Could be a contender for one of the best games of the year.
For years, fans of Advance Wars have been calling out for a revival of the revered strategy series. Its bright colours, accessible mechanics, and surprising depth have been long missed since the franchise’s last outing in 2008.
Thankfully, developers Chucklefish have answered the call, and answered it in style.
Wargroove brings many of the most beloved elements of Advance Wars onto current generation consoles and PC with a charming pixel-art aesthetic. Switching the tanks and attack helicopters of its spiritual predecessor for pikemen, swordsmen and, yes, very cute attack dogs. This allows it a unique style that never feels too derivative, while also feeling like a homage to what came before.
Campaign mode features an impressive number of missions, each with varied objectives. Each playable General has their own special ability, such as healing or being able to deploy explosives. These Generals command armies in the name of four different factions. Units range from cutesy steel-swingers, to dragons and other mystical beings, and all look great in the gorgeous pixel-perfect visuals as well as being easily identifiable in the heat of a tactical battle. The story here is fairly forgettable, but Wargroove leans on its whimsical nature to offer up some fun characters: Vampires, Mages, and even the Undead can be found throughout the fifteen to twenty hour campaign.
While the story is easy to forget about, Wargroove’s difficulty is harder to avoid. The game prevents saving within a mission, and with missions often being up to an hour long it can feel truly gutting to lose a battle and have to return to the start. Thankfully, Chucklefish offers an impressive granularity to difficulty options for newer players, with the option to crank things to the borderline masochistic for players desperate for a challenge.
While there’s little to no progression, each battle won feels like a lesson learned. With missions being so long, there’s an argument that the Switch would be the best way to play Wargroove – its ability to drop in and out of a battle in the middle of a commute really breaking up the monotony of some missions that require retreating from one side of the map to the other.
Thankfully, all versions have access to Wargroove’s fantastic arcade mode which strips maps down to smaller, mirrored zones and means that battles can be squeezed in closer to the twenty minute mark.
If you’re looking to flex your inner Sun Tzu, multiplayer in Wargroove is a veritable smorgasbord of options. Playable in co-op or in adversarial multiplayer modes, Wargroove supports cross-play between PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and works impressively well. In fact, you can play asynchronously – setting one turn in order to return later on and play another.
Of course, there are only so many maps upon which to do battle – or are there?
One of Wargroove’s most impressive features is its incredible level editor. Allowing the creation of custom maps to be shared among the community, Wargroove allows players to create their own challenging scenarios or even entire campaigns by linking several together. If you’re not the creative type, you can download someone else’s creations, with custom cutscenes, dialogue, and branching narratives. There truly is an astounding amount of content here, and Wargroove’s creation suite feels almost unnecessarily generous. It’s also impressively user-friendly, and I’d imagine the Steam community will have a blast adding custom sprites.
With impressive tactical depth, a challenging campaign, an excellent multiplayer suite and an outrageously deep set of tools for user-generated content, Wargroove is one of the games of 2019 and is well worth a look – doubly so for Advance Wars veterans.
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