If the war-torn world of Wargroove looks awfully familiar, you’re not just imagining it. After all, this game from developer Chucklefish is looking to be the spiritual successor to the Advance Wars games.
With beautiful Pixel art and a fantastic soundtrack, the real question now is just how much the actual game does justice to the series it pays homage to. Put a gun on my head and I’d say that, yes, this game is quite good. If you are a fan of Advance Wars, you would definitely be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t pick up Wargroove.
All that being said, nuance is important and there are several things to keep in mind in order to determine if this game truly is for you. On that note, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of Wargroove and go over the things that work well as well as where the game falls short.
Wargroove is a turn-based tactical RPG where you select one of twelve initial commanders and build up your own little army. The goal? You’ll want to either destroy the opponent’s main base or kill the enemy commander. Based on the fifteen hours or so of multiplayer that I played, things usually end when you kill the enemy commander because your opponent put them in the wrong spot. I’ll get into more detail about this later, with the main caveat being the fact that I exclusively played with Fog of War turned on. ?I just feel that is the more fun game mode, overall, so keep in mind that things might be a little different with Fog of War turned off.
There are generally 3 types of units you can purchase and they all have a different base that you purchase them from. First are the regular units you buy at the barracks. These are your swordsmen, doggos and golems. Pretty much any ground-based unit can be acquired here. Flying units, meanwhile, can be purchased at the tower. These are powerful units that are never hindered by terrain so they can get around the map extremely easily, ?requiring you to build counters for them. Then you have your naval units from the port. Naval units are only useful on maps with water but they are very effective in the areas where you can use them. Water combat always felt like an afterthought in Advance Wars and it’s implemented much better in Wargroove. I still feel that water units should be a little stronger than they are in the game but units such as the Battleship can change the tide of combat anywhere it can reach. The Harpoon ship is also a very good choice to build based on the map layout as it’s a very strong and cheap counter to flying units with its massive 6-tile range.
The most interesting part of combat in this game is the Critical System. Every single unit in this game outside of the commanders has a specific setup to guarantee a critical hit. Soliders, for example, can get a critical hit if they are adjacent to their own commander. Mages, meanwhile, can get a critical hit if their defense is at 3 or above. In the case of soldiers, you are rewarded for moving your commander into harm’s way so your soldiers can hit much harder. Mages,?on the other hand, are rewarded with more damage by placing them on tiles such as the mountain, keeping in mind that individual tiles on the map provide either positive or negative effects to a unit’s defense.
The other main gameplay mechanic is the Groove system. Each commander has their own unique flavor by possessing a different Special ability along with their own theme that plays on the map when it’s that particular commanders turn.
Grooves are almost all extremely powerful moves that can turn the tide of a fight in your favor. When Nuru’s groove is fully charged, for example, she can instantly summon a unit into battle by paying its gold cost at her location. That unit, unlike ones you?normally buy, also gets to move that turn. This move is powerful as it can result in a surprise kill on an enemy commander. Also, if you’re worried about a unit that you have no counters for, you can summon that unit’s weakness and take your foe out without any response from your opponent.
Another example is Emeric’s groove, which allows him to put out a crystal on the map that can be destroyed by your opponent. In return, any of your units that are within the crystal’s area get boosted defense. On paper, this might not sound very strong. But if you remember what I said earlier about mage units dealing critical damage when they have 3 or more defense, then Emeric can singlehandedly turn them into one of the strongest units in the game. ?Not only do they counter Flying units, they also have some of the highest movement speed in the game, allowing them to come out of nowhere at any time to set up some cheeky victories.
Sadly, I found the campaign to be the weakest part of the game by far. I didn’t go in with the highest expectations for an amazing story as I was more interested in multiplayer. Even with lowered expectations, however, ?the story still disappointed. I liked probably three of the characters in the?campaign. Without getting into spoiler territory, my main issue with the story is that, with the exception of one encounter, the entire campaign makes zero sense. This would be especially true if people literally just took three seconds to listen to each other.
This actually could have been explained more easily if they really sold the world as a war-torn wasteland where all factions are at war and nobody trusts each other. From what I gathered from the story, however, there are truces between the main faction you play and two of the other?faction leaders. It makes fighting feel a bit nonsensical to me, especially against the second faction. I mean, I can give a pass for the first faction you encounter. That one makes sense thematically as the commander doesn’t care if you have a truce or not.
