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Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger - 3DS Download Review

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Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger

3DS Download | Nintendo | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $9.99 | StreetPass Support
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10th June 2013; By KnucklesSonic8

Much can go wrong when upgrading from one operating system to the next, something Windows users know all too well. Sometimes you're better off with a model highly similar to the last. That way, a sense of mastery can be achieved, with unique features and navigation methods remaining top-of-mind. Otherwise, this kind of transition can be an especially aggravating and tiresome exercise for someone having only a base operational knowledge. A similar reality faces Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger. Only, its focus on familiarity above all else ends up being to its downfall.

    The next entry to follow eShop-exclusive Dillon's Rolling Western, Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger is neither a more tailored trim of its existing formula, nor an acceleration to more advanced proceedings. It's sort of caught up in this uncomfortable limbo where it's not a question of how things work, but rather why the process is established as rote and not challenged much. You could excavate for long periods -- and that is precisely what you'll be doing should you make the deep time investment -- and, at best, only unearth forsaken "treasures." That, and flashbacks of past ordeals, where you laboured on-end under highly similar terms. Either way, the proposition is less than inviting.

This next chapter sees Dillon and Russ journeying to new towns to temper the uprising of Grocks -- bulky, rock-based monsters that emerge from dens to lay waste at set intervals. Its setup is that of a tower defense model with some exploration elements as both a supplement and a direct helper, having you construct vulnerable towers in pre-determined locations and equip forms of weaponry, all the while seeking out turnip-like Scruffles to increase village defenses and exploring both mines and ruins within the allotted time frame (the length of which is not known but can be predicted the more you play). But upon engaging with enemies in isolated showdowns outside the battlefield, that is where the action elements take control, as it is here that Dillon will roll and claw his way to victory with a developing -- though not especially varied -- arsenal of short-range maneuvers.

    A loose day/night system is enforced whereby Grocks only attack after the sky turns red (the game's equivalent of high noon), at which point the village will be off-limits to brace itself for any impetuous forces. Advancement is only possible if the village can function on a single Scrog (pig-like creatures) before the entire Grock assembly is wiped out. When the day concludes, you head to the Saloon for rest and to plan your next move, accepting optional side-quests for the next day that offer big coin bonuses (or less drastic penalties). Unlike before, you now have a better scope of the day's affairs through the battle report, able to isolate where the brunt of the force streamed in from so you can attack these concentrated areas with the next day's set of waves. The three-day cycle repeats until all dens have been extinguished, with excess resources being pooled into a deposit bank for future ventures.

It's a hybrid that rewards tactical thinkers more than it does strategists who address each unit with an on-the-fly, more reflex-oriented mentality. If you're prone to the latter way of thinking, the game quickly persuades you to the side of planning in its preliminary setup, a procedure that some may find pain-staking as the experience dwindles on. Resource management is well-rooted in the different pods that supervise and orchestrate the affair, and the skills you learn are imparted to you in such a way that you feel like a pro after a single town visit, even while also acknowledging that with that understanding comes a need for increased speed and skillfully exploiting frequently-crossed paths as others are left blank.

    The major difference in operations comes from, first of all, a new partner system. While not as essential in the scheme of things, these bandits that you hire (who initially want to see you dead) add an extra layer of strategy, able to handle menial tasks or camp at set destinations in preparation for a raid. Before they can join your team, Dillon must win at a game of fast draw, rolling just in time to dodge shots fired and issue a counter attack. It's only a narrow window that you have to work with, but you may try again until Dillon can no longer recover from his injuries.

The second major change The Last Ranger implements is in assigning Dillon a bodyguard role, the final day of the main stages being when a train central to the storyline passes through the area. Leading up to this, mined materials are to be used in the repair of broken tracks. But all your work can be ruined by an enemy that deliberately destroys parts of the track you fixed, if not having the entire train endangered by Grocks that chase after it. Lesser improvements come in the form of new monsters with special properties that require defined tactics (such as an encircling method) to defeat; side stages and such diversions as Treasure Hunt mines; as well as revised stage templates with larger fields and new, fall-themed scenery -- although a large chunk of the game's environments are still recycled, if not completely lifted from the first game.

    When you look at things comprehensively, it's tough to fight the feeling that not enough has changed and The Last Ranger is perhaps just too much of a repeat translation. But it has less to do with the additions themselves and more to do with them not contributing meaningfully to an elevated experience over its predecessor. I admired the first entry for the direction it took, but after playing The Last Ranger, I feel as though once was enough. The lustre has most definitely worn off, and Dillon himself has worn out his welcome with this dubious sequel. Some may find that in very remote ways the formula has improved, but certainly not enhanced, with reactions to it getting to the point of spiteful over how the game squanders the player's time.

Try as I did to take my time with it, I now better understand how some felt towards the original game. To put this delicately, you can only take so much of it before you start to question if the arduous process is just turning the game into a glorified time-waster. And unfortunately, after more than 10 hours of gameplay and more than a month of playing it on and off, The Last Ranger completely exhausted my patience levels to a point where I felt my entire experience was far-fetched from the promises the sequel aimed to deliver.

    By virtue of the fact that everything unfolds in drawn-out steps, The Last Ranger shares the replayability of the original, furthered by a few new sharing possibilities over StreetPass and the diversions I spoke of before. But when you take stock of it, its replay value is more off-putting in disguise, particularly to casual folks who may have trouble clearing later stages and thus have great frustration set in over their efforts being wasted. 

    Dillon's Rolling Western was a unique blend, and Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger doesn't change or expound on this -- for better or worse. With the payoff being too floppy and heavily catered to players with the most effective management style, it's an unsatisfying sequel that's best left alone by anyone who questioned the substance the first time or, after having tolerated it as much and as long as they could, devoted their attention elsewhere upon realizing it wasn't supportive over the long-term. Save for a few tweaks that don't ultimately do much for the mechanics, there isn't enough propelling the formula to warrant an added time investment. In this case, because it was already a trying excursion, being more of the same is to The Last Ranger's fault.

19/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Foundation and cycles remain the same, partner system is a welcome addition, slight formula changes but no major enhancements
Presentation 7/10 - Expanded stage templates, recycled elements and environments, great 3D use as always, some nice scenery
Enjoyment 2/5 - Becomes a drain as it dwindles on, a test of patience, lustre has worn off, unsatisfying as a sequel, frustrating realizations
Extra Content 4/5 - Lengthy adventure, more bonus diversions including new Treasure Hunts, new StreetPass functionality, not all will stick it out

Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger
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