Strategy games aren’t normally my jam, I prefer to think on my feet and get things done fast rather than the methodical thinking required from most titles with a tactical twist (Try saying that after a few beers). However, I won’t say that I don’t enjoy ALL that the strategy genre has to offer, I’m a well-known fan of the StarCraft games for example, and as a youngster I used to have a fondness for the Advance Wars titles on GBA.
I remember playing those little army sims on the way to many a family gathering, using the light from passing street lamps to illuminate my decisions as general of my tiny band of forces. Now along comes Wargroove with what looks to be a promise to scratch the itch left behind by the long dormant Advance Wars franchise.
Wargroove has really been out for over a year but has just now made the leap onto the Playstation 4 with it’s new Double Trouble DLC, so that’s the version I’m going to play for this review. Right off the bat, this is a title that I think I should have played on Switch, there is something about the art style of tiny chibi soldiers and cannons that makes me think it is more at home on Nintendo’s more family friendly console.
Wargroove borrows very heavily from the Advance Wars and Fire Emblem games, coming together like a fusion and retooling of both. Taking the medieval setting of Fire Emblem and stewing it together with more Advance Wars gameplay mechanics. It’s like putting on a soft and worn in pair of old slippers. Everything just works. Devs Chucklefish have done their homework on what made the daddies of the genre so great and found a way to cater to both simultaneously.
The gameplay and objectives will be familiar to anyone with a strategy game background. Move your units around the battlefield (including types like swordsmen, pike men and rangers) position them on the square you want and fend off wave after wave of skeleton warriors while trying to capture villages and barracks for your own needs. Villages net you coin; barracks and workshops allow you to spend the coin on more troopers or armaments.
As with Advance Wars, which I’m sorry but I have to keep comparing this to, Wargroove let’s you run the battle from the front with a CO (Commanding Officer) each is unique and comes with a special ability that charges over time and if they go down, the battle is lost. This forces players to play a very cautious game of risk vs reward. These abilities can be nuts with some healing all friendly units around you or calling in…well not an airstrike but something similar at least.
As great as these skills are though, they don’t win the battle, victory comes with strategic placement. Sticking units willy nilly over the map will have you retreating with your tail between your legs in no time. Each unit comes with a certain criteria for a critical hit, like the pike men being placed alongside each other, or swordsmen being next to your CO. These can ramp up a units attack and makes winning each skirmish all the easier.
Each map is beautiful, with pixel art and a wide range of terrain all which effects gameplay to some extent. Like woods that provide added defence and water which saps your ability to fend of attack so well. Positioning your units isn’t just about where the baddies are, you need to know what land is best suited to your assault as well. Later on things take a huge tangent when you take to the seas and have to learn an entirely new method of tactical tile placement!
If you want a title with some meat on its bones, then this is the game for you. Wargroove is incredibly generous with its content. There’s a campaign that seems to go on and on but never gets stale, I was about 20 missions in before I even unlocked side missions! Speaking of even the side missions are a blast. Then there is arcade mode where you choose your CO and do battle in endless wars. If you really want a challenge though, then get yourself into the puzzle mode, you are presented a scenario and are given just 1 turn to win the day. A true test of your ability to command.
Multiplayer is there too and I found myself really enjoying the asynchronous play too, where I could make my move and leave the game to play out. Like playing chess by mail I just had to wait for my foe to come back to the game and make their move. There is cross play support too so plenty of players online to give you a challenge or two, and hopefully this is a mode with some legs, and the servers don’t just fizzle to nothing immediately.
This seems unlikely though since by the grace of the Dev gods a new free DLC has been handed down. Inspired by couch co op of old, Chucklefish threw in Double Trouble, a co op campaign that has you team up with your friends in a new campaign. I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy this new mode unfortunately, the one time I managed to find a game my ally abandoned ship pretty quickly, There is potential here but it feels like that potential is better suited to your and a friend sharing the workload from the same sofa and enjoying the glory or disaster that comes with that!
Not only does this DLC come with new missions and maps to handle as a two some, but EVEN MORE CONTENT is dropped for you to sink your teeth into (You’re spoiling us Chucklefish) With new CO’s and units mixing up game play and new mechanics for each to keep you guessing till the very end. There is even a new story and campaign but I can’t say too much on that without spoiling the main game. Suffice to say, the bombshells drop like this is taking place in the Advance Wars world instead.
Does this feel like an Advance Wars knock off? Not really. If anything, it feels like Chucklefish are a bunch of fans and are just doing their own thing since the series they have been inspired by has been stagnant for so long. To the untrained eye you could be forgiven for thinking this is just a new entry by the same team, its ALMOST perfect.
Intelligent Systems just seem to have things down a little more over all, with their units, game play and art all feeling a touch more professional and complete. Wargroove is fantastic and so chockfull of content that I know I’ll be playing it for weeks to come, but it’s missing that level of polish that makes Advanced Wars that much better. Double Trouble though is at least an interesting new take on how me and my friends would once hand the GBA between each other trying to beat the hardest missions in Advance Wars of Fire Emblem.
If you’re looking for something to entertain you and your friends that is a little different from the normal multiplayer, then I can’t recommend this enough!
I’m giving Wargoove: Double Trouble 8/10