Advance Wars fans have been clamoring for a new entry in the series since Days of Ruin launched on the Nintendo DS in 2008. Still with no sequel in sight, the decade-long begging appears to have been largely snubbed by Nintendo. And with Fire Emblem’s increasing popularity *ehem waifus*, it’s no wonder Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have given the latter much attention. Now, to fill the fans’ longing, Chucklefish took one for the team, pitched-in ideas, and pieced them up together to create a perfect blend of a charming and well-polished turn-based strategy game – Wargroove.
In Wargroove, players are given the option to play in solo and multiplayer modes which equally offer an enjoyable, challenging, and solid experience that strategy fans will surely adore. The multiplayer mode lets players challenge friends in local and online multiplayer skirmishes along with complete rule customization. Local and online competitive and co-op play are also available.
With online play, you ca look for matches against players connected around the globe. You may also create your own matches by hosting a game or join others via the Quick Play option; you can even create and join private matches via an Invite Code generated in-game. Playing locally allows up to 4 players battling off one another using only a single Switch. In handheld mode, players can pass around the system while taking turns in setting up their troops tactically on the battlefield. Quite like playing a game of chess, only that the “board,” that is the Switch, gets passed around.
Meanwhile, by playing solo, players can choose between the Campaign, Arcade, and Puzzle modes. For first-timers, it is recommended to play through the entire Campaign as it acts as a grand tutorial for the game. It is also an effective way to get introduced into Wargroove’s mechanics as well as to master each Commander’s Grooves along with each units’ special roles.
As it goes, the story revolves around Mercia, an inexperienced young Queen, who goes in a quest to avenge his father and put an end, once and for all, to the evil that has plagued her kingdom of Cherrystone. Along the way, Mercia and her comrades will encounter, fight, and, eventually, forge allegiance to the other factions. Wargroove’s plot takes place in a medieval fantasy setting involving knights, mages, dragons, golems, merfolks and the likes. There are seven story acts in total and each act has about three main missions and a couple of side missions. The plot is pretty straightforward but it sure is amusing what with all the quirky characters and funny cut scenes added in.
Wargroove’s gameplay basically has players command units on a grid-based map, recruit units from barracks, capture villages which, in turn, provide income, and eliminate enemy units to accomplish specific mission objectives. The win conditions, however, mostly require players to defeat the opponent’s Commander or their stronghold. A Rank is also shown after a successful skirmish and is an indication of how well you did. Additionally, Stars are given as a reward. These stars can be spent to unlock arts in the Gallery as well as some in-game bonuses. There is no leveling-up involved thus eliminating the need for grinding.
Wargroove has four factions and features 13 on-field Commanders which can be unlocked as the story progresses. They are all controllable characters and are incredibly powerful. Commanders can beat almost any other regular units and are capable to take quite a beating. However, take extra caution, should a Commander gets defeated, it’s game over.
All Commanders also have their own unique abilities called “Grooves” that charge up while in play. Once the charge meter is full, the Grooves can be used as a standard field action. Although they’re not the all-too-powerful type and hardly game-changing all by itself, when used strategically, these Grooves can turn the tide of battle in your favor. Groove abilities can range from attack, support, and defense capabilities.
In addition to Grooves, Wargroove has also introduced a unique critical hit system that isn’t random. In order to perform a critical hit, each unit has to meet its own critical hit condition to enable a critical strike dishing out extra damage.
The understanding of the Grooves along with the unique critical hit system combined with proper unit positioning makes for some creative strategic solutions. Tactical advantages and disadvantages also come into play when terrain, weather effects, movement, and attack ranges have been considered. Once all of Wargroove’s mechanics have meshed together, everything is simply rewarding. However, planning all these out takes a sheer amount of time and thinking as one mission takes approximately an hour or so to complete. These are especially true the further you progress in the story as maps and enemy unit arrangements tend to get highly complex. If you’re the impatient type, you might want to look elsewhere as Wargroove may turn you off completely.
Playing through the entire narrative-driven Campaign unlocks all the Commanders which players can use in the Arcade mode. In Arcade mode, players will have to take out a series of five Commanders battling them one by one in five different skirmishes in quick succession. There are three difficulty levels which rewards more Stars the higher you go up in difficulty.
Lastly, the Puzzle mode features mind-bending logic scenarios where units are laid out in specific arrangements on the map. There are 25 puzzles available and each puzzle requires players to complete the battle in a single turn. In contrast with the Campaign mode, each puzzle map is bite-sized and can be cleared in a fairly shorter amount of time. A cleared puzzle gives one Star as a reward.
By the way, when you’ve already exhausted all the experience that the solo and multiplayer contents have to offer, Wargroove also features an in-game content map and campaign editors which open up a whole lot of unique challenges for players wanting for some more Wargroove goodness. If you’re in for some creativity, this Custom Content creator is just the platform you need. It’s very intuitive and easy to understand.
User creations can also be shared and downloaded online. You can browse among the shared creations or check the Featured tab. If you seem to like a few creations, you can download them into your game and you’re in to more challenges ahead. Mind you, some of these creations are truly clever and well worth your time.
It’s no secret that Wargroove has been heavily inspired by Advance Wars. While it was built upon an already established and perfect formula, Chucklefish has especially thrown in a number of fresh and unique ideas and perspectives into the mix resulting in a tactical game with its own exceptional personality. It’s a love letter to Advance Wars fans enclosed in a charming high quality, highly detailed and vibrant pixel art which adds to an aesthetic that is truly top notch. For its price of only USD 19.99, Wargroove is definitely a must-buy and a must-have as it oozes with so much content along with a gameplay that is both deep and rewarding at its core.
- Masterfully crafted pixel art visuals
- Clever and carefully designed map scenarios
- High replayability
- Content-rich, plenty of customization and options available
- Slow gameplay and requires lots of patience
VERDICT: A fresh take on a sumptuous and rich soup following an already proven and perfected recipe.
Soup Temperature: 9/10
A review copy was provided by the publisher for this review.