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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars

by Neal Ronaghan - May 14, 2011, 6:57 pm PDT
Total comments: 13


Do you like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars? Picture a slower-paced, Ubisoft-made version, and that's Ghost Recon. 

At first glance, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, a 3DS launch title from Ubisoft, doesn’t look like anything special. However, pop the game into your system and it might surprise you that Shadow Wars is a turn-based strategy game that shares more in common with Fire Emblem and Advance Wars than other Ghost Recon games. Shadow Wars, with development led by X-COM creator Julian Gollop, who also made the Game Boy Advance game Rebelstar Tactical Command, is a character-based strategy game with a wealth of content and a nice amount of gameplay variety. If it weren’t for a plodding pace and a peculiar save system, Shadow Wars would be an amazing game. Instead, it’s just good.

There is a story, but in all honesty, it’s not worth paying attention to. There's something with a Russian presidential candidate who's trying to scare neighboring countries, and the specialized team of Ghosts are the only people who can stop him. Regardless, all you need to know is how to defeat the enemies on the battlefield, and how to make good use of your different characters. In the main mode, each of the six main characters has a designated class. There are tanks, healers, snipers, and more. The best part about the different classes is that they are all distinct and customizable, even if they might not appear that way at first. At the outset, each character comes equipped with one weapon, but as you progress through the game and level them up, you’ll be able to choose between different weapons and armor to customize each character to your liking. Each change tweaks your character, and the game is very good at telling you what is being changed.

Shadow Wars is also very good at communicating information to you during missions. You can see how movement ranges of both friendly and enemy units, if opponents will be able to fire back, and more. It’s not a perfectly streamlined process, but it is smooth enough. The save system is not, unfortunately, user-friendly. You can save in the middle of a mission whenever you like, but there are no auto-save checkpoints in missions. So, if you don’t save constantly, and you mess up at the end of a mission, some of which could take you upwards of an hour, you have to more or less restart the entire mission. In summary, save as often as possible, if you don’t want to run the risk of replaying an hour of the mission.

As you progress through more than 30 missions, new twists are added constantly, making the game worth playing just to see what kind of tools, enemies, and concepts the game throws at you next. However, it’s very slow to develop these concepts. While there are about 30 hours of game content in the main campaign, a lot of your time is spent slowly moving your team across battlefields, and then waiting for your opponent to slowly move their team across the same battlefield. Some missions aren’t too affected by this problem, but a fair amount of them feel like they’re almost doubled in length because of the slow, movement-heavy early turns.

In addition to the main mode, you gradually unlock difficult challenge missions and hot-seat multiplayer maps. The challenge missions are quite difficult, and the multiplayer is great in theory, but the fact that you can’t see what your opponent did during his or her turn makes it slow-paced and unexciting. Every turn begins with the player scrambling to find out what the hell his friend just did. Unfortunately, there is no wireless mode.

Shadow Wars isn't a graphical powerhouse, looking more like a high-end DS game than a 3DS one. The 3D effect does offer up a really neat diorama-like effect, as if you’re peering into a box that this war-torn world inhabits. Explosions pop off the screen, but in general, the character designs and settings don't stand out, as the game lacks a style other than "bland Ghost Recon game."

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is a good strategy title, and if you’re okay with padded missions that feature almost as much moving as they do shooting, then it’s in your best interests to check it out. If you are kind of bothered by the dawdling pace of other turn-based strategy games, then you’re better off skipping this title, as it is one of the slowest games of its kind.


  • Cool 3D effect
  • Deep but easy-to-understand gameplay mechanics
  • Loads of content
  • Checkpoint/save system can be frustrating
  • Hot-seat multiplayer is lacking
  • Turtle-like pace


KidBombMay 14, 2011

Did you make the animations faster in the settings?  I definitely did not feel that the game was as slow as you said...

Quote from: KidBomb

Did you make the animations faster in the settings?  I definitely did not feel that the game was as slow as you said...

Yes, and even with that I felt like there was way too much setup. It's not a bad game at all; I just feel it lacks polish.

I bought this with my 3DS and I still haven't started it. Getting the backlog started early.

AilingforaleMay 15, 2011

I didn't feel the game was to slow either.  Some units just can't walk as far, and while I can see that as frustrating at times, it didn't completely bother me.  My only problem was the game crashing on me when I played it too long.  Samurai Chronicles hasn't done that to me, so it bothers me when I'm in 30 min a mission w/o saving since I'm being a dork, it makes my heart shaped place hurt.

Turn off the wireless and the crashing should stop. It's annoying, but it'll make the headaches of saving lessen.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusMay 15, 2011

Besides the crashing bug, I found a really annoying glitch in one of the last levels of the game, and because of this I had to restart this rather long mission. This glitch happens in the last Deadhand base of the game, in the same level where you have to kill the mega drone. There are key tiles your character has to step on to open a door, once the door opens your character yells "Contact!" and the game generates a fixed number of enemies.  The glitch happens if you save the game with one of your characters still standing on one of those tiles, when you re-load that save that character will yell "Contact!" and a whole new set of enemies are generated.

Other than the glitches, this is one of my favorite 3DS launch titles. I would personally give this game an 8 since it's full of content and is a very satisfying strategy game.

The_Darkest_RedMay 16, 2011

I find the save system complaint interesting, is there a TRPG with a better saving system? I was extremely satisfied just to find out that I could save at any point during a mission, not to mention the fact that you can reload from that save an infinite number of times. This save system is significantly more "modernized" than the ones used by games like Tactics Ogre and Fire Emblem.

I also wasn't bothered by the pacing of the game, it seems to be right in line with other games in the genre.

Despite those minor differences in opinion I really enjoyed this review, and I'm glad we can at least agree that the story in this game is absolutely awful.

This is of no offense to anyone else in this thread (I know my view on this game is a little more negative than most, and I was worried I'd get eaten alive, which no one has done yet (thanks!)), but The_Darkest_Red, that is one of the most level-headed responses to a review that I have ever seen. You don't 100% agree with my review, but you're chill with the fact that we view the game differently. Stay classy, sir.

The_Darkest_RedMay 16, 2011

Thanks for the kind words, Neal, they are much appreciated. I'm fairly new to NWR but I'm loving the atmosphere here so far, it seems much more friendly than many other gaming sites.

I find it strange (in a good way) that the game only froze for me once during my 25 hours with it. I think I've had the wireless on the entire time as well. I wonder what factors affect how often this happens?

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusMay 16, 2011

Ahh, now I know where the Tom Clancy influence went to, the story.

The_Darkest_RedMay 16, 2011

Quote from: oohhboy

Ahh, now I know where the Tom Clancy influence went to, the story.

What, you don't think names like Haze and Mint are signs of a deep and compelling narrative?  ;)

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusMay 16, 2011

When you invoke Tom Clancy, it has a nasty tendency to fubar the gameplay to be more "Clancy". Evidence the H.A.W.X series, Ghost Recon, Rainbow 6, his own books, especially the spin offs and his later Ryanverse novels.

JourneysMay 16, 2011

Waiting for this to show up in the cheap bin.  $40 is too high for this title when there is still way to many games similar to this on DS and going for much less.  3D is not enough to make this a buy.  Though I am glad to see something in this genre of game coming to the platform.

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Game Profile

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Ubisoft

Worldwide Releases

na: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars
Release Mar 27, 2011
eu: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow War
Release Mar 25, 2011
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