In Wargroove, players will journey across the land of Aurania, fleeing the evil Felheim army as they work to forge alliances and end old rivalries while staying one step ahead of Felheim.
-A robust map/campaign editor
-50+ hour story with numerous side quests
-Online and local multiplayer for up to four players
-3 different single player modes offering unique experiences
50+ hours for the campaign, endless gameplay for the editor and multiplayer modes
February 1st, 2019
Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Rating: E for Everyone
Years ago, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems captured the hearts of strategy gamers everywhere with Advance Wars, an isometric, turn-based strategy war game that was an absolute blast to play. While Intelligent Systems has since moved on to the Fire Emblem franchise, Chucklefish has stepped up with Wargroove to bring back that sense of nostalgia and joy that Advance Wars fans have missed out on these last several years. However, instead of simply imitating the formula that started with Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance, Chucklefish has added features like a puzzle mode, a robust map and a campaign creator so that players can make their own stories directly within Wargroove.
Violence: This being a game based around warring kingdoms, there is violence aplenty. However, the violence on display here can best be described as cartoonish. Enemies vanish in puff of smoke or collapse in a pile of rubble when defeated. There is no blood or gore to speak of.
Sexuality: There is no overt sexuality in this game. There is no innuendo or lewd jokes made at a character’s expense. The character designs are all pretty realistic as well, with female characters decked out in full armor or tunic depending on their role in battle.
Drug Use: There is no drug use whatsoever in Wargroove.
Spirituality: The main bad guy and his Felheim forces likely dabble in the occult as one of their leaders, Ragna, is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster that has been turned into a super solider. Another key leader of the Felheim army is a Vampire and one mission has players communing with ghosts to escape Felheim’s forces in a swamp. Despite this, no gods, goddesses or religion in general are overtly mentioned.
Wargroove took me back to a bygone era of gaming when I found myself buried in my GBA catalog of games and hardly touching my consoles at all. Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Tactics Ogre and other strategy games have always captivated me with their often deep customization that feeds right into the addicting, calculated moment-to-moment gameplay. Wargroove adds to the genre here with a robust, map/campaign editor and over 50 hours of story content. Simply put, the game is what Advance Wars would look like if it were made today. The sprites are beautiful, the story is actually engaging (including the voice acting), and the gameplay is deep and diverse enough to keep players coming back time and time again.
Wargroove’s story begins with the assassination of King Mercival of Cherrystone (whose name is a play on “merciful”) at the hands of the vampire Sigrid of Felheim. From here, Mercia, the princess of Cherrystone and Mercival’s daughter, is forced to flee her homeland with her mentor and protector, Emeric. As the heroes journey across the continent of Aurania, Valder, the leader of Felheim, and his second-in-command, Sigrid, are hot on the trail and the two factions will often clash throughout the story. Along the way, Mercia and Emeric reunite with the battle dog, Caesar, who is a total good boy and fierce protector of the princess. During the journey, Mercia and Emeric will visit the Florans, a race of plant people, who can hide in wait among the trees, and the Heavensong Empire, a once faithful ally to Cherrystone. Friendships and rivalries will be forged as players battle their way through these encounters with each new scenario unlocking the ability to use new heroes and armies in various modes, including the campaign.
The campaign does include voice acting, though, it is mainly limited to cut-scenes that occur before and after every battle. Aside from the main quest, players can complete a number of side quests which offer different win conditions and change up the gameplay in different ways. For example, Caesar’s missions consist of protecting villagers from armies of bandits while trying not to have all of your units wiped out. Caesar has the hero ability Inspire, which allows him to convert some NPCs to soldiers to reinforce his ranks or to strengthen those already under his command. Other hero abilities include a Shield Crystal that can be dropped near the hero, a throwable shield that feels like it was ripped straight out of Captain America, and the ability to heal all units within a certain range. These are just some of the abilities available to the 12 playable heroes in Wargroove.
Combat scenarios are the crux of the game and are where players will spend the majority of their time. Combat units range from standard soldiers and archers all the way up to harpies and fierce dragons who can almost move across the entire map in a single turn. Naval units are also available and add a new level of strategy to the already complex and sometimes overwhelming nature of battle. Battles also boil down to a rock-paper-scissors style of engagement as Spearmen are strong against cavalry units while archers and other ranged units are strong against air units, but weak to almost everything else. Naval units are great against enemies that are trapped on land, but War Turtles are available to counter these naval units.
