If anyone hands me a game and says it’s about giant robots battling over the ashes of humanity in the futuristic neighborhoods of Tokyo, Japan, I normally get excited.
It’s a natural response, friends. I had it when I was offered a review copy of Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo. At the onset, things seemed promising. Then the cracks started to show, the problems became overwhelming and the value of this far too budget game start to dwindle drastically.
Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is a flash in the pan when it could have been a wonderful raging fire.
A Strong Premise
We’ll start with what’s good before we get into the bad bits of Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo. It seems obvious enough, but this is a decent mech arena game in core mechanics. The battles oftentimes wind up too clunky and slow, but blazing around maps, seeking out objectives and fighting other robots of both the fodder and boss varieties can be fun.
The settings start out nice enough, as well. Though, the maps themselves are never really well designed, the promise of visiting separate districts of Tokyo all with their own unique look does help change things up a bit when cruising from space to space.
There’s also the notion of customization and upgrades that work alright here. There are more than 500 parts to be had, though not all of them are good. You can outfit your mech with head, body, shoulder, arm, leg and three separate gun parts that all offer unique stats. The parts themselves drop from fallen mech enemies, and they scale in quality along with the difficulty of the enemies you’re fighting.
Finally, there’s a story here. At least, it starts out in a way that seems promising. You’re a new recruit in an army of what’s left of humanity. You don [GEAR] (the name of the mecha in this universe) in order to battle machines gone rogue. All of this is told through speech bubble before and after missions, so don’t expect any sweeping cinematic moments. In fact, the beginning of story is really where in the intrigue both starts and stops.
Marred With Tiny Problems
What happens in Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo that moves it from promising to overly problematic is this: you play it for too long.
I mean that all of the promise in premise and customization almost immediately starts to fall flat after a few hours of play. You realize that the missions themselves almost always amount to killing X number of robots before time expires. Even worse are the timed delivery missions where you literally just jet from one side of the stage to the other and back. There’s no challenge here, just move and don’t fight anything. Those are genuinely boring wastes of time.
Sometimes, more robots spawn than that target kill number. Here you are, trying to vanquish all of the rogue [GEAR] according to the storyline, and you hit the target and the mission stops. Well, it sort of stops. You can still move around, robots still attack you, but you can’t fight back. You can blast at them, but they just sort of sit there, not taking damage, firing at you. You’re supposed to just wait until the loading screen pops up. These incongruities start to stack up.
Plenty of missions offer companion AI to aid you in beating the big [GEAR]. It’s too bad that the AI is absolutely terrible. Even in the early set of missions, the easiest ones in the game, I often found the AI characters dying halfway through the match as they either go off on their own or perform poorly with big bosses in front of them. You’ll dodge massive attacks by dashing away from bosses while your AI friends will just slide right into blast zones, losing half their health in one shot, dying and firing off a line about not being able to go on. It’s frustrating, and you’ll more often than not just let them serve as temporary bullet sponges instead of friends on the field of battle.
That promising story gets boring fast, too. Eventually, the only reason you’ll be reading speech bubbles is for mission direction. There are times when you have to leave one district and move into another. The exit point will only be shared with you by way of the speech bubbles. So you’ll need to read the full paragraphs, wait for the directives to come in and then blast through the arenas in order to, say, head to the Akihabara district.
What makes that need to pay attention to the speech bubbles even more problematic is that you can’t expand the mini map. There’s no way to open it up and look for the district change intersections, so you’ll need to do some wandering in order to find out where you need to go, because the direction of the other districts isn’t always mentioned in the dialogue.
One Massive Missing Feature
Damascus Gear Review - Mech Action!
You have all these flaws that add up to what’s basically a boring game, but then you sit back an examine what the whole package offers and realize that it isn’t much. In fact, Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is missing a feature in mech arena battle games that feels pretty darn enormous.
There’s no multiplayer, competitive or otherwise. Here you have the ability to build a giant mech and tweak it with over 500 parts, but you can’t go online or play locally over wireless.
You can battle AI in an arena, but that gets boring fast. Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo could have been a game with a weak single player that lead into a competitive online mech fighter. I would have been cool with that premise. As it is now, this is just a game that should have been more.
Maybe I’m asking too much for a $15 title, I don’t know. I know cheap games have online multiplayer, though, and it feels like the icing on this cake of missed opportunity to me.
This game isn’t without its fun. If you want a no frills mech fighter with basic combat, simple progression and tons of equipment that eventually feels rather useless, Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is okay. Lower your standards and expect a less than stellar title and you might have some fun. Otherwise, the game is too problematic.
A review code for Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo was provided by the publisher for the PS Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.