Wargroove (Switch) Review
The wait is over. It’s been long enough that people have stopped holding their breath for Nintendo to make another Advance Wars entry. After Days of Ruin, who knows what that would even be. Now there is Wargroove, our prayers have been answered and a void has been filled. When talking about Wargroove, it’s hard to not also talk about its obvious inspiration from Nintendo’s Advance Wars series. A franchise long considered dormant – but not forgotten – due to the fact that the last game was a decade ago. Games have popped up over the years attempting to fill the gap. Now it’s Wargroove’s turn and it’s not mucking around.
Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game where one or more armies face off against each other. Each army is led by a powerful General as you send units around a grid-based map. Every unit has their strengths and weaknesses which you’ll need to weigh up when you head into each fight. On top of this, you also need to capture buildings that generate more funds for buying more units. The main goal is usually to destroy the opposing General’s stronghold or defeat the General themself (although the campaign does have more variety in objectives). The way you’ll duke it out on the battlefield can vary depending on which mode you choose. In Wargroove, you can choose from the campaign, arcade, puzzle or multiplayer modes. For example, in Campaign maps, you’ll often be up against a bigger opposition as you build your forces and turn the tide. In Multiplayer or Arcade you’ll be evenly matched and have the opportunity to see who can gain the upper hand in a much tighter fight.
The campaign is the main mode and contains the story of Wargroove. Princess Mercia quickly becomes Queen Mercia after the King of the Cherrystone Kingdom is killed. The kingdom then finds itself under attack from the undead King Valder, forcing them to seek help. Queen Mercia and her advisor Emeric seek to unite a divided continent to fight together and stop Valder before it’s too late. There is plenty more I would love to say about the story as it goes along, but it’s better to have you enjoy it instead of giving too much away. Each act of the story takes the queen through different nations, gaining allies while the story introduces different kinds of units throughout. After being grounded for some time, you’ll also take to the skies and seas with units for every occasion, opening up the battlefield even more.
You’ll quickly find that most acts start the same way – a misunderstanding from the military of the region, leading to the Queen being forced to fight her way through until reason prevails and misunderstandings are solved. Don’t take this to mean that you’ll just be doing the same thing over and over, there is a reasonable variety of mission types. Some maps will have you defeating the area General, some will have you capturing buildings, a race across a map or holding off waves of units. On top of the story missions, there are also a fair few side missions. These expand on the story and give you the opportunity to control Generals you don’t have in the main campaign. These side missions also provide a good challenge. Caesar, Queen Mercia’s loyal dog, commands limited units against reoccurring gangs of bandits.
Not only is it cute as hell but can also be quite tough as every fight matters much more when you can’t just purchase more units. Between the main story and the side missions, the campaign can keep you busy for a while. Often time would just fly by and I didn’t realise half an hour just passed, then another, and then next thing I know it is two in the morning. The story is also enjoyable; the characters have a lot of charm and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It helps that the main characters are likeable and as the group grows the dialogue helps bring them all together. Especially with the characters serving as generals on the field, you’re going to spend a fair amount of time with them and by the end, their comradery feels earned.
I found myself wanting to play the side-missions to flesh out the world a bit more. There’s even a codex to read all about the characters, factions and the world in general. And we haven’t even gotten to the pixel art and sound yet! While the in-game art doesn’t match up to the brilliant animated movie at startup, the in-game characters and their portraits and occasional voices really make help make the whole thing work. Every time I saw the portraits I was reminded of some of the pixel work on the early Monkey Island games (a series sorely lacking on the Switch). They did a good job making all the characters and factions distinct, and I could do with seeing more of these personalities bouncing off of each other.
How does this titular ‘Groove’ come into play? you might ask. As the battle goes on, your General will charge up energy. After a few turns, they’ll be able to use their ‘groove’, essentially the General’s special ability. If you’re a fan of Advance Wars you’ll know them as CO Powers. These grooves are mostly offensive, defensive or healing, and they usually affect an area surrounding the General. In the campaign, you don’t get to choose who you’re taking into the fight so I found myself using these powers less. These grooves make more of a difference when you can choose who’s leading the army, as in arcade mode and against other players.