Hero units are by far the strongest, as heroes can usually wipe out any unit they attack in a single hit. Though they need to be closely monitored during the course of play as too many enemy attacks will take a hero down quickly. Environmental effects are also present here as “fog of war” can really turn the tide of battle. If players encounter the “fog of war” they can send a Battle Pup, a dog trained for battle, to scout out a portion of the map by placing the unit on a mountain tile. Mountain and forest tiles also lend bonuses in combat that deal more damage or offer more chances to survive a combat encounter.
While I appreciate the diversity of units and strategies available in battle and never once felt the sting of repetition, I did encounter several noticeable difficulty spikes during the campaign. While some encounters allow the player to easily sweep the enemy army without losing a single unit, others will start you off with only a few units and no way to generate more troops.
This is unfortunately where Wargroove‘s almost flawless presentation begins to show a few cracks. For starters, forcing players to use only a set number of units with little to no way to generate more also forces them to play the game with a very specific strategy in mind and doesn’t allow for much experimentation in battle. For example, one of Caesar’s missions has players defending a small village and four NPCs from an ever-increasing army of bandits. Unless players put certain unit types in very specific spots, they will fail the scenario over and over again. I tried various strategies and tricks during this mission to no avail and unfortunately had to consult an online guide to find out the exact troop placement required so that I could survive long enough to complete the mission.
Another problem is that troops can only be generated if players capture or own a barracks. For each barracks, players can generate one combat unit per turn. However, units cost gold, which can only be earned by owning villages that are scattered around the map. Sometimes, the game will spawn the enemy army right next to these villages while the player will have to trek across half the map sometimes just to reach one of them. This means that the enemy is constantly spamming mid to high tier units while players are only able to muster base units until they can gain some ground and capture villages. This usually results in the enemy army wiping out starting units with their ever growing army and it becomes very difficult to ever gain any ground.
While these complaints are for problems that exist within any strategy game, I felt the issues were far too prevalent in Wargroove. I ran out of fingers and toes to count how many times the game started me out with only three units while the enemies number over a dozen and I was somehow supposed to capture villages, barracks, and hold out long enough for the story to progress and the final victory condition to be revealed. Typically though, victory is achieved by killing the enemy hero or managing to get behind enemy lines and taking down their stronghold.
Every encounter in the campaign adds new information to the Codex and allows players to read up on the surprisingly extensive lore. Here, player’s can find out Valder’s true motivations and overall goals as well as finding out how the “doggo” Caesar came to be such a fierce warrior and Mercia’s closest ally. Between battles, players will navigate the world map and complete up to two side quests and one story mission per each new location unlocked. This gives the game a good pace and allows players to tackle these side missions at their leisure as they remain unlocked even if players choose to simply progress through the main story. It is recommended that players tackle these side quests early on to learn better strategies for the increasingly difficult encounters they will face later in the campaign.
Aside from the story, there is also an Arcade mode which allows players to engage in skirmishes with the various armies and hero units they have unlocked in the campaign. Puzzle mode challenges players to complete certain combat conditions in a single turn. Lastly, there is a Custom Content mode that allows players to not only create their own maps and combat scenarios, but also full campaigns, complete with cut scenes. However, the creator can be overwhelming without a decent time investment as I was not able to find any tool tips or guide to using the editor within the game itself.
Chucklefish has gone all out with this game and its content and Wargroove is sure to keep players engaged for months, if not years, to come. Despite a few nagging flaws, Wargroove is the best strategy game available on Switch at the moment and strategy fans should not miss out on this one, especially those that long for another entry in the Advance Wars franchise. While rampant difficulty spikes prevent it from being a masterpiece, every time I booted up the game, it was nearly impossible to put the controller down due to how fun and addictive it was coming up with different strategies for each encounter.
+ A throwback to a bygone era of strategy games
+ A diverse assortment of unit and hero types
+ 50+ hour campaign
+ A Map/Campaign editor ensures that players never have to stop playing
- Rampant difficulty spikes
- Unfair starting conditions plague some missions
- Some scenarios force players to use a specific strategy in order to win
- Editor offers no tutorial or tool tips on how to use it effectively to create content and share with others.