Overall, though, the story in this game feels like it wouldn’t happen at all if people just talked to each other for a few minutes instead of saying three lines then starting a fight. This game isn’t going to be winning any awards on its storytelling for sure and that’s okay. It just feels like a forgettable part of Wargroove with some gameplay sprinkled in.
My other main complaint with the campaign involves how you get S rank, and I say this as someone who has not unlocked the post-game mission. Normally I would be all for unlocking the post-game because I want the complete story. However, I have a huge issue with how S rank seems to work in this game.
As far as I can tell, getting an S rank depends on having as few of your throwaway units die as possible. It doesn’t matter how many enemy units you kill or how fast you finish the mission, it’s all based on how many of your soldiers you lose or not. Thematically this actually makes perfect sense. You’re a better commander if you don’t lose soldiers so you get a better ranking. But the gameplay makes this counterintuitive because you feel punished for making smart trades and are rewarded for just moving low health characters to the back of the map and forgetting about them. If I wanted to spend time going back through the campaign I should be able to get S rank relatively easily on most missions. Sadly there are only a few of the main story maps that I found to be fun, and those wouldn’t be as fun to play with the specific tactic of attacking once, sometimes twice with a soldier and then sending them to the back line for the rest of the match. It’s better in most situations to just buy a new unit rather than spend your gold to heal up a unit.
I feel this is a huge flaw in how the main campaign is built. Maybe at a later time, when I’m not playing multiplayer, I’ll go back and finish off the story. I just hope that there isn’t a secret character or unit locked behind that last mission.
Overall I felt the difficulty of the main campaign was right on point as I failed a few missions a couple of times but was able to beat them as I got better at the game. I’m not the biggest player of turn-based tactical games and I felt adequately challenged. Even when it feels too easy, there is a lot of customization where you can set your own difficulty, such as making yourself get way less gold or even turning off your own commander’s Drives. I feel the challenge of the Main Campaign is the best part about the mode, and the second-to-last mission was probably my favorite out of all of them.
If you like to get more bang for your buck, this game has a few extra modes that I found to be interesting.
I’ll start with what I feel is the weakest one, overall, Arcade mode. I want to preface this by saying that Arcade Mode could actually be really fun. But I think that Chucklefish took what I feel is the easy way out with Arcade. Instead of difficulty being based on playing up against a much smarter AI, it’s more based on your opponent generating way more gold than you. The AI is still easily baited by putting your commander in what would look like unsafe situations so you can easily trade up your soldiers. But the big difference is that the enemy can buy top tier units often so you’ll have to overcome that. It felt lazy to me and even though I plan to eventually clear out Arcade fully, it took something that could have been a fun learning tool and turned it into the same old, abuseable AI except with WAY more gold than you have. It just didn’t really feel like fun.
I do want to mention that there is a mode where you can make your own maps and even your own campaign. From what I can tell, you can turn all the premade art that Chucklefish provides into your own campaign. This allows you to create your own epic story, which is something I’m really excited to see as far as what people come up with. I didn’t fully explore it, so I will not be rating the mode as part of the game. But it still deserves a mention as it could, turn Wargroove into a turn-based Tactical RPG Maker that could be a selling point for folks who might not care about the Multiplayer.
The last mode I want to talk about is Puzzle Mode and boy is it good. I’ve always been a fan of puzzle modes since I first played them in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy. Admittedly, they can be really hit or miss depending on how they’re done. Personally, though, I feel that Wargroove did a solid job with it. The first few puzzles are very easy but they also help you become a better player in other modes. This really comes into play with one of the puzzles that make you appreciate Emeric’s aforementioned Groove ability.
This is the bread and butter of the game and the mode that I feel most players will spend the majority of their time in.
Is the multiplayer good or is it an unbalanced mess? I will start this off by saying that the multiplayer is very good indeed. Admittedly, I have some issues with it but I feel they may not be things people agree with me on.
I want to re-iterate that I have zero interest in multiplayer without Fog of War. Because of that fact, I will be rating the multiplayer specifically on Fog of War, the pros and cons of how they handle it, and why — even though there are some things that I feel must be fixed in Fog of War —I won’t hold a lot of these issues against them.
