Combat of Giants, also sometimes known as Battle of Giants in North America, is a series of video games from Ubisoft that has seen dinosaurs, dragons and mutant insects facing off against their own kind for years now, predominantly on the Nintendo DS. But I’ve never actually played any of them before. Yes, I ashamedly admit that I am a Combat of Giants virgin!
Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, obviously for Nintendo 3DS, has finally popped my cherry, though. But unfortunately it wasn’t a special moment in my gaming life.
Actually, my first impressions were surprisingly upbeat. When I turned the game on for the first time, I was taken aback by the impressive graphical detail. I’ve played around 20 different 3DS games so far, and I can count on one hand the number of games that have left a lasting 3D impact (and I’d probably still have a finger or two left over). Combat of Giants is among the elite few in this regard.
The game looks great as is, but when you bump the 3D slider up, the Jurassic world springs to life. Hanging tree limbs and falling leaves stick out in the foreground, and clouds of smoke from lava-scorched terrain billow up the screen with extraordinary realism.
What makes the game shine, though, is the lighting. With the 3D on, the lighting effects flip on like a light switch, and instantaneously the textures and atmosphere become deeper and richer. You really start to see sort of a scaly, leathery texture to the dinosaurs’ skin, and the faint orange glow of nearby flowing lava and burning foliage reflecting off their bodies only enhances the immersion.
It’s just too bad that the same effort that went into spit polishing the graphics wasn’t put into developing interesting gameplay. For my fellow Combat of Giants newbies, Dinosaurs 3D is a bare-bones fighting game that has you slugging it out with your favorite dinosaur species, from Tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptor to the stegosaurus and the triceratops.
Dinosaurs are divided into four categories – predators, hunters, defenders and chargers – and you must take at least one dinosaur from each group up the ranks to champion status, before taking your team of four prehistoric beasts up against Arkosaurus, the ferocious end boss.
Each dinosaur’s campaign consists of five stages, and each stage consists of a linear map lined with four scripted battles. The exploration is limited to charging forward with the Circle Pad and running over boulders and stick piles to uncover bones (these serve as a currency for unlocking bonus content) and customization gear. At set points on the map, you will encounter a rival dinosaur and be taken into battle mode. Sadly, the battle mode is where the game hits rock bottom.
From beginning to end, every fight plays out the exact same way. Your dinosaur lines up on the left side of the jungle arena, the opposing dinosaur lines up on the right, and then you wait for your opportunity to strike. There is no manual movement of any kind. You stand there and watch the other dinosaur’s movements, and you use the presented animation cues to dodge left or right to avoid the incoming attack. Once you’ve dodged, you proceed to pound away on the B button for a counter combo (or you can use A for a push attack and attempt to win by ring-out), and then you repeat the process until your foe has been vanquished, occasionally earning a special attack to deal a devastating blow.
According to the manual, there are cataclysmic events that can occur, such as an earthquake that causes the arena to crumble and a lava eruption that inflicts constant damage to both dinosaurs. But in the more than 80 battles I endured, I never saw either of these events. Honestly, the only moment of unpredictability in the entire game was when I received my first surprise challenge from a giant boxing broccoli floret. And no, I am not lying about that – you really do get to fight a giant piece of broccoli.
The audio does its job to make the fights sound exciting, between the earthshaking footsteps and thunderous roars dinosaur combatants share on the field of battle. But from an interaction standpoint, the battles are sleepy and overly simplistic.
However, I do appreciate some of the extras Ubisoft packed into this game. Dinosaurs can be customized in fantastical ways with different skin patterns and colors, and you can also equip up to three pieces of gear, such as special tails, scale plates, horns and claws, which upgrade stats like health, attack and armor. So if you want a dinosaur with a bright blue coat of skin and a pattern of purple stars, you are free to do so.
Collecting bones during exploration also allows you to unlock new customization options, as well as educational ‘Fun Facts’ about all 18 dinosaur breeds featured in the game. If you happen across other Combat of Giants owners locally with StreetPass active, your dinosaur will engage other players automatically while your 3DS is sleeping. Or you can always connect directly to exchange items.
Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D isn’t a complete waste, and if you grew up (or are still growing up) playing with dinosaurs like a lot of kids, this game may satisfy your inner child on a primal and nostalgic level. But as an overall game, it is shallow and boring, with too few redeeming qualities to deserve recommendation. So unless you have an undying childhood fascination with dinosaurs, give this game a pass.
+ Impressive 3D graphics, especially the lighting
+ Fun customization options and unlockables
+ You get to fight a giant piece of broccoli!
– Overly simplistic fighting mechanics
– Battles lack variety and excitement
– Gameplay is just plain boring on all levels
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 3/22/2011
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2 (local wireless only)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher