Damascus Gear:
Operation Tokyo
04-05-15
Posted by Ben at 08:38

Damascus Gear is an action-rpg of the light variety. You're a mech pilot, darting around a post apocalyptic Tokyo, half-destroyed by corrupted mechs (Rage) who've forced humanity underground. You have a limited amount of moves, all depleting energy for that action, it's not quite Diablo but it's a similar concept. Your dash and sprint also deplete, making defensive movement costly, something that can become very important against strong enemies.

Enemies also drop equipment you can use. Only equipable once you exit a mission, the various mech parts are probably Damascus Gear's USP. Rather than gloves, rings, shields, and chest plates like you'd see in a traditional action rpg, instead there's arms, legs, robot heads, and yes, chest plates. These parts will improve your defence, armour, accuracy, even movement speed. With weapons it significantly alters how you play. My approach was to have a powerful one shot gun in one hand, one that packed a punch but didn't deplete my energy reserves too much, rather than, say, a rapid fire machine gun that can rip through enemies but needs time to recover.

In my offhand I had a powerful melee weapon, something I could swing more than once before I needed to let it recover, a lesson learned from enemies charging in close. You could though, if you chose, build a lightning quick mech, one that couldn't take too much of a beating but can dart out of danger while blasting away with dual guns. Alternatively build a tank and throw yourself in to the thick of it, trying to get your hit in before the enemy lands a mechanised glove on you.

What makes it unique is that everything requires power. You can't just stick all your best parts on to your mech and throw it in to battle. Your fancy new legs that increase your defence, boost, and movement speed, might require 20 more units of power than your current legs (I know, everyday problems), that's 14 more points than you have to use, so unless you weaken elsewhere those legs are staying on the shelf. You can raise your available power, assuming you have a part that increases your available power units, and sometimes that means taking a step back, putting on some higher power, but ultimately weaker chest piece to allow you to increase your defence and offence with other parts. It's a shame in a way that the game throws so much equipment at you, it's too easy to strengthen in all areas, although I will concede that I began to favour legs that provided me with rapid movement.

The lack of depth is more of a problem elsewhere. Damascus Gear is made up of only a handful of small areas, they look nice enough, the city areas at least, and the game runs perfectly fine, but there's not enough variety in there. You do get a number of enemy types, and it is difficult to make mechs look unique, but the differences aren't as drastic as you might hope. There's bigger enemies, some of which are huge, but the main thing that makes them stand out is that it takes much longer to grind them down. There are a handful of enemies that benefit you to approach differently, there's enemies that will rush in to deal large amounts of damage up close, letting them close in then darting back to blast away while they're vulnerable is a smart move. Similarly enemies that drop mines are best kept away from.

One of Damascus Gear's bigger problems is how samey it's mission structure is. There is an attempt to mix things up, there's (dreaded) escort missions, competitions to see who can kill the most Rage, boss fights, and even one-on-one battles against your team mates. However, it all invariably amounts to killing everything you see until the game stops you. One area where it does mix up a little are the survival missions, which aren't the best, and the time limit missions, where you realise the best approach isn't always to kill everything you see, but instead to do what's asked of you as quickly as possible. It's a shame there weren't a few more examples of having to approach the game differently.

Damascus Gear has a peculiar difficulty swing. You'll tear through a lot of missions, getting an S rank without much thought. The vast majority of enemies will be downed in a shot or two, making most missions a procession. Your A.I. partners are largely only good for drawing fire, and they're spectacularly good at that, especially on the missions where you have to keep them alive. It's not uncommon to have your teammates wiped out well before the last quarter of the mission. There's missions, or enemies, that will cause you untold problems, either as damage sponges or because they have some ultra powerful attack, be that high powered mines you can't see amongst the debris, or a high powered kill all laser that's launched from outside your viewing window. When it wants to Damascus Gear can be tough. Mind you there were a few occasions where high powered bosses would just stand there, boosting against a wall so I could just blast away, free from whatever threat they were supposed to offer.

Ultimately though I have a bit of time for Damascus Gear, the story threatens to get interesting but then pulls short, but the characters are likable, there's some surprisingly sharp stuff in there. There's a lot of game for your money too, granted that it's all kind of the same thing that's not necessarily a great thing, but you aren't being short changed by what's on offer. Which is what makes it a difficult game to score, it's never so bad I'd angrily write words like 'monotonous' but equally it's hard to recommend free from caveats. Go in with your eyes open, as a fan of anime mech stories and simple action rpgs and I think you'll find something to like in Damascus Gear
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