It's not uncommon that incoming fans are calling for a new listing in a series, they are ignored only for unrelated developers that comes along with the perfect answer. And yet it's just what we have in Wargroove, the apparent facsimile of the Advance Wars series, which was more than ten years asleep. But even though his immediate opportunity is to fill the gap in recent years, Wargroove's intelligent upgrades and impressive user-friendly content tools make it an experience that is in itself an awesome strategy game.
Wargrove's most basic gameplay is almost indistinguishable from Advance Wars (a benchmark that developer Chucklefish himself does not avoid). It is a turn based turn based game that is placed on a tile map in which you build an army, take control of structures that can build units or generate gold, and (usually) work to eliminate or destroy a particular goal. Each event is a significant commitment; because units can not store on the same tile and buildings can produce only one thing per turn, you have to carefully think about your strategy on each round. The same goes for the fight; because the damage is dictated by the amount of health the unit has when it is aggressive, it can help you make minor damage later. None of this is new, but serves as a solid base that Chucklefish improves.
Wargroove has not only reclaimed the classic Advance Wars game but also its visual style. Mapped, cartoon maps are full of small blooms to help them feel alive; birds fly overhead, fire burns, and the shadows of cast clouds move slowly along the ground. When the fight begins, the action moves to a 2D side view that shows both units and renders a great set of animations. The best of them is the dogmaster, Caesar, who shows a frankly impressive level of dislike, scratching and taking time when all of them work with their fighters. (Well, despite the presence of dog units – fighters – the amount of whining they do in the loss of damage is minimized.) As nice as it sounds, I find that the division of strengths and weaknesses of the units – which consists of small, often looking-like portraits – unnecessarily legible.
In addition to exchanging firearms, nozzles and Advance Wars for swords, dragons and magic, the most obvious change is how the commanders work. Rather than serving only as a special ability that can sometimes be controlled, commanders are powerful units on a map that you control like any other. In most cases, eliminating the second team's commander is one of the winning conditions available, so you'll always want to keep it safe. But what makes so very interesting commanders are the ways that encourage you to use them aggressively.
Commanders have a unique capability – titular grooves – such as the treatment of nearby units, allowing neighboring units to act again during the current turnaround, triggering a friendly unit, and so on. They are created passively, but they are gaining much faster by eliminating enemies with your commander, who, unlike standard units, again get a small amount of health in each round. As a result, you are often wise to move forward with your commander to maximize how often you can use Groove. But it brings you difficult choices. Does it make sense to hurt, but do not kill a commander with a strong unit to mitigate the damage it can cause and kill a weak enemy with another unit? Or should your commander secure the final blow to get your Groove much faster, but risk that another attack of a strong force attack will cause heavier damage? The units of each have enemies that are strong and weak, and the terrain can provide defensive enthusiasts or nerfs that are billed. In addition, commanders offer additional considerations that even make a simple engagement into something you have to explore.
The same can be said for the Wargroove system critically affected. Rather than being something that happens randomly, each non-commander has specific criteria for when a critical hit occurs. Pikemen gets critical hits when they come close to a friendly picnic, guards when they attack without first movement, suffer when their target is at the edge of the attack, and so on. As a result, you must sometimes balance the risk of over-development to get a critical hit on the risk that you will find yourself in a more vulnerable position. In one case, you could put the spearman in danger just to ensure that another one brings a critical hit; in another, you can retreat a bit with a Knight on one turn to allow others to use their maximum motion range (by triggering a critical hit) to kill the enemy and avoid conflict. The critical response logic is in some cases indispensable – those for marine units only require you to be in a certain type of water tile – but add another welcome layer of depth to combat and another point of differentiation for the units.
