I am watching giant, machinegun-toting wolf robots fight even bigger triceratops robots wielding missiles. Amid all the action, colossal tiger robots shoot cannons at robotic lions. Yet I am bored. How can Zoids: Assault make boredom amid this sort of action a reality? Truly, how is this possible? There are actually several factors at play.
To begin, the story strays off into WhoCares Valley. Players follow the exploits of Mace Squad, a veteran team of five Zoid pilots who survived a battle 10 years ago that went horribly wrong. Two nations, each led by armies of animal-shaped robots called Zoids, are cut off from the rest of the world and fighting a war. Maroll, the good nation, is defending itself against Jamil, the bad guys, but the only thing actually separating good from bad is the side you’re on. The actual story concerning Mace Squad is told through a boring monologue that a captured soldier tells to the Maroll leaders about her father building a super weapon that only Mace Squad can be inconvenienced to deal with. Long story short, Mace Squad kills bad guys. Seriously, that’s all you need to know. You never really feel like you’re actually affecting anything. It’s more or less just random scenarios slapped together with a sad attempt to string them together.
The gameplay itself falls within the turn-based-strategy genre. Think Fire Emblem, but remove all the stats, interesting characters and even the strategy. Zoids Assault is the barest of the bare-bones strategy games. Most weapons are so ineffective and weak that you can narrow them down to about two or three that you’ll actually use. And while the game throws out all manner of stats and armor types, you can and will use light armor through the game’s entirety. This is due to the fact that light armor allows more movement while at the same time having no difference in defense from heavy armor. Excuse me? At least the weapons vary, in both range and damage, but the latter is the main concern since most enemies simply bum-rush you anyway.
Yep, that exposes the next major problem with Zoids Assault: the bombarding. Enemy Zoids will outnumber you heavily, and they will do so on every single level. They are big fans of the zerg rush and will jump on you with no regard for their own safety. This becomes glaringly obvious in the later levels, when it becomes perfectly clear the game is substituting a few clever enemies with hordes of dumb ones.
The game’s only strategic element is the Scan system. Every Zoid can scan enemies and the larger the Scan meter, the more attacks that can be performed in a single turn. The enemy takes this element and clobbers you in the soft spot with it due to the previously mentioned unfair numbers advantage. Luckily, you have one tactic the enemy doesn’t, the EMP. This allows you to attack all enemies in range without them being able to counteract. It sounds cheap, but it is crucial to your survival since you’re already on an uneven playing field.
Zoids Assault keeps the frustration going all the way to the end. Upon completing the story, you can choose to continue into New Game+, a tactic used by many games nowadays. It is here where you’ll gleefully pound the lower-level Zoids into the dirt for all the grief they caused you before. However, it is only during New Game+ where you can fight the Secret Bosses. These guys are extraordinarily cheap and, you guessed it, are never alone. You’ll have to tough it out and send these monsters to the scrapheap if you want the full 1000/1000 Achievement Points.
Luckily, that full 1000 won’t take long to achieve. I wasn’t that good at the game, and my final save clocked in at 8 hours 26 minutes. If strategy is your genre, this one might be too simple. If you’re a fan of anything else, it will be too frustrating. Rent it if you’re into getting a quick boost to your Gamerscore, otherwise just leave this one on the shelf.
- Score: 5
- It’s short, shallow and not all that fun. These robotic critters should have just stayed as spare parts.
— John Dempsey