Codename: Panzers, Phase Two


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Complete Review & Description

Towards the end of 2014’s E3 event in Los Angeles, Nintendo announced a closed-door secret unveiling of a game. Rumours grew alongside anticipation and fingers were crossed throughout the auditorium for the announcement for something huge: a new Metroid title, Mario Sunshine 2, the unveiling of the Star Fox demo that was being shown to limited people on the show floor. No-one could have known that Nintendo was going to reveal a turn-based strategy title called Code Name S.T.E.A.M.

It was always going to be hard to live up to the expectations of a group of games journalists’ hopes and dreams. Even if a new Metroid had been announced there would have been numerous sites reporting on how it fails to fit the franchise, how they’ve ruined certain aspects of Samus, or that Nintendo is doomed. The reaction from the auditorium when Code Name S.T.E.A.M was revealed was subdued to say the least. Sure, there was applause, but it wasn’t what people were expecting, and, quite frankly, it all looked a little strange and bland.

Code Name S.T.E.A.M follows a small team of soldiers led by Abraham Lincoln as they fight off an invasion of creatures from another planet. I’d like to say that the game is set in a Steampunk version of Earth, but it’s simply not that simple thanks to the cast of characters that appear in the game. Code Name S.T.E.A.M features the cast of Wizard of Oz, Tom Sawyer, a character from Peter Pan, HP Lovecraft’s alter-ego, and a few other characters from notable books.

While the eclectic cast definitely comes across better than a squadron of generic soldiers, the characters don’t seem to have any ties to their back stories. It’s not like Kingdom Hearts where it feels like you’re interacting with the cast of numerous Disney films. You’re essentially playing with generic soldiers that have the names, and sometimes the looks, of characters you know. This, along with the uninspired design of the alien creatures means there is simply no character to the game. You can see they’ve tried, but the writing, and even the premise, feels like something out of a failed ‘90s Saturday morning cartoon.

This alone isn’t terrible, but mixed with the fact that the game does little more than the minimum when it comes to turn-based strategy gameplay, means there’s little reason to go back to it. Sure, the difficulty level is pretty spot-on, there’s a huge selection of cast and weapons, and the ability to plan your move before solidifying a strategy is great, but that’s nothing that other similar games don’t already provide. If it wasn’t for the outcry of the people who tried out the demo, the game could have been even worse.

Code Name S.T.E.A.M originally released without a way to speed up the AI player’s turn. This left gamers waiting anywhere from 30 – 60 seconds while every alien creature on the playing field thought about their turn, then moved. Thankfully a patch was released before the title hit NZ stores making the wait between turns far more bearable.

It’s unfortunate to come away from Code Name S.T.E.A.M disappointed when the game has so much to offer. That fantastic intro song when it starts up, the amazing comic-book style and 3D effects, a difficulty level that increases as you get to know the game better, and a wide selection of characters to choose from. It’s all for nothing when those very characters are uninspired empty shells of who they could have been, the gameplay has been seen before, and the enemies don’t incite any emotion. You’d think that the moments that involve sending a giant mechanical Abe Lincoln to beat a boss alien would at least help push the game forward, but even they seem flat, barren of ideas, and boring.

What I don’t understand here, is that the very developers behind this are also the developers of the critically adored Fire Emblem series (which is also a turn-based strategy RPG). It’s hard to imagine that Fire Emblem: Awakening and the upcoming Fire Emblem: Fates both come from the same studio. It’s also hard to suggest picking this up when there are already so many great turn-based titles available to buy across so many different platforms. If you’re in need of one for your 3DS then it’s hard to go past the 3DS launch title Ghost Recon or FE: Awakening, or simply wait fire FE: Fates to land next year.



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