that the special objectives in missions are both rare and seem to revolve entirely around which random Ace Pilots seem to be on the field (i.e. only Seabook ever gets ambushed by ‘Bugs’ that you have to save him from) this rinse and repeat formula of field claiming isn’t enough to sustain long missions. Which probably makes it a good thing that this game *has* no long missions. It’s always the same few small maps to scrap your way through.

I can’t really call that a problem though, the game doesn’t go all out on a story mode that would make such missions necessary and the fast pace of the game will probably ensure you don’t notice. Given that you’re into effortlessly slicing through hords of giant robots with laser swords on Easy, or mastering combo strings and block timing and emergency dash on Hard, that is.

Often Dynasty Warriors games bore me because their pace can be too slow depending on my mood, so pumping the action to a break-neck  pace is pretty much the perfect method of enrapturing me. Of course, everybody’s tolerance for repetitive missions and button-mashing is different so while it worked for me better than just about any previous DW titles, you know your own limits on the subject way better than I could.

I mentioned the story mode not being up to much above, and it’s really not. Each character (seemingly at random) is part of one of several groups who band together after finding themselves in some mysterious alternate dimension, and start battling over control of several self-replicating facilities. Each group goes through exactly the same motions, so only the characters spouting the lines are really any different. I’m sure all the people forced together by the whims of fate means something to a Gundam fan, but as I said before I don’t have that connection to the source material.

Aside from the story missions (which will probably take you a few days to get all the way through, just going by the sheer number of them), there’s an array of extra ones for specific purposes. History missions let you replay battles from the different shows, Collection missions let you fight themed collections of Mobile Suits to get the Plans for certain types, Relationship Missions let you get a huge boost to your Friendship with certain characters, etc.

Oh yes, Friendships.  You can forge one with each character in the game and levelling it up to certain levels confers bonuses, like being able to call on them for special attacks or unlocking them as either your mission control or a playable pilot. The system for levelling them up isn’t entirely explained and as such seems a bit random, but I can’t really think of a better way it could have been done that wouldn’t have made the production team cry for a week and go on crunch for an extra six months.

The music? The same high octane metal guitars DW games are famed for. The visual design? A cel-shaded approach which often comes off more as a really great 3d anime than it does a cel-shaded videogame. Seriously, it took me a long time to realise it even was cel-shaded.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is no work of art, but it’s a fast, fun experience full of giant robots, laser swords and plentiful explosions. Except for the final boss. Seriously, even on Easy, that guy is some of if not *the* biggest bullshit, fake challenge I’ve ever come across in a videogame. Seriously, fuck that guy.

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Should I Buy? – LEGO Lord Of The Rings


Who’d have thought that not only would the  gimmicky idea of mashing up LEGO and Star Wars into a videogame for kids not only work, but endure for nearly a decade without stagnating and branch out into some of the most beloved nerd culture franchises of all time? So far it’s taken on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, DC Comics, Harry Potter, Pirates Of The Carribean and now Lord Of The Rings. There was even that Rock Band spin-off that was actually better than Rock Band (not that that’s hard) .

Oh, and next for the franchise? Marvel Comics. No really, they’re making a LEGO Marvel game that will have over 100 characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Deadpool, Loki and Galactus. I know!

After that? Almost definitely a Hobbit game. Another DC Comics game to capitalise on the planned Justice League film also really likely. Somebody gets these guys the rights to do Doctor Who and Star Trek. Not just the new revivals either, both new and classic versions of both shows should be made into LEGO games.

Anyway, the question you clicked on this link to have answered is “is LEGO LOTR any good?” Rest assured, it is. Maybe not the best, but certainly up there with titles like LEGO Batman 2 LEGO Star Wars 2.

Squeezing Peter Jackson’s three Lord Of The Rings films into one videogame took a fair amount of compression that really shows at times. Sure, all the key scenes and plot points are recreated but this is one of if not the first time a LEGO game has cut out parts of its source material that could have made great levels, rather than expand small action beats into full levels.

This is most readily apparent with the Return of the King section, where Denethor is completely absent, and there’s no night raid on Osgiliath, no attempt to reclaim it, no trying to take over the Black Fleet, no lighting of the Beacons and no battle in the streets of Minas Tirith.

While it is a shame that both these and sections that weren’t in the film like the Barrow Wight aren’t in the game, the levels that are there are fun, varied and of a good length. Unfortunately, not all the characters are as great. Oh sure, their designs are all spot on but some like Merry and Pippin don’t get that much to do while others like Legolas, Gimli and Sam are so incredibly useful you’ll spend most of your time as them.

