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Wargroove 2 review – The pixel art of war
1:39 pm | October 11, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release date: October 5th, 2023 

Plotting and devising are crucial to success in turn-based strategy game Wargroove 2, a challenging sequel that doubles down on tactical troop management and mythical questing. Taking place three years after the first game, Wargroove 2 introduces a carousel of characters with new agendas and mythical, musical weapons that add tension and intrigue to every sword swipe and bullet shot. 

Before diving into one of the three interwoven campaigns, I spent my first few hours in the prologue, learning Wargroove 2’s combat controls and meeting the troublemaking Faahri faction. In the wake of the violent power struggle seen in Wargroove, we’re thrust into the vibrant land of Aurania as it has settled into a newfound peace. That calmness is short-lived, though, as the Faahri seek to steal forbidden artifacts hidden across the world, sending its inhabitants into disarray.

I quickly became acquainted with the unlikely Faahri commander Lytra, a rookie mouse mage whose fighting spirit elevates the first two legs of Wargroove 2’s story. This meek and magical buccaneer becomes the first of many controllable captains you’ll wield across the campaign. Lytra captured my heart immediately with their underdog energy and pure heart, as they come to question their orders while on the warpath.

To round out the worldbuilding, a handy integrated Codex helped a newcomer like me to get up to speed with the history of Aurenia and its multiple warring factions. Wargroove 2 has a surprisingly rich backstory that develops as you progress through the campaigns, rewarding you with tidbits as you complete its turn-based missions. 

However, while I appreciated the tutorials at the start of my journey, Wargroove 2’s hand-holding extended a little too far into its campaigns. The game's tutorials lasted much longer than necessary and messed with the pacing of the narrative. I would rather have made mistakes on my own terms and learned by reading the How to Play section in the Codex rather than enduring several tedious scenarios. Thankfully, the lessons are integrated into the story so it doesn’t feel like it’s for nothing, but I could have done with a little less parenting over the course of my career as an army commander.  

Scheme and slash  

Wargroove 2

(Image credit: Chucklefish)

Wargroove 2’s combat is top-down, turn-based, and tactical, similar to games like Fire Emblem Engage and Advance Wars. Facing off against an army of foes, you’ll take turns positioning units, engaging in combat, picking up resources, and capturing landmarks. While it might seem a lot to juggle at first, Wargroove 2 is surprisingly approachable in its design and felt intuitive to control. I relished the opportunity to create killer combat formations that could sweep out my opposition with efficient calculated strikes.

Terrain formations add an extra consideration, bringing environmental effects like mountains and fog to the game’s animated landscapes -  all of which burst with pixelated detail. This led to difficult flashpoints, as my army’s numbers dwindled. During a particularly difficult battle, I had to choose between funneling my swordsmen across a bridge or taking a different risk; sending them through shallow water that would hurt their defense but lead to a quicker attack. While pond walking paid off on this occasion, there were plenty of times where the dice didn’t roll my way, leaving my sweet warriors to take overwhelming damage in swampy riverbeds. 

Best bit

Wargroove 2

(Image credit: Chucklefish)

Wargroove’s adorably lethal character designs summon a sense of accountability in battle that makes losing your soldiers a painful process.  Every spear-wielding mouse, puppy warrior, or intergalactic flower fighter that falls is salt in the wound of your miscalculations. Your cutesy companions will be avenged. 

Learning to keep a level head and make wise choices as the triumphant music boomed was a persistent impulse check, and it consistently pushed me to think laterally about my forthcoming plans. Lytra and the other commanding officers each have a unique Groove weapon, which draws its power from defeating enemies and capturing buildings in battle. Groove attacks have the ability to shift the combat narrative, and were particularly useful in a pinch when I needed to save my commander.

As I progressed through the story, I found myself frustrated at the tight nature of certain maps which bottlenecked my movement, leading to some painfully slow engagements that I was glad to see the back of. Even if I was more patient, it would just be a case of waiting for units and constantly resetting rounds rather than setting up careful plans.

Fire in the hole  

Wargroove 2

(Image credit: Chucklefish)

Wargroove 2 has a distinctly polished pixel art style that is best seen across the varied animations of its sprites. Central characters interacting with magical ruins would cause them to flicker and come to life with a neon aqua glow. Each geographical area in Aurania has a unique color palette that helps put the vastness of the continent into perspective. Snowy regions are doused with cool-toned greys and purples,  while the coastal areas are full of sandy browns and turquoise blues. I was almost always delighted to see new structures as I explored the realm - every pixel had clearly earned its place. 