Growing up, I loved the Advance Wars series. I enjoyed playing my way through the story. The only problem was eventually I would hit a wall, stopped dead in my tracks by my (at the time) very average turn-based strategy skills. I imagine that I wasn’t alone, and for people new to this style of game it could still be the case. Thankfully developer Chucklefish has added in difficulty sliders! On the mission selection screen, you can adjust the difficulty at any time. You can alter how much damage you take, how fast you get your groove powers, or the amount of money you get each round. With these, you can make the game as easy or as difficult as you want. If you make it easier it will limit how many stars you can earn at the end of each mission.
Initially, the stars don’t seem to have much impact unless you want to see everything in the gallery, but by the end of the story it pays off to at least play on the default setting and collect some stars if you want to see everything. It might not seem so amazing to have something as simple as difficulty options, but for new players or people who want to enjoy the story more it makes a big difference. If you want a rough time, then you can really challenge yourself as well. For a genre that can be inaccessible to newcomers, or if you’re just having trouble with one mission, this is a great feature. If you do decide to lean into the easier settings, it’s worth going back and playing them again on normal mode. I found the easier settings could break the game, and after getting deeper into the game you might be better equipped to go back to difficult maps.
Arcade mode is what its title suggests, fight through 5 battles using the General of your choice. Arcade isn’t unlocked at first but it takes a short amount of time to access. To get the most out of this mode you’re also going to need to play through the campaign. This isn’t a bad thing as it gradually introduces you to all the different units, you’re not jumping in the deep end. To unlock Generals for arcade mode you need to play through the campaign. For the Generals not playable in the main story, you’ll need to complete their specific side story mission to add them. If you’re looking for a straight up player versus CPU battle then the arcade mode adds, even more, to keep you busy. When you do jump into this mode, it’s a bit of witty dialogue around both characters after a legendary artifact and off you go. Playing this mode is also the way to unlock more music in the jukebox if you’re wanting to unlock more extras.
Puzzle mode is pretty straightforward. You have one turn to use your units to take out every enemy on the map. There are some real head-scratchers in there and the later maps are just diabolical, with maps big enough to make anyone nervous to tackle them. If you’re struggling to earn enough stars in the campaign, you can also earn some through the arcade and puzzle mode to help get you over the line. Even without that motivation, these modes are fun enough to play.
When you’re done with the campaign and other single player modes, there’s also the multiplayer modes. You can play locally or online which is great because it’s not always a given to have both. Even better is that the online mode is cross-platform, well mostly. Steam and Xbox One players are also thrown into the mix which should be great for ensuring there’s a much bigger group of players to draw from. Multiplayer battles are of course a good chance to see how you go against another person, given equal footing and opportunity against someone with the ability to make missteps as much as you.
I wasn’t surprised to find that there was a map maker, but I didn’t expect there to be a campaign maker too. If you want to make your own campaign complete with story and side missions you can. The editor is robust enough to allow you to do almost anything with the game’s assets and make an alternative Wargroove story for others to play. If you’re not into making maps and game editing then you can easily download someone else’s creation. At the time of writing, there weren’t many custom campaigns, but there was a really cool one that showed me just how much can be done through this creator mode. Given a little time, there is no doubt going to be a ton of interesting maps and stories available, adding so much more content for those who don’t want to stop groovin’.
Wargroove has given us the closest thing we’re going to get to a new Advance Wars. Nintendo could’ve brought the developer onboard and branded this as an Advance Wars spin-off and made long-suffering fans very happy. I am very happy what we got with Wargroove, if anything I want more of the characters and that gameplay. Who knows, maybe through the campaign creator there’ll be even more stories shared through the community that do the proper story justice.
It’s great to see a developer do this genre of game justice and more. If you’ve never played a turn-based strategy game because they can feel inaccessible to you, then Wargroove is the perfect game to jump into. For the fans of the genre, there’s finally a worthy successor.
-More than lives up to the Advance Wars inspiration
-Adjustable difficulty settings
-Lots to do