Gun down Gundam
No video game replicates the heaving chaos of a battlefield in such vivid terms as Koei's Dynasty Warriors games. The series is perhaps best known for thrusting the player into the midst of a throng of ancient warriors in games loosely based on the Three Kingdoms historical Chinese era. The Gundam spin-offs, however, look forward to an alternate future of giant sparring robots, duking it out on sprawling battlefields with beam swords and 2-ton rifles.
Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is one of the most exciting games in the tradition so far, placing players at the controls of a huge array of 1970s style vintage mecha. The game charts the stories of their various pilots in a space war plot that will probably only make sense to full-time students of the Japanese anime. Nevertheless, the visceral, thrill-heavy gameplay will delight everyone, even newcomers with no knowledge of the wider series.
Meet Your Mecha
The structure is relatively simple. You choose a pilot to play as, then a mecha (a giant bipedal robot) to control, before heading into one of the hundreds of battles that Koei has arranged. The freeform structure runs through several storylines concurrently, and you have the freedom to dip in and out of each as you please, wielding a giant beam sword and gun, cutting through the swathes of enemy robots that stand between you and your objectives.
While it may appear as though strategy in the game is limited to tearing around the battlefield, slicing lesser robots in two with your beam sword, in reality the tactical game runs a fair bit deeper. Each battlefield consists of a series of interconnected square areas. At the start of the skirmish you and your team starts in one of the squares on one side of the map, while the opposing team enters from the opposite side. The eutralsquares of land in between your two positions can be claimed simply by thrusting your way into them. Turning a square to your side color increases the number of troops you can make use of in the battle.
Robots in Disguise
As such, the first minute or so of a match is always a land grab, assessing which squares you can claim before your opponent does. The focus then shifts towards trying to claim squares owned by the opposing squad by defeating a set number of troops within each of them. Slowly you begin to take over the map, switching areas to your team side and depleting your enemy numbers as you do so. Certain squares on the map have bonus properties - winning these will grant you bonuses, such as being able to fast travel across the map, or improving the AI of your teammates.
A battle is won by capturing the enemy base square, a densely fortified area which you can only safely penetrate once youe defeated more than 50% of your opponent forces. This square is always guarded by an enemy general mecha, who much be defeated before the map is won. While the rules may seem a little complicated, in reality battles are snappy and exciting. As you increase the level and competency of your mecha, so the speed at which you can take over a battlefield increases, and many maps can be cleared in just a few minutes.
Hack and Crash
As you beat stages and defeat generals you begin to collect plans which can be used to create ever more powerful and splendid Gundam in the game workshop. Different attributes can be improved while special modifications will give unique abilities to your craft. As the game progresses you earn the ability to ride any Gundam with any pilot, and even the pilots themselves begin to earn skills to make you more proficient in battle.
The sense of scaling power as you progress is immensely satisfying and - despite the relative lack of variety in stages - if the game grabs hold of you, it won let go easily. Indeed, with over 300 missions and a slew of online battles to engage in there a lot of breadth here. While the game may struggle to match this with depth as the hours roll past, it undoubtedly a triumph in Koei's Musou series, and one of the best sprawling hack-and-slash games in recent memory.
- Fantastic art style.
- Huge number of missions.
- Mecha customisation options offer variety.
- Menus sometimes lack clarity.
- Lack of diversity in missions.
- Story is very tough to follow.