Reviews - Updated on April 10, 2022

Relevant for platform: NSW

A cursory glance at Wargroove may seem like a shameless copy of Advance Wars, only instead of tanks and helicopters, there are dragons and howitzers. The series, which neither Nintendo nor the developers from Intelligent Systems remember for more than 10 years, is still loved by fans, but almost no one has tried to create something like this. But the Chucklefish team decided to try it – the result was a great turn-based tactic with a huge amount of content.

Old school

In Wargroove, the player’s squad, led by one of the leaders, appears on the field along with the enemy army. It is impossible to choose starting troops, as well as the commander. In most cases, it is required to destroy the enemy stronghold or defeat someone else’s leader.

Although in the story campaign, tasks are sometimes completely different. In one of the missions, the character will move with assistants all over the map, periodically encountering the undead and communicating with a spirit important to the story. In other cases, the gameplay is about the same: you are slowly moving towards the goal, gathering an ever larger army and trying to defeat opponents without much loss in turn-based battles. The main building of the player is the barracks, where new soldiers are purchased for gold coins. And the hero receives money after capturing neighboring villages, sending troops to them and earning currency at the beginning of each turn. If the village already belongs to someone, it can be recaptured to deprive the enemy of a source of income.

The story campaign gradually brings you up to date, not letting you get confused in the possibilities available in the game. At first, you will not manage commanders at all, but simply get a few swordsmen at your disposal and you will understand the mechanics. Much here works exactly the same as in the old Advance Wars. All units have a health pool, which is also an indicator of strength. Therefore, the unit that strikes first gets an advantage – if the enemy unit has 20% health left, it will not be as powerful in battle as at 100%.

All soldiers have weaknesses, and they can deal increased damage to some opponents. Unfortunately, this is not explained as well as one would like, due to an unreadable list of weaknesses in the unit description. Very tiny icons are placed there, which sometimes do not look like units placed on the field at all. You have to peer, compare the colors of helmets or petals on their heads, if we are talking about Florans (forest dwellers). Over time, this process becomes easier – the units of all factions are the same, and before dealing damage, it shows how strong your blow and return will be.

Wargroove game review

Sometimes in the story you will have to control two factions at once.

The fact that the soldiers on each side differ only in appearance may upset some, but otherwise there would certainly be problems with the balance, and there would be more confusion. Here you don’t expect any surprises from foreign swordsmen, spearmen, archers and other units – both troops act the same way. But they look different, and their names are funny – on the side of Cherrystone are Fighting puppies, in Falheim it is the Strahops, in the Heavenly Song – in general, Shiba Inu. Some in the army have Rangers and Sharpshooter Falcons armed with bows, while the Florani call them Shooters.

There are no useless

All types of troops can deal critical damage if their position before the strike meets certain requirements. Spearmen, for example, are much more effective when standing next to other spearmen, dragons are especially dangerous against targets that are overlooked on the roads, and trebuchets will destroy the enemy who is at maximum distance. The game reports all this when you click on a unit, at the same time allowing you to find out about its speed, defense and the area where it stands, if this is not clear when looking at the map. When you recklessly move units around and don’t factor in these bonuses, the chances of total failure become even higher.

The landscape also affects the behavior of troops. Forests slow down movement and are impassable to vehicles, rivers reduce the protection of the soldiers stationed in them, sea units become clumsy on rocky reefs. Mountains provide good defense against attack, as only foot and air units can climb them. They also allow you to further dispel the fog of war that you will have to face in some tasks. Dogs are best suited for this – they have an increased viewing radius. In general, even weak and very frail soldiers can have an impact on the outcome of the battle, if used correctly. For example, the cheapest swordsmen are not as dangerous as spearmen, but they move faster and capture buildings more quickly.

All this may seem confusing and complicated, but in fact, even a person far from tactical games will grasp everything on the fly without any problems – they explain a lot here so well and consistently. Moreover, there is a full-fledged plot, telling about the invasion of the forces of Falheim into the kingdom of Cherrystone. The war between the factions began after the assassination of His Majesty Mersival, who ruled Cherrystone, and a few months later his crowned daughter sets off on a journey across the continent of Aurania. The story is simple and hardly anyone will admire, but the characters turned out to be bright and memorable.