How you treat damaged units is another tricky decision. The primary method requires you to move alongside the structure you own, and then you pay gold that would otherwise be used to buy units or activate certain capabilities. But such healing comes with the disadvantage of trading in health from this structure (which slowly restores the health of each turn) per unit (which is not). Sometimes it means you do not have to be able to treat everyone even if you have gold to cover the costs. This may also mean abandoning your buildings – and thus your revenue source and other units – prone to loss. There are no easy choices here and the abovementioned health regeneration of the commanders gives you the risky chance of letting them damage the tank and hoping they can recover from it for free.
Despite having so much juggling, the action is rarely stunning. This is partly due to the availability of a controllable number of unit types; Wargroove's four factions differ only in appearance, though each has three commanders with their own unique Groove. While disappointing the realization that introducing a new fraction means very little, there are plenty of types of units and systems they play to make it interesting. When you have to charge dozens of other types of units, you would slow down every crawl path when you try to remember how they all work.
Despite having so much juggling, the action is rarely stunning.
Unfortunately, what is unfortunate is the determination of the dangerous zone in which you can be attacked. Rather than seeing the full potential range of an enemy team's attack, you can only see it individually. Especially when driving precious air units that can easily fall off when cornering ends within reach of some air defense specialists, it is essential to carefully check and recheck these ranges. This adds an unnecessary amount of effort to each wheel, especially in big battles that see a significant number of units at the same time. As a result, the revolutions last longer than otherwise to facilitate this work.
These fight times in the campaign proved to be occasionally frustrating. While I was in trouble with only a small pile of missions, those I did not have often approached the end of the 20- to 30-minute games. Without a way to save an intermediate mission, the loss can be discarded, especially in the event of accidental clicks (it is too easy to end the turn or leave the unit to wait in error) or because it does not notice the enemy unit and therefore does not count on its attacks .
Some of my frustrations in these failures arose from the fact that I wanted to see what was going on in the next mission. Most offer some new wrinkles, such as introducing a new unit type or different overall mission structure (for example, help with retreat). While dialogue is entertaining occasionally, the story is forgotten, consisting of a number of conflicts that could be avoided if people really tried to explain why they were not enemies. However, the story is not an important part of this experience and most of the world's traditions are being sent to the Codex. In addition, there are consistently fresh ideas that action itself offers, all this is why you need to see the campaign.
Even after the campaign is completed, there are plenty of other ways to continue playing. Arcade Mode presents you a series of five battles and a light narrative cover for each commander who will give you a light campaign that you can see in one of the hall. Puzzle mode is more interesting to show you a level that needs to be completed in one step, making you make every step maximize your damaged performance. Multiplayer with four players that supports both local and online games works well and represents a much more important and unpredictable challenge than what AI can have. However, missing online support for private games and AI players (available offline) is an unfortunate omission.
Wargroove's greatest potential lies in tools for its own creation. They allow you to do not only maps but also entire campaigns full of major missions, side missions, and cutscenes. These games can be easily shared and downloaded directly through the game. While the aspect of WarGroup's creation is startling – you get a lot of tools available in a zero direction – the end result is the ability to create a campaign similar to the campaign the game supplies. Diving into this creative suite will not be for everyone, but they all benefit those who do it. One minor bug with this setting: There is no way to jump directly to the new map when browsing new content and failure on a separate map will unceremoniously turn you back to the main menu.
Beyond campaigns and standard missions, there is also an opportunity for map makers to develop entirely new ways to play. One example is to play directly into the game with the Chessgroove map, which divides the two teams into a standard chess formation and allows players only a single turn. It's an interesting concept, but one that is rapidly exhausting; because units are not immediately killed as in chess, you can not quickly evaluate potential moves and turn what should be a relatively quick matter into boring slog. As impartial as I played Chessgroove again after my first game, he offered a look at what kind of concept people could come up with.
That's good news because Wargroove is a pleasure to play, and an endless supply of content for him is a great prospect. Chucklefish could offer an enhanced shot of Advance Wars with an online multiplayer and named it a day. Instead, there has been a meaningful improvement that makes it a satisfying response to Advance Wars fans' enthusiasm and a true experience of their own merits.