Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo (PS Vita) Review

By Nikola Suprak 09.05.2015

Review for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo on PS Vita

The Armored Core series is one that always seemed a bit more deserving of love. There has always been a cult following for the titles, but it never made its way to the top tier of gaming series royalty, which is a bit surprising. Mecha-based combat in an entirely customisable vehicle just sounds like an amazing formula, and it is one the series worked to perfection almost a decade ago. Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo seems to be trying its hardest to be a smaller, portable Armored Core and the comparisons between the two titles are obvious almost immediately after starting. There are brief moments where it almost works and Damascus Gear is fairly enjoyable. Sure, it feels a bit like a little kid stomping around in their dad's boots and pretending to be grown-up, but it has that adorable "Aw, look how hard it's trying to be big!" sort of feel to it. It's Armored Gear but not quite Armored Gear. Unfortunately, as it goes on, it feels more and more like not-quite-Armored Gear and it becomes harder and harder to overlook the numerous flaws.

When the game starts, the world is already pretty much destroyed, so it seems like the hero got to the job a little bit late. The plot revolves around the rag-tag remnants of humanity trying to fight against evil AI mecha jerks that have brought futuristic Tokyo to ruin. Luckily, everyone knows that fire is fought with fire and giant mecha are fought with giant mecha, and to try and reclaim the planet, humans have taken to piloting their own mecha and are fighting back. The plot plays out a little bit like Terminator meets Armored Core and revolves around a basic sort of post apocalyptic scenario where the bad guys du jour are evil AI mecha that hate all things warm and squishy. It is familiar ground in the world of videogames, but the premise itself sounds interesting enough to at least string the giant mecha battles together. Unfortunately, the game itself doesn't even seem interested in the story, and those hoping for any semblance of a cohesive plot will have to look elsewhere.

Screenshot for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo on PS Vita

The actual premise sounds interesting enough, but the game always seems a bit annoyed it has to talk about the murderous mecha and interrupt the actual fights. The world has been destroyed and everything is dead or dying, yet the characters always reference the events with little more than frustrated disinterest. It's like they are talking about a traffic jam, and there is this fatalistic "Oh well, guess we're all dead, who cares" undertone to the dialogue that makes it hard to muster up much interest since the characters themselves don't seem that vested in their own survival. This does change eventually, but what doesn't is that all the characters are quite forgettable. They are all these sort of one note interchangeable nothings that have no depth or distinguishing features. The entire cast could be replaced by soccer balls with faces drawn on them and absolutely nothing of value would be lost. Not all titles require a riveting story and it is pretty clear the plot is sort of tacked on as an afterthought. Still, just mashing the action button to get through the dialogue as quickly as possible is the best way to experience the story and it really adds nothing to the overall value of the package.

Damascus Gear seems far more interested in keeping gamers engaged in the combat, and the fighting itself is certainly more enjoyable than the story. Then again, dental surgery is more enjoyable than this story, so perhaps that is a low bar for comparison. The adventure is divided up into a bunch of different stages, all of which basically have the same objective: destroy any and all mecha with extreme prejudice. Combat can be completed with a variety of close quarter weapons or guns to blast the enemies from afar. There is an action RPG sort of approach to the fights, with it all occurring in real-time as mecha fly around on an isometric battlefield and try to blow each other up. Enemies will drop various parts upon defeat, and that is where the RPG element of gameplay comes in as the piloted mecha can be upgraded and customised with the parts found lying around.

Screenshot for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo on PS Vita

The highlight is absolutely the customisation, and it is the one thing Damascus Gear truly does well. This is not on the level of Armored Core but there are a lot of parts to find and outfit the mecha with that not only change stats but appearance as well. There is an element of Borderlands or Diablo as rarer and more powerful drops can be found to truly strengthen the mecha into a powerhouse. Even the same items will have different boosts to them and people that love hunting for rare gear will certainly have a lot to dig through here. There is something great about the old Armored Cores where the initial mecha started out kind of wimpy looking before slowly transforming into a hulking metal butt kicker, and that same quality is in Damascus Gear, albeit in smaller quantities. There is a lot of different gear to pick from with different benefits and creating a mecha and then sending it out to battle is always an entertaining prospect. The customisation isn't quite as extensive as might be hope, and there are only extremely limited options when it comes to painting or changing the aesthetic of the mecha itself. It would be nice to allow for putting personalised special touches on the thing that is about to be wheeled out to combat, especially when customisation seems to be the fundamental feature the game is built around.

Unfortunately, the customisation is pretty much the game's lone redeeming feature, as the actual gameplay itself fails to engage in any meaningful way. The combat is just so mind-numbingly simplistic that it becomes difficult to have any fun with it. Combat typically devolves into a simple hack 'n' slash affair, devoid of any combos or special moves that make those sorts of products entertaining. Mashing the same button over and over again grows dull rather quickly, and it is so basic and straightforward that it becomes impossible to form any sort of strategy to the battles. Almost every mission devolves into the same hacking and slashing or shooting and no thought is given to how any complexity can be added to the fighting. Sure, once in a while a boss or big mecha is spat out in the hopes that this will be enough, but without enjoyable controls or an underlying impressive mechanic, these feel more like a chore to fight than anything else. The controls feel slightly clunky and unresponsive, and the shocking lack of multiplayer means the whole thing must be completed in alone. There is "help" in the form of some helpful AI every once in a while, but these tend to be amazingly dumb and only show up to get themselves killed a moment later.

Screenshot for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo on PS Vita

The biggest problem, however, is repetition. Every single encounter feels almost exactly the same as the one before it. It sounds like an impossible task to make giant robot battles feel boring, but Damascus Gear succeeds with surprising efficiency. The same handful of enemies seems to populate every map, and even worse is the fact there are pitifully few maps included. A handful of different mission types are rolled out, but really most of them basically boil down to killing any mecha in sight. Thus, the same missions are played on the same maps with the same enemies and it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish one mission from the next. It is the same fight over and over, and the battle mechanics are too simple for it to be enjoyable even the first time. The good news is the missions themselves are short, with the design ideal for short bursts. Perhaps tackling a mission or two and then going out to do something else for a while makes everything more tolerable, yet if an attempt is made to power through in just a couple of sittings, then everything will blend together into one bland bowl of the same boring fight over and over again.

Screenshot for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is a game desperately pretending to be Armored Core and, at times, there is a passing resemblance to the iconic title. There are plenty of parts to find and a decent amount of customisation to be had, and there is something appealing about customising a mechanical warrior and sending it out into battle. Unfortunately, the actual game part is far less rewarding, and the gameplay is so simple and unrefined that it feels a bit like Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots: Giant Mechanical Warrior Edition. One mission quickly blends into the next and, without a worthwhile story or memorable characters, the whole experience grows dull rather quickly. It is essentially Armored Core: The Slimmed Down Portable Version, and without a meaty combat system to engage players, there just isn't any reason to take this mecha out for a spin. It is entirely functional and everything works, but it just isn't very much fun, which is hard to imagine in a game about giant robots walking around and killing each other with laser swords.

Developer

Arc System Works

Publisher

Arc System Works

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

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