Dynasty Warriors as a franchise tends to ignite a love-hate relationship. That is fans love it, and critics hate it. Both sides make valid points about the game, and the truth of the game’s quality is likely somewhere in-between the beliefs of both parties. As a critic I try to review games for their intended audience, and as a long-time Gundam fan I believe that includes me. Through that lens I have found Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 to be a satisfying, if still somewhat flawed, experience.
There’s a story behind Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3, but you aren’t likely to care about it. Various pilots from various eras and dimensions have been transported to an alternate universe (mysteriously full of familiar locales from their various realities), and seek a way back to their correct planes of existence. It’s a flimsy excuse for a mash-up game, but is there ever a good one? The story is told through several branching paths for groups of pilots which converge first into two branches (mostly representing “bad guys” and “good guys”) and then finally into one branch for the last few battles and the final boss.
More important than the story is the presence of dozens of fan favorite characters, and the ability to see them interact with one another. In this, the game doesn’t disappoint. As a Gundam fan who has seen the majority of entries in the metaseries, I was impressed with how well the characters were represented. Their communication is believable and in-line with their individual personalities, and the effect is heightened by the sheer volume of available pilots, partners, and operators, all of which interact both in and out of combat.
Story Mode is played out exactly as it was in the previous Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games. Each pilot will have a set of story missions available to him as well as a variety of other mission types. History Missions replay various famous moments in Gundam history, and Collection Missions allow you to gather plans for specific mobile suits. Memorial Missions are unlocked after completing certain tasks and offer new rewards and more upgrades, Challenge Missions are extra-hard challenges, Friendship Missions allow you to find new pilots and operators, Relationship Missions let you develop further friendships with those pilots and operators, and Special Missions are for gold farming. As you can imagine, there’s a lot to do, and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 offers more than 300 different missions in all.
All the basic gameplay elements of the franchise return for Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3. The game plays out on a battlefield divided into several individual “fields” which must be captured to shift a battle meter to your advantage. Attacks are executed with a simple combo system, generally focusing heavily on melee abilities and chains. This sounds more tactical than it really is in practice, and Dynasty Warrirors often boils down to the simple hack-and-slash elements to really determine victory. Fortunately, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is looking to break that trend, and offers some of the largest changes to the franchise since its inception.
The first of the major changes is in the fields themselves. No longer simply spaces to be captured which generate weak NPCs, fields now offer a variety of advantages and affects. Capturing a Missile Base field launches a missile at another field to do serious damage, capturing a Forward Base fills your partner gauge and causes it to regenerate constantly (more on that later), and capturing a Repair Hanger restores the armor gauge for all allied aces. There are a few other types of fields, and I won’t get into them all, but the addition of different field types makes a big change in the tactical approach to capturing them in the game, and finally adds a real chunk of strategy to Dynasty Warriors.
In addition to the changes in field capturing, a few major changes have been made to the actual combat, both to speed it up and add some nuance. The new Partner Strike feature allows you to call in a pre-assigned secondary pilot and mobile suit to do some damage to your enemies. There are a wide variety of available partners (almost every playable pilot in the game can be a partner), and each one has a different strike. Giant enemies now have a “chance gauge,” which fills up as you perform consecutive attacks. This causes the giant enemy to enter a temporary state of weakness where specific parts of them can be targeted and destroyed, crippling your foe. To compensate for this, giant enemies are much more powerful than they were in the previous entry.
Bigger than any other combat change, however, is the emergency dash, which rapidly moves your mobile suit in any direction. This new move can be executed almost at any time, interrupting a chain of attacks of your own or breaking away from your enemy’s combo in a dodge. The emergency dash has a variety of offensive and defensive uses, and makes combat in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 feel significantly faster and more responsive than any other entry in the Dynasty Warriors franchise to
In spite of these great and much-needed changes and the huge number of missions, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 will still get repetitive before all is said and done. As is the nature of any hack-and-slash game, combos will be repeated ad nauseam. Eventually you stop noticing the differences in the missions you’re playing and they all sort of blend together. The best way to avoid getting bored is to make good use of the incredible variety of mobile suits available. The game features over 50 mobile suits, each with the potential to be upgraded and customized.
Unfortunately, about half of those are relatively useless “trash mob” suits like the Zaku, and the game is missing three of the four lead Gundams from the Gundam 00 series. This is especially odd when the titular suit of the series is featured prominently on the cover of the game. The game also only features the “fully upgraded” versions of all its mobile suits. You won’t see Gundam Exia for example, even though it was featured more than 00 Gundam in its series. Similarly, Gundam Unicorn, the other series with its titular suit on the game cover, is also represented by a paltry two mobile suits. The other three 00 pilots and their Gundams will be introduced in paid DLC, along with another pilot and suit from Unicorn, but it feels kind of sketchy to plaster the series all over the box art then shaft them in representation.
There is some customization in the game, but don’t expect it to replace Armored Core. Pilots and mobile suits are selected independently, but this won’t have much affect outside of the stat boosts provided by the level of the pilot you’re controlling. Mobile suits themselves can be boosted in specific stats such as Melee, Ranged, and Armor, but generally you’ll simply want to max Melee and Mobility (and occasionally some ranged for specific suits). Each pilot can also possess three active Skills, which add effects in battle. Mobile Suits can also be customized with a few similar improvements. For pilots these are usually things like a boost to experience earned or damage against enemy aces. For mobile suits these are things like improved melee range, boost, or added attack effects.
Among the biggest changes from previous entries in the series is a shift to cel-shaded graphics. The new approach brings the series much closer to its anime sources, and it also goes a long way in hiding some of the simplicity of the game’s visual design. There are a handful of awesome CG cutscenes as well, but the game could use more. Overall, it’s a nice looking game, and the variety in effects and animation for the mobile suits is impressive. The audio is also good, featuring fast-paced battle music and lots of voice acting for all the pilots in the story and in combat, including a much-appreciated Japanese voice track. On the annoying side, the music eventually gets repetitive, and the sound bites yelled out by the pilots get annoying and repetitive very quickly. The Japanese voice track helps alleviate this. The game could also do with some more variety in stages, as over the course of 300 missions you’ll play the same ones dozens of times.
If there is a value standard for action games the Dynasty Warriors franchise would surely hold it, if it didn’t get so repetitive. More than 50 mobile suits, more than 70 pilots, and more than 300 missions total well over 100 hours of content to play and unlock. The single-player campaign alone took me 35 hours, though it’s possible to complete it faster. In addition, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 offers an online multiplayer co-op mode for the first time ever. It’s not a particularly robust online system, but it does encourage cooperation, and the 15 missions available are fun. It does, however, highlight the lack of further multiplayer in the franchise. The field controlling game seems almost perfectly suited to competitive multiplayer, and the franchise would do well to add it in the future. Of course, again, all of this content is somewhat hampered by the fact that the game does get repetitive, and there are glaring omissions in the mobile suit roster, but there’s no denying it’s a massive game.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is quite an achievement of content. Somehow that volume of content makes omissions even more glaring, with an intentionally incomplete roster from major recent series and a lack of further expansion in multiplayer content. There’s also no way around the repetitive nature of the gameplay (or the sound bites). That said, the gameplay is faster and more tactical than ever, and the core of it is rock solid. More variety and more suits would still be nice, but there’s no denying Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is a fun experience, and it’s certainly the best Dynasty Warriors game to date.