STAFF REVIEW of Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (Xbox One)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Box art On paper, Geometry Wars sounds incredibly boring: ‘shoot various shapes for points’. As it turns out, it was an incredibly fun, addictive, and extremely challenging game when it released on Xbox 360 back in 2005. Since then it’s had a sequel, which improved many things, but now we have the third game in the series, created by a completely new team since the original no longer exists. If you’re unaware what Geometry Wars is, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (referred to as Dimensions from here on) is a twin stick shooter (left stick moves your ship and the right controls the direction you fire) that has you shooting various geometric shapes (enemies) with the goal of survival and high score.

It sounds basic in premise because it is, but it’s incredibly challenging when you have an overwhelming amount of enemies on the screen and multiple factors that you need to keep a keen eye on while trying to survive. Shoot a shape and it will leave behind a gem behind that can be gathered to add to your multiplier, allowing you to reach higher scores in the end. The more gems you collect the quicker your multiplier will raise, but doing so usually has its own dangers and you’ll need to constantly weigh the risk vs reward. Do so properly though and you’ll quickly see your score shoot from a measly few thousand into the millions.

While your primary goal may simply be to shoot anything that moves, survival plays just as large a part, if not more, especially when the screen becomes incredibly crowded and busy with bright flashing colors and trance-like music. Every type of enemy shape has its own characteristics of how they behave and react to your player controlled ship. Green cubes for example will constantly chase you but will try and move the opposite way that you’re shooting (think of a Boo ghost from Mario), purple squares when shot break into smaller pieces of themselves, and blue diamonds will slowly chase you wherever you go, so knowing your enemies patterns plays a huge part of your constantly evolving strategy to survive. On their own, none of them are too menacing or challenging, but when every type is coming at you from every direction (and some that simply float around without a care about your movements), it can and will become seemingly impossible to not die at times.

Dimensions now includes an Adventure Mode that has you playing through 50 preset challenges in order, each with a set par time or score to earn up to three stars. While many games with this mechanic allows you to breeze along from level to level, eventually you’ll become blocked by the boss stages that will require you to replay some levels to earn two or three stars to make sure you have the set amount to challenge these gate keeps of the challenges further ahead. While that may not sound interesting for some, every level plays very different from the others and isn’t simply playing small variations of the same level over and over. While most levels will simply have you striving to reach a certain high score, there are other types of challenges included that take from the previous games’ newly added modes such as Pacifism, Waves, King, and more. There are even some newly tweaked modes that were quite challenging to learn, and I don’t want to spoil them, but you’ll need to learn to strategize your Geometry Wars play in drastically different ways.

While most will find the new Adventure Mode the big new feature, the newly added 3D maps are just as revitalizing to the series, if not more. Geometry Wars was always played top down on a 2D plane, but in Dimensions it’s been taken to a whole new level and certain stages are played on a 3D geometric shape instead, allowing you to stay on any of its edges as you traverse around its edges (or none if it’s a sphere). While your ship looks as if it’s always in the middle of the screen, the shape will rotate based on how you control your ship, but even for the Geometry Wars veterans like myself, it does take quite a lot of getting used to. I used to be incredibly good at Geometry Wars, usually among the top names on my friends’ leaderboards, but these new 3D maps make me feel like I’ve never played the game before. When things become incredibly hectic, it can be very difficult to see the enemies coming, especially if it’s around the corner of a cube for example. There are some subtle touches that are designed to help you with issues like this, like small ripple effects on the playing field, but again, when there are hundreds of enemies on the screen at once, that’s not usually what you’re focused on. Blind corners are almost always met with death and can feel unfair at times, but just like the first two games, you need to adapt a new strategy to handle this new mechanic.

Dimensions’ 3D levels eventually do become to feel natural, you simply acclimate your play style to survive. The boss battles though, I’m still getting used to these, but find them incredibly challenging yet refreshing. After a handful of levels in Adventure Mode you’ll be met with a boss stage that needs to be beaten to progress further. Each boss is essentially a supersized version of one of the basic shapes but also has some unique tricks and a much beefier health bar that needs to be depleted before time runs its course. Most will spawn waves of enemies when its weak spot is exposed (as it’s also moving around the map), and once it’s been attacked, it’s usually invincible for a short time as it and its minions chase you. In addition to this, some of the boss stages are set on 3D levels and that adds a whole other complexity to the mix.

Also new to the series is the inclusion of drones that unlock the further you progress in the game and based on how many stars you’ve unlocked. These drones are small little AI sidekicks that will vary from extra firepower to a small version of your ship that will go and magnetically collect any nearby gems enemies have dropped and you’ve yet to collect yourself. There are a handful of different drones and special powers that you can use to suit your play style or to help with specific types of matches. I did find it more distracting than helpful in the beginning, as you naturally want to shoot at anything you see on the screen, but you eventually learn to simply block it out and let the AI do its thing to help you.

For the fans of the series, Classic Mode has also been included and is essentially the bulk of Geometry Wars 2’s newly added modes all in one place. If the inclusion of drones and 3D maps is too much for you, this is the mode you’ll want to stick with until you feel more familiar with the newer mechanics. Also included is local and online modes that will have you competing against other players in head to head teams. To be completely honest, in all of the time I’ve tried playing online multiplayer, I was only able to connect to one working match, so I’m not sure if it’s simply been bad luck on my part, server issues, or low game population.

Just like how Geometry Wars 2 really evolved the game from its first iteration, Dimensions does it once again with the newly added 3D maps and Adventure Mode. While I wasn’t initially a fan of the star count bottleneck to advance further, it does make you go back and replay levels and learn them by repetition rather than trying to coast through the game simply getting single stars in each stage. If that wasn’t motivating enough, each stage also has a leaderboard, so you can see exactly where you stack up against your friends and the rest of the world. There’s an incredible amount of gameplay included within for such a simple game premise. Newcomers to the series can start out simple and slow with classic modes where veterans can jump right in and feel at home and start to learn the intricacies of the new mechanics that really make Dimensions feel like the best in the series.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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