Wargroove game review

Neutral buildings are desirable to capture as soon as possible.

heroic endurance

The disadvantage of the story campaign is that the difficulty is sometimes poorly balanced in it. From about the fourth act, more and more missions will last 40 minutes (or even an hour), maps will begin to increase noticeably, and the risk of failing the task is also. In Wargroove, it is impossible to save in the middle of the level, so that in the event of the death of the commander or the destruction of the stronghold, load the save and try another tactic – you have to start all over again, which is very disappointing because of the wasted time. Well, at least, you can just leave the game and continue the fight from the same place.

There is a solution to this problem (which, I confess, I sometimes used) – in the difficulty settings, you can change three parameters: the amount of damage received, the level of income at the beginning of each turn, and the time until the groove bar fills up.

The latter applies to commanders and is unique for each of them – once every few turns, leaders can use a special ability that affects the environment or allies. Mercia heals nearby soldiers by 50%, Caesar the dog inspires them to take an extra turn, Nuru the Floran summons an allied unit next to her. There are 12 commanders in total, and all of them are available not only in the story, but also in the Arcade mode, although most of them need to be completed unusual side tasks to unlock.

In Arcade, the player chooses one of the heroes (as well as the difficulty level) and must defeat five commanders in a row with him. Both participants start the battle with equal conditions on a symmetrical map – sooner or later the locations will start to repeat, but the mode still doesn’t get boring for a long time. Subsequently, the “Puzzle” becomes available – it proposes to destroy enemy units in one move, which is sometimes not as easy as it might seem. But it is there that you can memorize all the features of the soldiers and the influence of the landscape on their capabilities.

Wargroove game review

The editor does not allow you to use the Russian language – at least on Switch.

Everyone is welcome here

There is enough content for a single player to fully justify the purchase of Wargroove. However, this is not all that the game has to offer. For example, there is local multiplayer for four, as well as asynchronous online multiplayer. It is not necessary to sit and wait for someone to complete their turn – you can close the game and return to the match later. It’s great that online is cross-platform – if you prefer the Nintendo Switch, and a friend bought the PC or Xbox One version, it won’t hurt you.

But the main thing that Wargroove offers outside of single-player modes is a chic editor for creating custom content. The developers promised to add the same tools that they used for the main campaign, and it is really available to everyone. In the editor, you can either create your own map or come up with a long campaign with screensavers and dialogues.

There are so many possibilities that it’s dizzying. To create a cutscene, you choose characters, prescribe lines, determine timings and sequence. On the world map, place icons and paths leading from one level to another. On battle maps, you place buildings and vegetation, influence the disposition of troops and other parameters. It is impossible to redraw characters and change the gameplay, but this is unlikely to prevent creative people from coming up with something special. Custom maps, by the way, are also available on all platforms, regardless of where they are created.

The squad fight animations are nicely drawn, but get boring quickly. Fortunately, they can be turned off.

***

Wargroove won’t surprise Advance Wars fans with any special innovations, but it will definitely delight them simply by being there. It’s a great turn-based tactic that’s deep enough to keep you entertained for the dozens of hours you spend on the story and additional modes. The story is simple, the difficulty is sometimes poorly balanced, but this does not prevent the game from being amazing. And an extensive map and campaign editor, coupled with cross-platform online multiplayer, only reinforces the belief that Wargroove will pick up awards for the best strategy in the same numbers as last year’s Into the Breach.

Pros: spiritual successor to Advance Wars with interesting mechanics and timeless gameplay; a full-fledged story campaign with cute characters; additional modes will be able to captivate for a long time; support for local and asynchronous online multiplayer; cross-platform map editor that allows you to create entire campaigns; nice pixel art.

Cons: history will be quickly forgotten; in the “plot” sometimes you suffer due to the lack of saves in the middle of missions; the list of unit weaknesses is almost unreadable.

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