(Played on PlayStation 4)
There’s something weirdly nostalgic about Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD Edition, even though I’ve never played the original release on the PS Vita. I don’t know what it is but it feels old school and whilst playing it, memories of me playing different PlayStation 1 games came flooding back. Old and fond memories of video games I played way back when, come from time to time when I play certain games. However with Damascus Gear, a tidal wave of video game memories surged to the front of my brain throughout my time playing with it.
Damascus Gear Operation Tokyo HD Edition is a remaster of the PS Vita release of the game that released in 2015. It was developed by A+ Games and published by Arc System Works. The best way to describe Damascus Gear, would be a “Mech Action RPG” or Diablo meets mechs. Damascus Gear is a fun and addictive game with lots to do and unlock. However the game does fall short in some areas which hold it back from being something special.
The graphics are much improved over the original Vita release. Colours are more vibrant and the Gear/ Mech models are better detailed and they look crisp. The world has also had an upgrade in visual quality. The environments now have much more quality and are more pleasant to look out however, they are still a bit drab and uninteresting. There are a several areas you visit in Damascus Gear but unfortunately none of them grab your attention.
The districts that you visit above ground look pretty much the same as each other, there’s nothing that really grabs your interest. The same goes for the underground areas but they are more bland and uninteresting. They all use the same grey and red colour scheme. The exception is one of the last areas in the game which is further underground than the ones just mentioned. It has a predominantly black and red colour scheme but it fits. You are so far underground it is as if you are descending into the pits of hell.
One of the things where the game is at is best is Gear customisation. The amount of customisation on offer is plentiful. Your Gear can be customised from head to toe and you can choose from a variety of colours, you can even give your Gear a name if you wish. You’ll be happy customising your Gear and after playing it a while, you would have amassed a large collection of parts that you can use to style your own Gear. You’ll be spoilt for choice given the amount of customisation options on offer.
You can go for style over stats if you want, it will make the game a bit harder but at least you’ll have beautiful looking Gear. As you’d expect the parts that you can collect in mission or buy in store will affect your stats. If you want to be a “tank” then equip parts that have a lot of armour. If you want a more agile Gear, then equip parts that give you more speed.
Then there is weapons of which there are numerous types. You can hold a weapon in your right and left hands and then equip a heavy weapon on your back. Do you want to dual wield melee weapons? Go for it. Or are you more of a gunslinger and want to dual wield guns? Go ahead. Collecting parts and weapons to customise your Gear with, is what makes the game addictive to play.
Gameplay in Damascus Gear is fun but can get repetitive. Controlling your Gear is a lot of fun. The controls are smooth and are simple and easy to remember. There’s also different play styles depending on the weapons that you equip. If you dual wield melee weapons you’re going to need a lot of armour, as you need to get up close and into the thick of it. You can dual wield melee weapons, dual wield guns or do what I did and have a gun in one hand and a melee weapon in another. It’s up to you on how your Gear operates. The game is played from a top-down perspective much like Diablo. Damascus Gear has some similarities with Blizzard’s popular franchise and you could say, that it is like Diablo with mechs.
Doing missions progresses the story but also allows you to obtain parts and weapons that are dropped from the enemies. The missions though can get repetitive as you’ll find your self doing the same objective multiple times, just in a different place or fighting a different boss. The missions can vary from wiping out a certain number of enemies to, going to different checkpoints around the game world and dropping of supplies. Of course there are more mission types but the majority of them are often repeated with increased difficulty, when you unlock the different ranks.
I just mentioned that the majority of mission types are repeated over and over again and that’s true. There are two mission types that aren’t used that often; survival and escort missions. Survival missions task you with holding your own against the enemy Gears called Rage, for a certain amount of time. These are fun missions as they can get tense, if your Gear isn’t upgraded enough or if you don’t have enough repair kits. The escort missions though are a goddamn pain, a nightmare. More on the escort missions later in the review.
Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD Edition features a lot of content. Along with the base game, you get the two DLC’s that were released and a brand new DLC is included. The main game can take you anywhere between 10-15 hours, depending on your play style and how long you spend customising your Gear. Chuck in the DLC missions for the main game and you’re looking at 15-20 hours. The brand new DLC that is included in the HD Edition of Damascus Gear is called Hero Creation and it can only be accessed after doing a specific S rank mission. Hero Creation can take anywhere between 5-10 hours to complete.
The story for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is a rather bland one. The world and the lore do seem interesting but it doesn’t pull you in. This isn’t helped by the cast, who with the exception of a few are dull and uninteresting. It’s a shame because everything is there for a good story but unfortunately, we are left with a rather forgettable tale.
The Hero Creation story though is a little better, with your player character having dialogue and some input during the cutscenes. Whilst the story in Hero Creation is a little better, the missions drag it down as many of them are similar to those found in the Operation Tokyo story.
As you can gather Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD Edition isn’t perfect but, there are some flaws that hold it back from being a great game. First up is the frame rate, which is better than on the Vita but it has moments where the frame rate dives. The frame rate is stable until there are a lot of enemies and you use your back weapon. It is very noticeable when you use a laser cannon on a lot of enemies. The frame rate doesn’t dip, it tanks. It’s strange as the rest of the game is fine but as soon as you use a back weapon on a large group of enemies, the frame rate goes south.
Earlier in the review I touched a little upon escort missions, now let me tell you why they are the worst thing in this game. Escort missions in games have never been overly popular. If the friendly A.I. is good then escort missions are good and are no problem at all however, if the friendly A.I. is rubbish, then the missions will be a nightmare. Guess which kind of friendly A.I. Damascus Gear has? You guessed it, rubbish A.I. and oh boy is it bad.
During some missions your allies will sometimes accompany you however, more often than not they will be incapacitated before the end of the mission. Your allies will go head first into the action and will get themselves destroyed as a result. As you would imagine, in escort missions this problem is much worse. In escort missions, if the person you are protecting is taken down then the mission is over. For some reason in Damascus Gear the A.I. you have to protect wants to fight alongside you and they aren’t even that good at fighting. So whilst you are trying to protect your target or targets they decide that they want to fight and put themselves in harm’s way, thus making your job more frustrating. Friendly A.I. is definitely one of the game’s weakest points and that is cemented further during escort missions.
Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD isn’t perfect but it isn’t bad either. The game has a number of flaws which can be a deal breaker for some. If there is one thing that Damascus Gear would benefit from, it would be co-op. Whether it be local co-op or online, I think Damascus Gear would’ve greatly benefitted from co-op. The game is £7.99 on the PS Store and for the amount of content on offer it’s not a bad deal. If you can look past the game’s flaws then it will be an enjoyable experience with enough content to keep you occupied for a while.
There’s a good foundation here for Damascus Gear and with a bit of tlc, A+ Games and Arc System Works could have a good series on their hands.
(I played Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD Edition for just under 30 hours. I bought the game myself off the PS Store.)
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