Review: Zoids Assault

ZoidsaPromoCv.jpg Last month I gave you a hands-on sneak peek at Atlus USA’s new Xbox 360 strategy-RPG Zoids Assault, and as reported my early experiences with the title were generally positive. But if you recall, I did mention that I was worried that the game might not have enough legs to hold itself up over the long haul. With the title landing on store shelves this week, I’m now able to check back in with my final impressions, and unfortunately I bring tidings that my worries about its possible lack in longevity turned out to be right on point.

You see, Zoids Assault’s campaign consists of a mere 14 missions and takes no more than 15 hours to complete from start to finish (if you’re a seasoned SRPG gamer you may even be able to knock it out in as little as 10 hours), and since there aren’t any varying paths to pursue or much in the way of hidden content replay value is nonexistent. Sorry, but for an RPG that’s pretty pathetic. Such a short runtime doesn’t provide the chance for characters to develop or give you enough time to really build your Zoid units into the powerful robotic beasts of death that they are supposed to be. It’s a shame, too, because after a slow start the story does eventually become fairly compelling and the Zoid customization options are pretty cool, but when you only get 10 hours or so to invest into it the experience ultimately winds up shallow and unvaried.

Campaign brevity aside, Zoids Assault packs a stiff punch of traditional yet tight, well-paced and tactically-rich SRPG gameplay that genre fans are sure to enjoy while it lasts. Mission variety isn’t the deepest (another side effect of so few missions), most requiring that you simply clear the map of all enemies, however the heavy emphasis on support tactics infuses the game with this sort of pack mentality of mobilizing your squad to ambush and outflank the opposition that is really quite satisfying. With only five Zoids at your command throughout the entire game, you are constantly outnumbered on the battlefield, so it becomes all the more important that you think through every action and put your units in the optimal position to attack, support one another and keep clear of return fire. There’s a suspenseful chess-like quality about it that many other SRPGs fail to achieve. One wrong move can and often will lead to your demise.

I wish I could be as upbeat about the game’s presentation as I was with its gameplay, but sadly I can’t. While the Zoids themselves show a lot of detail and their attacks pack quite a wallop — both visually and aurally — the environments are so bland and blocky they could easily be produced on a PS2, and an ugly film-grain filter covers everything in sight with a grittiness that isn’t appealing to look at in the least and seems completely unnecessary stylistically. The cut scenes are disappointing, too, if static concept art images with dialogue recorded over them can even be considered cut scenes.

Zoids Assault is a competent strategy-RPG, no ifs, ands or buts about it. But unfortunately it’s just way too short and light on replayability to be worth paying 60 bucks for. Had it been released at more of a budget price of like $40 I’d be more apt to recommend a purchase, but as it stands now I’d say a rental is all that you’ll need with this one.

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Pros:
+ Strong core gameplay that’s well paced and rich with nail-biting strategy
+ Detailed Zoid models

Cons:
– Short campaign provides only 14 missions and a meager 10-15 hours of play
– PS2-era map designs, ugly film-grain filter and poor story presentation

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Takara Tomy
Release Date: 9/9/2008
Genre: Strategy-RPG
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!