Wargroove 2’s sleek style extends into its battle units, with unique visuals depending on a warrior’s faction and archetype. Flying attackers across all factions have their own idiosyncrasies, such as the science-minded Faahri’s steam-powered jetpack-wielding Flight Engineers or the forest-dwelling Floran troops who use flying Leafwings with fern feather appendages. The technical capabilities of the units remain the same, but the faction differences keep cutscenes fresh as you move between Wargroove 2’s campaigns, grounding each army in its own ambitions. 

I would also be remiss not to mention one of Wargroove 2’s best assets: its soundtrack from Dale North, which sets up dramatic and comedic scenes with awesome heavy brass arrangements and intense percussion. The intensity was maintained as I battled my way through a rogue’s gallery of adversaries, with many songs tailored to the environment or character I was facing up against. Wargroove 2’s whimsical pirate tunes wormed their way into my head quickly, and have taken up a residence - I don’t see them forfeiting anytime soon.  

Swashbuckle to success  

Wargroove 2

(Image credit: Chucklefish)

Once you’re finished taking on the story, you can jump over to the roguelike Conquest mode, which speeds up the action. Here, you choose a commander with an associated starting bonus and soldier formation before working through a league of challenges. Failure in this game mode results in permadeath - no matter how far you get, you’ll have to start over if your commander goes down. If you succeed, you’ll work along the nodes of a combat spiderweb, choosing perks as you go to bolster your army. These perks do cost you gold, so early successes are key to completing the extremities of the web.

Conquest is an exciting change of pace from the exposition-heavy campaign, and it was brain-teasing to grapple with the procedural options and attempt to curate a perfect run, or explore new tactical approaches.

Wargroove 2 also features a map and campaign creator that enables players to use the game’s catalogue of assets to build bespoke narratives. The process can be a little finicky to navigate (especially on the Steam Deck), but it’s a fully-featured and hopeful inclusion that signals a future full of player-made content, an enticing prospect for those who wrap up Wargroove 2’s story and are looking for more challenging fights to sink their teeth into. 

Wargroove 2 is a moreish strategy game that repeatedly put my best-laid plans to the test across the linearity of its campaigns and the chaos of its all-new roguelike mode. Even with the handholding and some awkward maps to contend with, the call of "one more battle" was hard to ignore. 

 Accessibility features

Chucklefish has included a range of features players can use to tailor their experience in Wargroove 2, including difficulty sliders that modify offensive and defensive stats. The accessibility menu has further settings like a colorblind and photosensitivity mode, as well as the ability to toggle vibration. 

How we reviewed Wargroove 2

I played through Wargroove 2’s trio of campaigns and Conquest mode between my Steam Deck and PC. Across Wargroove 2’s missions, I modified the difficulty settings to see how I fared in different circumstances and against certain factions. In Conquest mode, I used a variety of commanders and formations, and tried my best to take new paths where possible. When testing the custom content creation tools, I switched between handheld and mouse and keyboard to see how easy it was to put together a map on a portable controller-mapped device. 

The best single-player games might offer new experiences if you're looking for the next title to sink your time into. However, we've also got a list of the best multiplayer games on PC if you wanted to play through something with a companion. 

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp review: a near-excellent strategy revival
4:00 pm | April 19, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

Advance Wars, as a series, is a choice pick to resurrect on Nintendo Switch. The console’s portable nature is a perfect fit for its quickfire military strategy. And indeed, WayForward’s Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is a welcome return for the long-dormant franchise, regardless of the fact it’s a bundled pair of remakes.

For the most part, it’s a solid translation to Nintendo Switch. Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp retains the original’s nail-biting tactical gameplay, where strong enemy AI capitalizes on mistakes as tiny as one of your units being just a single tile out of place. Advance Wars remains refreshingly hard, and hasn’t lost its edge two decades on.

I wish I could say the overall package was a slam dunk. Yet alas, despite being as fun now as it was way back then, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is hampered by choppy performance brought on by an unlocked framerate, a questionable 3D makeover that’s bound to prove divisive, and lengthy load times that’re a far cry from the instantaneous action of the GBA originals.

Just about salvaged by a wealth of content, wonderful artwork and a fantastic remixed soundtrack, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is still well worth your hard-earned time and money despite its notable setbacks. 

Off to war

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp CO Nell during dialogue scene

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp remains identical to its GBA counterparts. But if you’ve yet to be drafted into the ranks of its various commanding officers, here’s a quick rundown.

