It's not often that fans' calls for a new entry in the series are ignored, only for an unrelated developer to come along with the perfect answer. And yet that's exactly what we have in Wargroove, the obvious facsimile of the Advance Wars series that has been going for more than a decade. But while its immediate appeal lies in filling in the gap that several games have in recent years, Wargroove introduces smart improvements and impressive custom content tools that make that experience stand alone as a terrific strategy game.
The most basic game of Wargroove can hardly be different from that of Advance Wars (the point of comparison that developer Chalkhill did not escape). It is a tactical turn-based game set on a map on which the army is mounted, you control a structure that can build units or generate gold and (usually) work to eliminate or destroy a particular target. Every action is a significant commitment; because the units can not be stored on the same tile and buildings can create only one piece per piece, you must carefully think through your strategy at every step. The same is true for engaging in combat; because the damage is dictated by the height of the health that the unit has, it can aggressively help ensure that you do less damage later. None of this is new, but serves as a solid foundation for the improvement of Chaklafish.
Wargroove does not light up only the classical game of Advance Wars, but also its visual style. On pixelated, caricature maps are full of small flourishes that help them feel alive; the birds flying overhead, the fire is burning, and the shadows thrown from the clouds are slowly moving along the ground. When the fight starts, the action switches to a 2D side view, showing the two units that are rising and displaying an extraordinary set of animations. The best of them belongs to the dog's commander, Caesar, who shows a genuinely impressive level of accidents, scratches and enjoys his time, while his trainees in the crossbow do the whole thing. (Commendably, despite the presence of dog units – a battlefield – the amount of soreness they do when taking damage is reduced to a minimum.) For a nice look, I found a breakdown of the forces and weaknesses of the units – consisting of small, often similar portraits – unnecessarily difficult to read.
Aside from the replacement of firearms, planes and tanks to advance wars, racks and magic, the most obvious change is how the commanders work. Instead of serving only as a special ability that can occasionally be used, commanders are powerful units on the map you control as any other. In most cases, eliminating the commander of the other team is one of the available conditions for victory, so you always want to be safe. But what makes commanders so interesting are the ways that you are encouraged to use them aggressively.
Commanders have a unique ability – the titular grooves – such as treating the surrounding units, allowing adjacent units to act again during the current twist, calling a friendly unit and so on. These are built passively, but gain much faster by eliminating enemies with your commander, which, unlike the standard units, also restores a small amount of health at every step. As a result, you are often wise to miss out with your commander, in order to maximize how often you can use your Groove. But this presents you with difficult choices. Does it make sense to hurt, but not to kill a strong unit with your commander in order to alleviate the damage that can be done and kill a weak enemy with another unit? Or if your commander ensures that last blow to reach your Groove much faster, but you risk to suffer the next attack on a strong unit that causes more severe damage? The units each have enemies that are strong and weak against, and the terrain can provide defensive blends or nerves to read. Along with that, the commanders offer further consideration, which makes even the simple engagement in something you need to think more about to examine.
The same can be said of the critical strike system of Wargh. Instead of being something that happens randomly, each non-command unit has specific criteria for when a critical strike occurs. Pikemen are critical hits when in close proximity to a friendly picman, ranger when attacking without first moving, trebuchets when their target is on the verge of their range of attacks, and so on. As a result, you sometimes need to measure the risk of excessive exteriorization to get a critical impact against leaving you in a more vulnerable position. In one case, you can put a spear in danger, just to make sure that someone else will be a critical hit; in another, you can retreat a little with a knight in one step, so that the next one can take advantage of their maximum range of movement (causing a critical strike) to kill an enemy and avoid a counterattack. The logic behind the critical hit demands in some cases is not inspired – those for naval units just ask you to be in a particular type of water tile – but they add another welcome layer to the depth of the fight and an additional point of differentiation for the units.
