It would seem that Square Enix no longer has the lock on tactical, on-the-go battles. While Japanesetitles like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre have long been fan favorites for turn-based, tacticalcombat, Ubisoft brings the strategy into the near future with the surprisingly good revamp of TomClancy’s Ghost Recon franchise. Shadow Wars could have easily been a slap-dash release to cash in onthe dearth of Nintendo 3DS games, but is instead one of the best tactical combat games we’ve seen in awhile.

The storyline is a by-the-numbers affair about fighting militant terrorist factions, mostly in former USSRrepublics like the Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Your squad isn’t much more than stereotypicalarchetypes that you’ll get to know purely for their classification as sniper, recon, medic, engineer,gunner, and commando. Shadow Wars really spends too much time on its story, breaking up missionsfrequently with talking head interludes.

Even the graphics are a bit cheesy looking, as if Ubisoft intentionally made the overhead viewpointhigh enough to ensure a lack of detail in the various characters on the screen. On the other hand,the environments are actually quite attractive, and the use of 3D is some of the best we’ve seen onthe system. Since the maps are viewed from above, and the gameplay takes landscape elevation intoaccount, the added sense of depth is used to great effect.

Shadow Wars is a game of surprising tactical depth. Every aspect of the battlefield has some meaninghere. Obstacles, range, contours of the landscape, enemy and weapon types, line of sight, and a hordeof other elements combine to form a superb strategy game. Better yet, the gameplay is remarkablyaccessible thanks to an intelligent learning curve and plenty of in-game tutorials.

That said, you can still screw up an entire mission with one wrong move. Thankfully, Shadow Warsallows you to save at any time, which is a huge advantage when missions can take almost an hourto complete. The touch screen is used to display tactical information on your troops, their skills, andweapons. The D-pad is used to move a cursor around on the game screen, allowing you to select yoursoldier, which grid square to move them too, and what actions to perform. The analog stick moves thecamera around.

The interface is solid overall, although the game is crying out for a platform that is entirely touch-screenbased. The main single-player campaign is amazingly lengthy as well, so gamers can expect over 20hours of combat. In addition, there are unlockable, standalone skirmish missions. Finally, there’s alsomultiplayer, which only supports two players by having them takes turns on the same 3DS.

Blast Factor: Despite the disappointing multiplayer, the rest of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is an exemplary exampleof turn-based, tactical gameplay. There are hours of gameplay here, and a tactical system that is bothsurprisingly deep and accessible. The 3D effect is also used impressively, making this one of the best and most distinctive games for the 3DS’s launch.

About The Author

Jason D’Aprile has been writing about technology, games, movies, and gadgets for the last three decades. His musings on all of the above can be found at Jason only condones virtual violence and wishes we could all just get along.

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