Star Wolves 3: Ashes of Victory Review
What’s worse than a mediocre open-world space RPG? A stand-alone expansion that doesn’t improve on any core mechanics and just adds more of the same monotonous gameplay that made the original painstakingly difficult to trudge through. Star Wolves 3: Ashes of Victory continues the story of the galactic Civil War, pitting you smack dab in the middle and leaving you to decide who to join and who to take down.
While this formula sounds intriguing, its execution is poorly done. The game touts over 100 explorable stellar systems, but who wants to explore maps that look almost identical to each other, with the only differences being a few space stations and enemies sprinkled throughout?
Star Wolves excels at customization though. From the myriad of different starships to the grueling amount of ways to customize them, and even the extensive talent tree to invest points in, you will find yourself constantly wanting to improve your arsenal and skills to dominate opponents. Your hero can specialize in one of four skill trees: Pilot, Gunner, Missiles, and Systems. Gunner and Missiles are more focused on upgrading your damage output, while Pilot and Systems are more defensive specializations that provide better maneuvering and tactics. Expect to see a good half of each talent tree to share the same skills however, as well as the final Elite skill.
The trouble is actually advancing to these levels and acquiring enough credits for better equipment, which is all thanks to the game's ridiculous and random difficulty spikes. One minute you’ll be flying through a portal to reach another system, and upon exiting you’re swarmed by enemy fighters who eat away at your health bars so fast you don’t even have enough time to turn back and make a run for it. Forgot to save? Tough luck, you’ll be forced to start over from the beginning.
The game lacks any sort of voice acting (which could be a blessing in disguise in comparison to the horrendous intro sequence from Star Wolves 3), but is still extremely text heavy. Couple that with uninteresting characters and at times a broken English translation, and you’ll find yourself happily skipping over every one of these instances as soon as they appear.
The usability and controls haven’t gotten an upgrade and they’re still a pain. Like in the original, the click to move function is, for lack of a better word, broken. Even a simple command to move in a direction of a far away space port will result in your ships to move in a completely different direction. Instead of moving further to the background, you might find yourself drifting to the foreground because the game thinks you clicked there. This is all due to the non-existent depth of field. The game does have an overview map which displays all units on a 2D map, and makes giving commands a lot easier, but why must I have to switch over to an ugly map just to get some usability out of the game?
Combat is a mixed bag. On one hand, it can get tactical assuming you have enough skills to actually utilize when under heavy fire. Pressing the Space Bar will pause the action letting you dole out commands to your ship and your squad, and also gives you some breathing time if the action gets too hectic to follow. Though most of the time you’ll find yourself just watching your tiny ships fly around in circles, exchanging shots with enemies and seeing whose health bar is dropping the fastest.
Star Wolves 3: Ashes of Victory should have included a lot of improvements and fixes over the original, but instead remains very much the same. This is one open space that is better left unexplored, and a Civil War that is best to stay out of.