How to treat your damaged units is another awkward decision. The primary method requires you to move to the structure you own, and then pay for gold that would otherwise be used to purchase units or activate certain capabilities. But healing as this comes with the disadvantages of trading health from that structure (which slowly restores health to every step) per unit (which does not). Sometimes this means that you do not have to be able to cure everyone, even if you have gold to cover costs. It can also mean leaving your buildings – and therefore your source of income and additional units – are susceptible to loss. There are no easy choices here, and the aforementioned health regeneration of commanders provides you with a risky option to allow them to damage the tank and hoping that they can recover from it for free.
Despite having so much to juggle, the action is seldom enormous. This is partly due to one manageable number of types of units available; Four Wargroove factions differ only in appearance, although each has three commanders with their own unique Groove. While it is disappointing to realize that the introduction of a new faction means very little, there are enough units and systems in the game to keep interesting things. Having an account of dozens of additional types of units would slow down every step toward indexing while trying to remember how they all work.
Despite having so much to juggle, the action is seldom enormous.
What, unfortunately, slows down the action is the process of determining the danger zone in which you can be attacked. Instead of letting you see the full potential attack on the enemy team, you can only see the unit per unit. Especially when managing expensive aerial units that can easily be demolished if they reverse up within certain anti-air specialists, it is essential to carefully check and re-check these bands. This adds an unnecessary layer to the stage at every step, especially in big battles that see a significant number of units in the game simultaneously. As a result, spins take more time than they would otherwise be in order to facilitate this work.
Those times during the competition proved frustrating in the campaign. As I encountered problems in only a small number of missions, those who failed were often approaching the end of matches of 20 to 30 minutes. Without a way to create the preservation of the middle mission, the loss can be rested, especially if it occurs as a result of accidental clicking (it is too easy to end or to order a unit to wait by mistake) or because it does not not notice the unit of the enemy does not take into account the scope of the attacks.
Some of my frustrations in these failures arose from the fact that I was eager to see what followed the next mission. Most offer some new wrinkles, such as the introduction of a new type of unit or a different overall structure of the mission (for example, helping to retreat). While the dialogue is amusing at times, the story is forgotten, which consists of a series of conflicts that could be avoided if the characters made a real attempt to explain why they are not enemies. The story, however, is not a major part of the experience, and much of the world's science is sent to the codex. Moreover, the constantly fresh ideas offered by the action itself are the reason why you should see the campaign through.
Even after the end of the campaign, there are many other ways to continue playing. The Arcade Mode offers you a series of five battles and easy narrative wrappers for each commander, giving you a light campaign varieties that you can see in a single session. A mod of contrition is more intriguing to you with a level that must be completed in one line, forcing you to ensure that each move increases the amount of damage. A multiplayer four-player, with support for the local game and online, works well and represents a more valuable, unpredictable challenge than what the AI can fit. However, the lack of online support for private matches and AI players (available offline) are unfortunate vulnerabilities.
The greatest potential of Wargroove lies in his own creation tools. This allows you to make not only maps, but also complete campaigns filled with major missions, side missions and scenes. These can be easily shared and downloaded right through the game. While the aspect of creating Wargroove is initially enormous – you are left to discover the many tools that are at your disposal with zero direction – the end result is the ability to create a campaign at the same level as the one with which the game is delivered. Diving in this creative package will not be for everyone, but everyone will benefit from doing it. A minor complaint with this setting: There's no way you can jump directly into a new map when you search for new content, and the failure of a stand-alone map is incredibly pushed back to the main menu.
Beyond campaigns and standard missions, there is the possibility for site creators to develop completely new ways to play. An example of this is baked in the game with the map of Chessgrou, which connects both teams in a standard chess formation and allows players only one step in a row. It is an intriguing concept, but one that is fast growing hard; because the units are not killed immediately, as in chess, you can not quickly evaluate the potential moves, turning what should be relatively fast work in boring. As uninteresting as I was playing in Chessgroove again after my first game, he offers insights into what kind of concepts outside the box can come up with people.
That's good news, because Wargroove is a pleasure to play, and the possibility of endless content offering for him is an extraordinary perspective. Chaklofish could offer an advantage over Advance Wars with an online multiplayer and called him one day. Instead, it has made significant improvements that make this and a satisfying response to the wishes of the Advance Wars fans and a truly great experience for their own merits.