The Ghost Recon series is known for its use of stealth. After all, the games star these elite soldiers that infiltrate enemy lines and take on entire armies at once. With Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, though, it uses a type of stealth we weren’t expecting.
See, Shadow Wars is really a turn-based strategy game, in the vein of X-COM or Fire Emblem. While this makes sense to those who know that X-COM creator Julian Gollop was lead designer on the project, it’s probably not what most expect from a Ghost Recon game. You take a small squad of characters, each with their own abilities, weapons and roles, and move them across a grid-based map to complete objectives. There’s covering fire from allies, foliage and buildings to hide in, ammo pickups and other things, and each step has to be pondered carefully. Some maps require routing enemies, while others make you defend a position or reach specific targets. In fact, many maps have different consecutive parts, each with its own objective.
Those worrying it’ll be too hard (or too easy), don’t fret: the game has three different difficulties, and you can change these mission-to-mission. You get rewarded for higher difficulties with more points toward your rank, but you could go through the entire game at a casual level if you’d like. As you progress through the campaign, it slowly adds mechanics, characters and strategic elements, so in that way it eases you in. In addition, there are one-off battles to fight.
Shadow Wars started life as a DS game, and it has gotten criticism for its graphics. Honestly, we don’t see it. The units, while not very detailed, are small, and they move around with life and character. Sure, these base units could mostly be done on the DS, but, likely a matter of getting the game out quickly, the developers focused on world effects to layer on top. The ravines and rivers on the map look nice, and the fog and such make it seem much more advanced than it is. The result is a “living board game” look, and if you’ve ever played a tabletop miniatures game, after you see this you’ll want something exactly like it for whatever game you play.
The game supports hotseat multiplayer, a turn-based tradition and a welcome addition at launch of a new system. We wish there was full support for four players, but one-on-one matches are still fun. (Unlike Advance Wars, though, Shadow Wars has a bit of a learning curve, so you’ll need to explain various mechanics and control points to new players.)
At launch, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is the only game that looks to stay in your system for longer than a week or so. It’s unlikely to be easily replaced by more robust offerings like the rest of the launch titles, and we heartily recommend it.
Pros: Deep single-player mode, defined characters
Cons: Few 3DS features, not-as-robust multiplayer mode