Wargroove doesn’t try to hide its inspirations. Within the first moments of playing the game, it was clear how heavily Advance Wars influenced it. That’s great news for fans of the classic Nintendo strategy franchise, as it hasn’t seen a new entry in over 10 years. Still, if you’re coming to Wargroove just expecting that same old Advance Wars with a different coat of paint, don’t. This game is so, so much more.
Battles in Wargroove take place on top-down maps of varying sizes in classic tactics-game style. You’re given a powerful Commander character to control, along with a variety of other class-based units like Knights and Rangers. The push-and-pull of managing these expendable units adds a unique layer to the game. Like an onion, though, Wagroove has many layers. Each type of unit can land critical hits by meeting specific criteria. For instance, Pikemen land critical hits when standing next to other Pikemen, while Rangers land a critical blow if they attack without moving.
Utilizing critical hits is key, as is managing the health of your units. The less health a unit has, the less damage they do, especially if fighting a type of unit they have a disadvantage against. You’ll also want to make sure you’re capturing and defending buildings, as they allow you to heal units and give you gold to spend on reinforcements.
It’s a lot, but thankfully, the Campaign mode excels at explaining it all to you one step at a time. The campaign also does a good job of making you care about the commanders you control, with the story balancing clever comedy and intriguing lore to flesh out each of the 12 playable commanders and four factions you’ll encounter.
The Campaign mode can prove to be a bit too difficult at times, though. Even in the first few missions, your enemies will not be pulling their punches. As you get further into the game, missions can go on for an hour or longer and you’re not allowed to save in the middle of them. I’ve had a handful of frustrating moments restarting lengthy missions, especially after a sudden change in objective or battle conditions.
Arcade and Puzzle modes gave me more bite-sized experiences to tackle when the story started bogging me down, though. Arcade mode puts you through a quicker series of battles that are much lighter on story and are purely about conquering the enemy combatant. Puzzle mode, meanwhile, drops you into a series of unique mid-battle encounters and gives you just one turn to win the match. It’s a brain-wracking series of challenges that proved to be some of the most addictive content in the game.
For the strategist with friends, you’ll also want to dip into the incredible multiplayer modes. Here, you can duke it out with up to three other players in a variety of maps either online or offline. Online battles are especially impressive due to their asynchronous nature, meaning you can make a move and then simply leave the match to attend to other things until your opponent is done making their own move. It’s a great way to handle strategy-game multiplayer that also lets you easily juggle multiple matches at once, and it ended up making multiplayer Wargroove battles far more addictive than they already were when playing alone.
If you find yourself in need of some new maps to conquer alone or with friends, you’ll want to dive into the Custom Content browser. Here you can download or create custom maps, custom multi-map campaigns, and even custom cutscenes. The developer of Wargroove insists that these are the same tools they used to put the base game together, and it’s easy to see that being the truth. The creation tools in Wargroove are incredible, and while the learning curve is a little steep, it ended up being one of the most impressive customization kits I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Head to toe, Wargroove is packed to the brim with quality content. Single player offerings are lengthy and varied, although some punishing mission design led to more frustration than I would have liked. Combined with the beefy multiplayer and the jaw-dropping customization tools, Wargroove is one of the most impressive strategy games I’ve seen in years. Fans of Advance Wars will be right at home with Wargroove, but don’t be surprised if you end up becoming an even bigger Wargroove fan.
A review code was provided by the publisher.
I’m a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City.
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