While it is fantastic that they’ve recycled the audio from the films, with both Howard Shore’s music and the original actor’s voices, none of the voices were re-recorded to make them better match the heavily shortened cut-scenes. It’s not a huge problem, but the flow from one line to the next isn’t quite as natural as it was in the films in terms of emotion or emphasis.

They’ve made a fairly big deal out of how Middle-Earth is a completely free roaming experience, and you can literally walk from Bag End to the Crack of Doom on the world map, passing through all the key locations. It’s scaled down just enough so that it feels big enough to encompass all those locations and secret collectibles yet not so big that it’s a chore to navigate and even if you do feel that way, there’s also a fast travel system in place.

While there’s just about every character you can think of from the films and a few more like Radagast and Tom Bombadil thrown in, most of them don’t have any innate special skills that make them useful in Free Play, and there’s basically no enemy exclusive skills you’ll need to collect so it can often seem like you’re doing it for its own sake.

There is a way to remedy this, however, with the also much vaunted item forging system. By collecting Mythril bricks, which replace the traditional Gold Bricks, and the appropriate schematics you can craft a large variety of items that give your character access to abilities they don’t normally have. By the time you’ve forged a good chunk of these items, you can pretty much demolish the entire game as characters like Arwen, Eomer, Rosey Cotton, Faramir or Lurtz.

But even this throws up a new problem. That’s not an option until you’ve already completed a good chunk of the game and fun as it is to replay levels and the like, a major part of the fun in LEGO games is going back to find all the crazy secrets as characters you love and/or didn’t get to use the first time round. Sure, the inventory system means that almost every character is precisely as useful as every other, but it takes a damn long time for that to happen. Time you’ll spend playing primarily as Sam and Legolas.

To talk about the controls, there are some problems there too. In order to access the inventory, you have to hold down a button to bring it up, from which you scroll through the items which seem to have no real order to them and pick one out. This is often way slower than just quickly switching to an on-hand character.

Also, most Mithril items can only be wielded one at a time and can’t be placed in a character’s own inventory, so every time you want a new one it’s back into the confusing menu. The only items that do get placed in your inventory (other than ones you pick up from the world map in the levels) are the various cosmetic items like the Goggles, Shimmering Armour and Statue Hat.

Switching characters is something which should be perfected by now, but LEGO Lord Of The Rings contains the most infuriating problems yet. For starters, the ‘press button to open character wheel, hold to bring up big menu’ thing quite often doesn’t register that you’re actually holding the button and just plain switches you over to the other character (at least on the XBOX 360 version). This isn’t too bad in and of itself, but when you’re in the middle of a particularly long or difficult platforming section and when you accidentally switch to Samwise waiting at the bottom and the character you were playing as has jumped halfway back to you by the time it switches back, it is really annoying.

There’s also an odd problem where the game seems to want to keep you as having one Hobbit sized and one human sized character at all times, perhaps to further enforce that Samwise and Legolas are the Gods of LEGO Middle-Earth. See, if you’re playing as Legolas but want to switch over to say, Frodo for his Vial of Earendil, the game will switch you to playing as the Hobbit in the player 2 slot and then change *them* into Frodo whenver you’re in Free Play or wandering the world map after finishing the story. Again, this doesn’t really become a problem until you’re in the middle of a platforming section, but they make up a a fair portion of the levels and a huge chunk of the post-story collect everything stage of the game.

None of this is insurmountable or game-breaking, merely frustrating. Oh, and like all the other LEGO games, there’s a fair few mostly harmless bugs to be found in this game.

Again, I feel like I’ve been way too hard on a game I actually really like. LEGO Lord Of The Rings has all the charm and polished design the rest of the series has, and a greater reliance on sight gags has meant they can keep their trademark humour without compromising the serious tone of the story.

There’s a lot of content, most of the collectibles can either be plainly marked on your world map, or are hidden in easy-to-find places and behind puzzles with an obvious start point in the levels themselves, so you can work through it all at a sold and productive pace without getting it done in a few dedicated sessions.

The puzzles and boss fights have by and large been simplified, but giving that this is a series aimed at kids being more readily accessible to both children and people who don’t frequently play videogames is really a plus rather than a negative. Actually, it’s probably one of the most easily accessible LEGO games out there.

In a sense, it is to Peter Jackson’s film trilogy what the Jackson trilogy is to the books. After a long time, finally a truly great conversion to another medium that cuts, changes and compresses where it needs to in order to fit itself into a new medium.

If it being a fun, long-lasting and well designed game isn’t enough by itself, let it be known that what you see below is real in game footage of an item that actually exists.

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