There hasn’t been an Advanced Wars title for a while now and the developers at Chucklefish noticed. So they went ahead and created Wargroove, a game that can politely be described as an homage to the Nintendo strategy series. We’ve played about ten hours of the game so far and here are our early impressions.
- Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that is described as a spiritual successor to the Advanced Wars series. If you haven’t played Advanced Wars (I haven’t), this means that the game is similar to other turn-based strategies, in that you have different units that cost a different amount of gold and that have unique sets of weaknesses, strengths, and criticals.
- The big difference so far from other turn-based strategy games that I’ve played is that there are towns and barracks to capture on maps. If you control a town, you get more money each turn. With each barracks you control, you can purchase one unit per turn to put into battle. The importance of capturing these points is huge. With less villages, your opponent can’t purchase as strong of units as you can as quickly as you can, and capturing an opponent’s barracks is a figurative nail in their coffin.
- The pixelated art style is bright and colourful and it’s great that the same units for each of the four squads are detailed differently. For example, a swordsman for the forest faction looks different from a swordsman in the vampire faction.
- There are animations for each attack that one unit does against another. These animations are fine in quality but with so many attacks happening each battle, they pretty quickly become annoying. Battles are long enough already, so I turned off the animations after playing the game for a couple hours.
- Each unit has a critical that is triggered by certain conditions: swordsmen need to be adjacent to their commander, while archers who don’t move on their turn are able to crit. This adds a layer of strategy that consistently rewards the player rather than using randomness for critical hits.
- You can play versus up to three other players on one system or online. With their turn-based systems and little need to have the screen split into two, strategy games like this seem ripe for multiplayer and it is awesome to see that Wargroove offers it.
- Battles are long. Really long. And slow. You need patience. Moving one unit up by itself too far is going to get it killed. Sending injured units back to towns in order to heal becomes an essential technique. From the little that I’ve read about Advanced Wars, this is par for the course.
- Did I mention battles are long? The good thing about this is that you get a series of momentum changes throughout a battle that you don’t really get in games with shorter battles. But long battles also turn small annoyances into huge ones. Namely: the fog of war on some maps leaves your scouting units high, dry, and too often dead; and scripted events such as the enemy introducing a new unit to the story leave you unfairly unprepared to deal with them.
- I’ll save my biggest frustration with the game for its own bullet: you can’t save mid-battle and so your decisions are final. An hour long battle can be lost due to accidentally playing a unit somewhere incorrectly and there is nothing you can do other than restart the entire battle. Giving me the ability to save and load within a battle would make me want to play the game more, not less, as I would be able to experiment with units more freely.
- Neither units nor commanders level up during battle or outside of it, which is a bummer after having played XCOM and Fire Emblem. I always enjoyed how those games made individual units feel more unique than just their generic class by allowing them to level up outside of individual battles.
- The customizable campaign creator is awesome. It lets you create individual battles and challenges, but it also lets you create cutscenes and overworld paths to connect these battles. Essentially, you have the ability to make complete story campaigns within Wargroove and people are taking advantage. Fire Emblem and Advanced War map recreations are already listed.
Overall, Wargroove is a challenging strategy game that is by all means a relatively direct copy of Advanced Wars. The game is balanced to a tee and so the weight of each decision is huge, and I keep learning more and more each battle despite my difficulty with the game. Fans of strategy games, and of course of Advanced Wars, should give Wargroove a chance.