Advance Wars pits two (sometimes three or four on the harder maps) armies against each other. And each take turns to position their units around the map, with opportunities to attack if you’re within range of enemy units. Each unit type has its own strengths and weaknesses, so certainly don’t expect to steamroll the competition with a couple of tanks and copters.

Infantry, for example, are understandably weak compared to vehicles. But they’re versatile, able to be transported by APCs, and can spend turns to capture neutral or enemy cities and bases. The mechs are slightly more powerful infantry, able to deal solid damage to vehicles, with the tradeoff of having less movement range.

Tanks are your army’s workhorses. They’re powerful against a range of units and can take a beating in return, but crumble against larger tanks and long-range artillery and missile units. Air-based units, like copters, have huge movement range and can decimate infantry, but are easily wiped off the map by anti-air units.

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp strategy map

(Image credit: Nintendo)

You’ll need to become deeply familiar with each of your unit types to succeed on the default Classic difficulty, as the AI opponents certainly know theirs. You’ll have a different selection of units from map to map, and the game does a great job of familiarizing you with each unit before ramping up the difficulty later in the game.

If things start to get a little much, fret not. The new Casual difficulty dials back the intensity. It’s still no cakewalk, but you’ll be given more leeway and I recommend it for first-time players. The best part is that Re-Boot Camp won’t shame or penalize you for dropping the difficulty, and it can be reverted from the overworld map screen if you so choose.

The difficulty curve is relatively smooth throughout, so expect few jarring spikes...

The glue that holds your army together is your commanding officer (or C.O.). Each C.O. has their own colorful personality, but also a special ability unique to them. Andy, for example, is a great all-rounder, and can apply a map-wide repair to your units. It’s a fantastic crutch that can help you squeeze out a desperate victory. Olaf, meanwhile, can transform the map into a snowfield for a turn. That greatly boosts his own units’ movement range, and significantly nerfs yours. There’s a huge amount of variety with these C.O. abilities, and witnessing each for the first time is a fantastic way the games spice up their campaigns.

Outside of some of the more powerful C.O. abilities, both titles here remain astonishingly well-balanced. Even the most powerful units have hard counters. The difficulty curve is relatively smooth throughout, so expect few jarring spikes (well, so long as fog of war isn’t in play).

Toy soldiers

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp combat screen

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is unfortunately more of a mixed bag when it comes to presentation and performance. I love the new 2D artwork of the game’s characters, animated slightly to give them a buoyant breath of life. It’s an extremely colorful game, too, looking fabulous on the Nintendo Switch OLED’s vivid display.

However, it doesn’t remain all that pleasing to the eye forever, as the gorgeous 2D art clashes quite starkly with the new 3D models for your units. They’re serviceable, but I feel they lack the charm of the originals’ chibi-like sprites. The models have a bit too much sheen on them, too, making them look like plastic toys. Worse still, on busier maps, the chunky 3D units can blend into one another if you’re not paying attention.

The choice of 3D models here may have even impacted Re-Boot Camp’s performance. At the best of times, the games hold steady at 30fps. However, the framerate is uncapped, meaning it’ll jump around quite often. This is especially noticeable when you transition from the map screen to combat.

It’s not all bad news, though, as Re-Boot Camp’s wonderful soundtrack helps to lift spirits during gameplay. WayForward’s signature high production sound and bassy oomph is present and accounted for here. If you’re familiar with Jake Kaufman’s work with the Shantae and Mighty Switch Force franchises, expect more of that goodness here. Every track has been lovingly remixed; they’re recognizable, yet sound completely fresh and new. 

The long war

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp C.O. activating his special skill

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Despite its performance issues, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp certainly brings its A-game when it comes to content. Both the Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising campaigns return in their fullest, and every single bonus map is present. Map mode returns, too, letting players build and share their own levels with an intuitive editor. Throw in unlockable art and music and you have a package that’s filled to the brim with cool unlockable content.

For the most part, Nintendo and WayForward have done an excellent job bringing Advance Wars into the modern day. Its strict-but-fair, fast-paced strategy has proven timeless, and it’s been well worth the wait after weathering multiple delays.

Still, I can’t help but feel Re-Boot Camp could’ve used an extra month or two in development just to polish performance up a little more. I’m hoping a patch or two down the line can help to streamline performance and improve load times. But for now, do expect gameplay to be choppy, especially when you get to the more hectic maps in each campaigns’ latter half.

Overall, though, if you prefer your strategy less fantastical and more grounded in reality, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is well worth your time.