The popular Nintendo series, Advance Wars, has inspired many turn-based strategy games over the years and you can certainly count Wargroove among them! Developed by indie studio Chucklefish and released in 2019, Wargroove is a turn-based combat game that goes for a more fantastical approach.
Graphically, Wargroove opts for a beautiful pixel sprite style across the varied landscapes you’ll encounter. From lush forests to sprawling deserts and snow capped mountains, there was certainly enough diversity here to keep us interested for the roughly 20-hour main story! Character design is distinctive with regal knights, a charming Labrador and some intimidating undead enemies in the Felheim legion.
Set on the fictional continent of Aurania, the game follows the assassination of a King by a powerful vampiric adversary. You take control of Queen Mercia and her army, fleeing the kingdom of Cherrystone to seek allies to fight against the various tribes you will encounter along the way. The story here isn’t particularly groundbreaking, although there is a diverse cast of interesting characters to see you through. We would have liked a little more depth to the plot to enhance the incredibly fun gameplay. Despite that, the cutscenes are excellent and the animations both here and in combat are sublime, even if we wished we could skip them at times so that our units could get on with their attacks.
There is also a secondary objective to each mission, with a town present on every map that can be captured if you go a little out of your way. If you do choose to do so, you will be rewarded with increased gold that can be spent to recruit new allied units for use in future battles. We found that toward the end of the game, having captured several of these towns allowed us more options in how we approached fights, ultimately making them that little bit easier. On top of these towns, there are also some secrets scattered throughout the game that we will not spoil here, adding to the old school feel of the experience that the developers were striving for.
Multiplayer is present in Wargroove, with local or online play with up to four commanders. This can be competitive matches against other players or cooperative campaigns that you can take on as a team against challenging AI opponents. These matches can be fully customized in terms of the weather, turn timer, location and more. In local play, you will just pass the controls to your friend or family member who will take control of their commander for their turn.
So there is a decent story, a lengthy campaign and multiplayer support, but it doesn’t end there! There is also a puzzle mode which tasks you with defeating an enemy in just one turn, through the strategic use of units and grooves. The real surprise for us was the level creator which is surprisingly deep. With a powerful editing tool, you can craft custom maps, campaigns and even cutscenes which can then be shared online with friends or the wider community. The ability to create your own content as well as download campaigns created by other players means there is endless replayability and variety here!
We loved tackling the substantial campaign, following the distinctive and memorable characters even though the story could have used some more depth at times. The incredible pixel visuals and animations were a delight to experience across the large range of landscapes on offer. Jumping into some quick matches against other players was a lot of fun too, even though the challenge can vary drastically depending on your opponent. The ability to fully customize matches with friends resulted in hours of fun, variety and depth. The puzzle mode was a welcome distraction, although the novelty wears off relatively quickly.
The true surprise of Wargroove is the ability to create custom content that will enthrall creatively-minded players, with the option to download player-created campaigns, extending the experience significantly. Chucklefish was aiming for a classic, retro, turn-based experience with a modern twist, which they have absolutely nailed! Generic plot aside, Wargroove is an absolute triumph that we will be playing alongside our Labrador comrades for hours to come!
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