Welcome back to Engadget's Gaming IRL, a monthly segment where we run down what our editors are playing. This time around, we dive into the new Gundam mobile model building game, and chat about our time with Fire Emblem: Three Houses and the new Wolfenstein side-story, Youngblood. Because who wouldn't want a Nazi murder simulator to go alongside their religious high school anime sim?
We'd also love to know what you've been playing, shout out in the comments below!
Gundam Battle: Gunpla Warfare
Senior Editor, Mobile
I got my first Gunpla -- that is, a plastic model of a Gundam -- when I was about 9. It was a HG RX-178 Gundam Mk. II that a cousin visiting from the Philippines had already built, packed back into its original box, and shoved into a tastefully small suitcase. Unlike my collection of action figures, the Gundam was endlessly intricate by comparison: the two-part cockpit door in the chest opened correctly, and the bevy of joints meant the Gundam could pose in ways my Ninja Turtles never could. I was hooked.
These days, I don't go as hard on the Gundam merch as I used to -- I'll maybe pick up a new model to commemorate traveling somewhere new, but that's about it. Downloading Gundam Battle: Gunpla Warfare (available for iOS and Android), though, brought me right back to the good ol' days when the remnants of my allowance were funneled into 1/144 plastic model kits.
There's a story mode that'll feel familiar if you've watched any of the Gundam Build Fighters series — your player character is in high school and has to fight to the top of the age-appropriate standings. It doesn't last for terribly long, and most of the actual battles don't feel particularly interesting. (That they're usually over in about a minute doesn't help either.)
Of course, the real draw is winning fights and cashing in Haro Chips for Gundam parts so you can craft your very own custom war machine. You don't NEED to pay for them, but in my search for the ultimate parts, I've sunk a little more than I care to admit into this dumb lottery. I can live with that, though — I didn't waste too much money and wound up with a real banger of a Gundam. Now I just need the devs to crank out some more events and missions.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses & Wolfenstein: Youngblood
I'm not sure how this happened, but I've ended up hopping between two very different games as I drink in the tail end of summer. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I'm leading a group of plucky anime high schoolers through what seems to be a religious war. And in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, I'm on a brain-spattered Nazi-killing rampage. In their own ways, they're each incredibly therapeutic.
I love strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, but the Fire Emblem series has always been a blind spot for me. (Oddly enough, I bought Awakening for the DS years ago, but have no recollection of actually playing it.) The effusive praise for Three Houses by Engadget's Aaron Souppouris was enough for me to take a closer look. Now that I'm 10 hours deep into the game, I'm glad I took the leap.
It brings together everything I love about tactics games -- strategically paced battles, tons of customization options and creative job classes -- with the dramatic intrigue of an addictive anime series. I have no clue where the greater plot is going, but I love exploring the world and learning more about its colorful characters. There are signs that something isn't quite right with the Church of Seiros, which houses the central monastery you're working for, but I'm driven to build up my cadre of young warriors.
That team connection is key to the game, and it explains why so much of the conversation around Three Houses is centered on which house you selected. I sided with the Golden Deer, mainly because they seemed like the most fun bunch of kids. During my early conversations, the Blue Lions came across as proto-fascists, while the Black Eagles gave off a strong whiff of imperialism. Compared to those two options, I'll take a rag-tag group of slackers any day.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood, meanwhile, is less character focused and more driven by the desire to murder Nazis. That's not too surprising given the series' history, but I definitely miss the slightly more nuanced approach of the last few Wolfenstein games. As we noted in our E3 preview, Youngblood is more of a spin-off than a direct sequel to the new Wolfenstein arc.
You play as B.J. Blazkowicz's twin daughters, Soph and Jess, who are on a mission to find their famous Nazi-hunting father 20 years after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. It turns out he already killed Hitler some time ago (I figure they're saving that for the next full-sized entry), and helped to liberate the US from Nazi control. But in 1980, B.J. mysteriously disappeared -- luckily, he and his wife Anya raised two capable young fighters.
The game mostly has you revisiting a few levels of Nazi-occupied Neu-Paris, where you're helping out a small resistance movement. It's not quite an open world experience, but there's still a lot to do for a $30 title. It's more gameplay-focused than anything else, so it's a good thing running around the world and taking out Hitler's minions simply feels great.
As much as I've enjoyed the recent Wolfenstein games, the actual shooting mechanics always felt a bit unrefined. Youngblood has a far more polished shooting experience, along with plenty of weapon customization to keep things interesting. I'd wager Arkane Studios, who developed the excellent and under-loved Dishonored games, and co-developed Youngblood, probably had a hand tightening things up.
I'm only a few hours into Youngblood, but I'm enjoying every bit of the experience so far. And when I get bored of it, I'll always have my plucky teen soldiers to play with instead.