Basically, Fog of War is a mode where you can only see as far as your units and buildings. Anything beyond that range will not be visible. The mode allows you to set traps in trees for amazing ambushes or keep a secret army built up in an area to sideswipe an overconfident opponent. It’s something that I find to be quite exciting, overall. It’s great, for example, to have a dog that can see very far into the forest spot an opponent’s army that they might be building up for a secret attack. This is usually even greater if your opponent doesn’t have their own dog in the forest, so they won’t know that you can see their army. This results in a mind game-type scenario where you try to get small bits of knowledge and push your advantage while hoping you have more information than your opponent. It’s a blast to play and I could probably put hundreds of hours into that alone.
The problems with Fog of War though are actual game problems as opposed to the mode itself. Fog of war is not the default mode and you have to turn it on for every multiplayer match you do. It basically turns off by default and there’s no way to save your preferred settings for maps. With that in mind, there are holdovers from the standard game. When a unit is purchased, for example, you can see exactly how much gold your opponent spent on the unit. This ends up being a problem as most units don’t share a gold cost so a player paying attention will be able to see at all times what your opponent is building and just counter it with their own units.
You might say, “Well you can’t see where it’s being built and what about units that cost the same amount?” Sadly, while Fog of War puts a dark layer over the map, you’ll still see a little poof in the darkness when a unit is made. This means that for units that cost the same amount such as an aeronaut and a cavalry?unit, who both cost 600 gold to make, I can see if it came from a tower or a barracks as no units in the same building cost the same amount. If it came from a barracks, I’ll build a spearman most likely for 150 gold to counter their Cavalry and if it’s coming from the tower I will build a Mage for 400 gold. Otherwise, if I have good vision set up around the map, I’ll build a Ballista to try to negate all the flyers they build for 800 gold.
Overall I feel this gives too much knowledge into what the opponent is building and cheapens what I feel is the most fun mode. The other telltale sign of what your opponent is building involves the different sounds the unit makes while walking. But I’m actually 100 percent okay with that. Most units share a sound while moving and in the Fog of War, you would still be able to hear the deafening sound of a golem walking and I like that as it’s actually immersive.
The only other problem I have is specifically with the Dragon unit. At a whopping 1,250 gold, it’s the most expensive unit in the game, eclipsing the 1,200 gold Giant. The issue, though, is that the Dragon is still too powerful, especially given how easy it is to build. Not only does it have the highest movement speed of all flyers, it does the most damage in the game and can wallop an opposing hero by almost 50 percent of their life per hit. Their critical enabler is a critical hit if the enemy is standing on the road and their main counter, the “Sky Rider,” is exclusively an air-to-air unit, so it cannot attack the ground nor take down the Dragon in one hit.? The Sky Rider does have a hex ability where you can pay 300 gold to deal 10 percent damage to all unit types in an area. The other issue with this, though, is that the Dragon has even more movement than the Sky Rider, which means you can kit the Sky rider around and never get hit by it. Your dragon might be taken out of the fight momentarily, but if you want to sacrifice it or send it into combat, it can end the match really fast at the opportune moment. Overall I feel it needs to be taken down a few notches or perhaps have its cost raised based on its power. Almost every other unit feels really balanced but it got to the point where I would rather play maps that just do not have towers on them just so dragons aren’t even a factor. I just feel that it does a disservice to the game.
Wargroove is a fantastic game in the turn-based, tactical RPG genre and a great starting point for anyone who has never played such games before. It also has a high skill ceiling for those who consider themselves experts. While I have complaints about the multiplayer, they might not be shared by the majority of the player base. The art, meanwhile, is fantastic for fans of pixel art games done right. The sound design is also charming and each faction leader has their own theme that plays when it’s their turn. Lastly, the critical system rewards planning and combat prowess.
Overall I spent a lot of time thinking about what score to give the game as I enjoy it and expect to put a lot of time in with friends on local and online multiplayer. Even, though it’s a great game I had to knock off some points for the issues I had with the Main Story, Arcade and Fog of War Multiplayer. Originally I was going to give this game a 7/10 because of the issues but I felt that would actually be a disservice with how good the game’s base mechanics are. So with that in mind, I have decided to give it an 8/10 and it could easily be higher if any of the issues I had with the game are fixed in a later patch. If you don’t have an issue with the problems, this very well might be the perfect turn-based, tactical game for you and can easily set the blueprint for any companies that want to take their shot at the genre.
It’s a must-buy for fans of the genre as well as gamers who like its pixel art style and would like to test the genre out for the first time.
Rating: 8 out of 10Cost: $19.99, PChttps://wargroove.com