I'm not the biggest Splinter Cell fan, but I was right there with the most diehard of Sam Fisher fanatics when I saw the man himself in a trailer, which turned out to be anything other than an actual new Splinter Cell game. Believe me, I understand the disappointment. But even with that said, it's really nice to see him join the team in Elite Squad.
Tom Clancy's Elite Squad is the first Tom Clancy built for mobile, and it brings together memorable characters from across the various Tom Clancy universes, such as Sam Fisher, a guy from Rainbow Six, and a guy from Ghost Recon. On top of all that, you may even find yourself with a guy from The Division.
In all seriousness, this is a crossover between multiple universes, and you can see why Ubisoft had to put Sam Fisher in the reveal trailer. The Tom Clancy game franchises aren't exactly known for strong storytelling, in reality, they're known for "gritty realism" and guns. I'm not trying to say you can't enjoy these franchises or can't enjoy seeing them put together, but how many characters can you name from Ghost Recon, or The Division?
The main problem with the game being a grand crossover of multiple franchises is that the only franchise that truly has the brand and character recognition is the only franchise that hasn't had a new installment in more than an entire console generation. No wonder fans were furious.
But the situation doesn't matter here, what matters is the game. And the game is fine.
What we have here is a pretty standard real-time battler where your actions in-battle do not matter as much as your actions outside of battle. This does also mean that despite being a crossover of various franchises where people shoot guns, you yourself will not actually shoot any gun throughout your time playing Elite Squad.
What you will be doing is watching as your selected soldiers go to battle, and watch over them with in-battle abilities. Your soldiers themselves will position themselves on the field, make use of their abilities by themselves, shoot and target by themselves - they are on autopilot, and you just need to occasionally active an ability like an airstrike of a healing drone to keep the fight going.
It's a shame just how very hands-off Elite Squad is, especially because of what it ends up feeling like. When battles are underway and you're watching your team fight, by themselves, watching the slow ticking down of an ability timer so you can actually feel involved for a second, it's like you're playing any other gacha RPG with the battles set to auto. In fact, with the gear progression system, it feels almost exactly like RAID: Shadow Legends.
When not in battle you'll be pouring money into your soldiers to level them up, and investing your precious gear into them in order to upgrade their gear levels. All of this results in permanent stat buffs, which raises your team level and makes them more ferocious in combat, with or without your input. Does any of this sound familiar?
The detailed stats each character in this game has and their upgrades make it clear that it's basically an RPG underneath the real-time inactive battles, so why not just make the game turn-based, or, stop me if I'm going crazy here, make the battle both real-time and active. Like a, real-time active-battle system.
Same old song and dance
But underneath all of my moans and complaints, Elite Squad is pretty good, really. Unlike a lot of similar games, it actually has a story it cares about telling, and multiple campaigns with loads of chapters in each to keep you busy and fighting the good fight. Or the bad fight, if you choose to do the villain campaigns.
The game has plenty of content, and once you've been plugging away at the campaign for a couple of hours you'll be able to enjoy daily objectives, Event missions, Arena PVP, join a Guild, and more, all with new gameplay opportunities.
These games are designed to give you a laundry list of tasks to do every day, and I won't lie, it does feel satisfying to log in and make a little bit of instant progress each day. That's nice. Making progress, powering up your team, getting new gear, and new soldiers all feels good and satisfying, and while it's nice to overcome those missions you were struggling on, it still feels hollow, because you feel so disconnected. Wow, this was honestly supposed to be a positive paragraph.
I want to be more optimistic but Elite Squad is a very obvious game, in a lot of ways. Once you watch a clip of it in action, you'll know how it plays, you'll know how it progresses, and you'll know exactly what to expect from that regular gameplay loop. And you'll know exactly whether or not Elite Squad is for you.
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