**SPOILER TERRITORY, PLEASE DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU INTEND TO PLAY THROUGH WARGROOVE WITH NO PRIOR KNOWLEDGE**
P.S. – All images are captured from my own gameplay.
One of many plans that I have for 2019 is to finish more games. Not to complete them perfectionist style, but the most basic level of completion-the main story mode. My third attempt of 2019 was Wargroove.
Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that was on my radar the moment it was announced for Switch, way back in 2017. I’ve been a fan of both the Advance Wars and Fire Emblem series for quite a long time, and this game promised to be the best of both worlds–the gameplay of AW paired with FE fantasy tropes. Wargroove released in February of this year.
If you haven’t played Advance Wars, you’ll need to know that it was popular for 3 reasons:
- Anime-inspired art direction and story
- Turn-based strategy gameplay consisting of capturing cities, battling, and using special commander powers
- It was always on a portable system; Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS
Wargroove has all of these building blocks, and proves to be far more than any strategy gamer deserves.
The US has been without an Advance Wars game since 2008 (and that game, Days of Ruin, was a departure, being based in a post-apocalyptic setting), because developer Intelligent Systems has been on a Fire Emblem bender, pumping out 3DS titles like Awakening, Fates, Echoes, and the free mobile behemoth FE: Heroes, which according to Google Play, has prompted 5+ million downloads. They have had their hands full, so Chucklefish, publisher of the Switch release of Stardew Valley, and pub/dev of Starbound, found a niche that they could fill extremely well.
Wargroove completely outclasses any other attempt at the turn-based strategy genre. The game not only has a lengthy campaign, but has local and online multiplayer, puzzle and arcade modes, and a custom creator option (for campaigns AND cutscenes!) for a measly $19.99 price tag.
^^100+ hours of gameplay for me…and I am not tired of it.
Wargroove is challenging, deep, has a very pleasing aesthetic, and has a fun, touching story about family, inclusion, and loss. This is a strategy masterpiece that destroys the boundaries of the genre with fully-fleshed out characters, gameplay that is the perfect evolution of the Advance Wars formula, and simply much more value than most $60 games can offer.
Wargroove follows the warrior Queen Mercia (female protagonist, check), her trusted advisor Emeric (POC, check!), and a wonderful cast including battlepup commander Caesar (when a battlepup is defeated, it simply runs away instead of being killed, COME ON THIS GAME IS AMAZING). She fights against the Felheim region, primarily composed of undead critters and a vampire witch, in order to settle the world when it begins to fall to chaos. This game is a traditional hero’s journey, but presented in a colorful, yet mature way and full of extremely lovable characters and near-perfect genre gameplay.
I can’t say anything bad about this game. It is easily the best game on Switch this year, and I wouldn’t have any qualms offering it my title of Game of the Year so far. In my search for negative things to say, I can only give you an anecdote.
The Only “Con”
Over a month ago, I “beat” the game–as in, completed all the main missions in the campaign mode. However, the Epilogue chapter opens up–but is only accessible if you’ve reached 100 stars (200 are attainable, I’ve heard that you can get 96 from getting 3 star ranks in all the campaign and side missions). I hadn’t played the other game modes until this moment, so I only had around 50 stars. I pushed through the puzzle mode to get an additional 25 stars (about 3 puzzles I tried so many times that I must confess I had to get a YouTube hint to solve completely). Then, I retried some of the campaign and side missions that I either didn’t play or only completed with one star. This proved tiring and nearly made me give up–now, I admire a challenging game–but when some of these chapters are an hour long playthrough, and your confidence builds, you may forget to save a checkpoint before making an aggressive decision. That cost me SO many times. The game isn’t necessarily an unfair time suck like some games of this ilk, as you can save checkpoints pretty much any time here, but a few of the side missions certainly stood out due to being heavily outnumbered and needing to keep your troops alive for an unbearably long time. Unfortunately, the adorable dog commander Caesar has excruciatingly tough side missions that you’ll be very happy to see as optional.
Once I reached 100 stars, I attempted the Epilogue chapter. This chapter is basically double the amount of turns of any other mission in the entire game. You may want to keep snacks around for it. I would complete this mission after about a dozen attempts. Three complete restarts were necessary before I saved a playthrough where I hadn’t lost more than one unit.
You can only imagine my relief when I completed this mission, with the A rank that I definitely deserved, only awaiting the final cutscene (which was par for the course, full of emotional payoff and beautifully rendered). A super cute end credit sequence played, I took video and screenshots, and reveled in the fact that now I could spend my time downloading custom campaigns (over 900 pages of custom content exist at the time of writing).
I literally recommend Wargroove any time I speak to someone about the Switch, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Just be prepared to find a challenge that will either frustrate or drive you to an ultra-satisfying conclusion. It really just depends…how much do you love Advance Wars?
Thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to purchase Wargroove for the Nintendo Switch!
HONORABLE MENTION – War Theatre is another AW-style game on Switch that has piqued my curiosity, as it is currently on discount for $0.99 until 6/12! I’ll let you know how it plays in a future post!