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Tom Clancy's EndWar campaigns onto the handheld consoles for world domination...
- Reliable voice command system.
- Strong immersion.
- Persistent online warfare.
- Friendly AI could be improved.
- Relies heavily on voice system for immersion.
- Too stripped down for RTS hardcore.
The Tom Clancy name gets used a lot these days by Ubisoft, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Tom Clancy's EndWar will be yet another tactical squad based first person shooter. The big home versions of EndWar are actually real time strategy games. However, Funatics Software, the developers behind this DS iteration of the game, have opted to totally ditch what the home console versions are about and have done their own turn based interpretation of the EndWar title.
EndWar is set after the year 2025. The increasing threat of nuclear war coupled with an escalating energy crisis has seen America, Europe and Russia emerge as three of the world's military super powers. After choosing your side, you get to fight in the war torn regions of Northern Europe, North America and the Middle East.
Anyone who is familiar with Nintendo's Advance Wars series will be able to spot some distinct similarities with the handheld versions of EndWar. The most striking thing must be the top down viewpoint and the cartoon like super deformed art style of all the soldiers, tanks and other battle units.
As with all good turn based strategy war games, you get to command various battle units into war across a variety of maps. There are plenty of land, sea and air units available for your disposal. In an interesting twist, although you can capture seaports, airports and military depots, there is a set amount of new units that can be generated from them.
The reason for this is because there is no resource management. Unlike other strategy games, EndWar has no mad rush to scramble over precious raw materials in a bid to amass the biggest army possible. In fact, the concept of things such as fuel, ammo and other supplies to keep your units running are absent from this game entirely. Rather than making for a dumbed down simplistic strategy game, it actually deepens the tactics as you focus purely on the battles themselves.
Each time a unit attacks in a battle, they gain some experience. The more experience they acquire, the more efficient they become at fighting. What this makes for is a interesting level of tactics, as this experience system works both ways. You must be mindful that your opponent will also be earning experience from all of their battles. Balancing the risk of earning experience and keeping your unit alive from all of its fighting is an interesting consideration you must make.
The turn based system itself is worthy of note as it differs slightly from other strategy games. The explanation for the top down view is because you are viewing the battle from a satellite. Keeping with this theme, the satellite image updates every turn after you and your enemy have issued commands to move and attack. Being able to move and attack all in one turn takes some getting used to, but ultimately provides something quite refreshing as you must anticipate the moves your enemy will make.
There's plenty of things in this game to keep you busy for an extremely long time. The single player campaign mode is comprised of over 30 missions, and there are over 40 maps to unlock for the battle mode. During the missions, you can unlock 'honors' for meeting specific criteria in battle - a bit like the Xbox 360 achievements - and there is also an ongoing ranking system for your proficiency over land, air and sea. There's also multiplayer options and map editing and sharing facilities to further keep you busy.
Sadly, the multiplayer and map sharing doesn't extend online. For a game which heavily revolves around clicking on objects and using assorted menu's, there is very poor stylus support. Lots of the icons are very small and fiddly, and after a while I gave up using the stylus, resorting to a conventional button input. Another big criticism I must level at the game is the music: there seems to be very few songs which constantly loop throughout the game, which does become rather irritating. The sound is otherwise very satisfying and well implemented.
To their credit, Funatics Software have made a very solid strategy game which is gripping and addictive once you're used to its twist on the turn based system. There's plenty here to keep you going for a long time, and I would definitely recommend this to any strategy fans. EndWar marks Tom Clancy's successful entrance into handheld turn based strategy.
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