Scissors, stone and paper can’t be killed in round robin tactics. And that’s a good thing! Because there are timeless mechanics, which one likes to indulge in again and again, even if the game is just another variation of well-known predecessors. This war groove looks as if Intelligent Systems had developed a “Fantasy Wars”. This is because the similarities to Advance Wars, which has cost me so much time since its premiere in 2001 on the Game Boy Advance and later on the DS, are striking at first glance – both stylistically and in terms of content – in the approximately twelve to fifteen-hour campaign.
Under the leadership of a hero, you move about 20 types of troops, including swordsmen, pikemen, knights and archers, but also catapults, boats, planes, etc., in turns on a map to position them as efficiently as possible against the enemy. Depending on the type of terrain, there is more or less cover or range of movement. You also have to protect your headquarters and can conquer buildings to recruit fresh troops in barracks with the gold you receive. Soloists can learn the principles as well as the four factions in a detailed campaign including a story, which invites to yawn, but has charming and cute moments – the loving animations, which always provide little eye-catchers within the spartan scenery, contribute to this.
The missions in the campaign are pleasantly varied with conquests, escapes, raids and escorts, but can be extended later. First, you will be introduced to the troops’ characteristics bit by bit: archers need a train of rest for higher hit rates, wagons can transport units a long way, pikemen work side by side and dogs always provide critical hits when they attack the enemy from two sides – in addition, as scouts they can uncover hidden units in mountains that lurk in the fog of war. Good for balance, but a damper on diversity is that the four factions themselves differ greatly in appearance rather than unit function.
The type of troops to which the selected unit is particularly efficient or vulnerable can be displayed at the push of a button. Changing weather conditions also have an effect, for example, the rangers do not shoot arrows when it rains.
The longer you play, the more variants and combinations result, both in terms of optimal support and recruitment. If it should become too crisp, you can always adjust the difficulty level.
After a successful mission, the world map opens up further, alternative paths emerge and more and more backgrounds are collected in an exemplary sorted codex about the human, vampire or plant-based fractions. Narratively, you can’t reach the epic quality of Fire Emblem, there are only fragments of language and no role-playing elements like equipment or development, but heroes, dialogues & Co. provide a personal touch.
In addition, there are exclusive abilities of the heroes called “Groove”, which recharge after successful attacks – but especially in this area Advance Wars is much more distinctive, because these abilities stay on a modest level of e.g. defensive or healing bonuses within a radius, so that they don’t have spectacular effects. Furthermore, during the campaign you have no choice which Hero to take on the mission. But almost all heroes can destroy whole troops at once.
By the way, you can heal units near buildings a little bit, but they will lose energy; a nice interaction. How far you or the enemy can move can be shown at the push of a button, but unfortunately it can’t be shown permanently, so that you can sometimes miss a field – the commands can’t be undone. This is especially annoying in the later missions, which you don’t even have to master in five to ten minutes, but in three quarters of an hour. You can save during a mission, but not after you have lost a unit.
It’s a pity that neither heroes nor troops gain experience, so you can’t build veterans. But if you win quickly and lose a few units, you can win up to three stars at the end of a mission to unlock more things. By the way, only with the campaign you unlock the Arcade (defeat five enemies in a row) and Puzzle mode (make a perfect move).
On a tactical level, Chucklefish may not be as far removed from its role model or genre standards as, say, the much more creative Into The Breach. Moreover, one is not always comprehensible with regard to damage inquiries: Why can my knights press into the pikemen without major losses? One could have been more merciless. But on the other hand, the AI stands out positively, because it uses weak points and doesn’t let itself be lured into hopeless situations like stupid ones, but also retreats when I have just set up a trap of swordsmen, pikemen and archers.
In the end, it is not only the mixture with Fire Emblem that allows you to emancipate yourself despite existing similarities: It is above all the multiplayer focus, which allows for cooperative as well as competitive matches via splitscreen or via the internet for up to four players – and this with crossplay between all platforms, so you can play matches between PC, One and Switch. And if you want to get creative, you can not only create your own maps in the editor and trade them online, but also create your own campaigns.
Wargroove stages extremely charming old-school round tactics, which are based on the established series from Japan such as Advance Wars and Fire Emblem. Don’t be fooled by the spartan backdrop, which of course meets handheld rather than 4K needs: It’s really fun to send your troops into battle, because you have to pay attention to clever positioning and support as well as the terrain and weather. While Wargroove does not reach the creative class in its genre that the more innovative Into The Breach has achieved in its crisp battles, it does have the ability to create the kind of creative class that the more innovative Into The Breach has in its crisp battles. Especially since I miss an undo function, more faction differences and a better story in the campaign and the heroes remain a bit pale. But instead you can compete offline or online with up to four players including crossplay between PC and console or create your own maps and campaigns in the editor. This multiplayer focus allows Wargroove to emancipate itself far enough from its role models. If you like lap tactics and pixel style, you’ll be really entertained here.
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Official Website: https://wargroove.com/
Wargroove on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/607050/Wargroove/
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