Rage against the machine.
Following the release of Fantasy Hero late in the year, Arc System Works has released Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo for the PSVita. Damascus Gear is an action game that combines mission-based mecha titles like Armored Core with the isometric, loot-laden gaming of other games. The ten hours that it takes to complete nearly everything on offer is almost non-existent, but there is a solid foundation to build on if the creators so desire.
In the year 2097, fifty years after a fourth World War, the game introduces players to its mechanics by sending them through a couple of training missions before they join the team hoping to take back Tokyo. The mecha, known as GEAR, have not been affected by the grand artificial intelligence rebellion and are being used to try and fight back.
The controls are easy to learn. Although button mashing is the name of the game, there is more to it than that. The two weapons attached to each of the mecha’s arms are operated by triangle and square. The left and right shoulder buttons provide healing, while the circle is reserved for the special weapon. Each weapon has an energy bar, preventing it from being used for an extended period. It is easy to fall victim to a powerful attack if you don’t pay attention to where and what enemies are doing. The combat is enjoyable even though it isn’t the deepest system around, and the satisfaction of taking out both the smaller enemies at a time is high.
Objectives of missions include defeating a high number of RAGE, surviving a certain amount of time, and protecting an ally. The majority nation creator of them are easy to get through, although there are a few where the difficulty increases. Although their usefulness is questionable and they have a tendency to get destroyed mid-way through missions, they often join in. Most missions will take around five to ten minutes, while the longest can take up to twenty. There is a time limit that comes into play on occasion, but it is more often than not random. The only problem is that there is no optional content after the game is over. Damascus Gear is a game that would be easy to translate into a multi-player game.
There are five slots for armour for players to mix and match, as well as three weapon slots for melee and ranged weaponry for players to use. Many enemies will drop loot, so players will want to return to the dock screen to check out the spoils. Although parts will share the same name and base stat, passive bonuses can vary greatly between them, so even parts that appear to be duplicate are worth checking over. Players can expect to have a wholesale replacement of their loadout every five to ten missions. The equipment in the shop is never any better than the equipment found on the battlefield and so it only needs to be visited to stock up. The customisation helps break up the mission structure a bit, and is implemented well enough so that players don’t get trapped in menus for long
The visuals of the game are pretty decent. The effects andUI give a good sense of what is going on with minimal issues, and the location designs do a nice job of taking into account the camera. There is a lack of real difference in the enemy types, as well as a limited number of locations within the game, which is disappointing. The game’s fonts are not ideal and can be difficult to read due to bad kerning. Sound effects and music can both be good, and both can be grating. There is no voice acting in the game, which is to be expected, and there is nothing to suggest that its inclusion would have added anything.
Damascus Gear moves from one mission to the next well enough but doesn’t do anything noteworthy in the process The game suggests the fluid situation of the ongoing battle against the RAGE. The uncommunicative nature of the opposing side means there is no real character or particular examination of the enemies. There is some minor character development, but it is clear that the developers did not want to tell a deep story. It has a clear potential to be improved if desired, with what appears to be a solid premise to build on. There are no noticeable problems with the localisation of the game.
Damascus Gear is easy to forget, but it would be a shame if it were to end on this note. If Arc System Works wants to take it to the next level, it provides a great base for a good series. Adding more meat in terms of content, as well as more effort in the telling of the story, and I can see this being a series that I would be excited for.