One of gaming’s best turn-based strategy series has been missing in action since 2008. Well, 2013 if you want to be exact, since there was a gap in the worldwide release of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Intelligent System’s war games offered a perfect balance of challenge and personality. Unfortunately, it has been years since a new release. Other companies have had to come in to fill the gap, with Chucklefish’s Wargroove being the best spiritual successor so far.
Wargroove PS4 Review – To War
There are certain sorts of events guaranteed to kick off conflicts, and Wargroove begins with one of them. King Mercival II, leader of the kingdom of Cherrystone, is killed in his own castle by none other than the player. Well, the player acting as one of the commanders of the Felheim forces, Sigrid. After the tutorial has you take a life, things fast forward briefly to show his daughter, Mercia, assuming the role of queen.
Unfortunately, she has to immediately fight for her kingdom. Felheim forces are taking over Cherrystone, forcing Mercia, her advisor Emeric, and commander (and very good boy) Caesar to travel around Aurania seeking aid and allies in the fight against Felheim forces. Along the way, people will discover the motivations behind not only Felheim, but will also get to experience side-stories that look at commanders from the Felheim Legion, Floran Tribes and Heavensong Empire.
That is, if you go through the campaign. There is also an arcade mode in Wargroove. Here, people pick one of the fifteen commanders and go through five battles against various opposing commanders for what eventually amounts to a Cliff Notes take on the campaign’s story. You get the same basic feel, but a more personal resolution for the character chosen.
Wargroove PS4 Review – Taking on the World One Turn at a Time
Wargroove is a rather standard turn-based, tactical affair. You control one (or multiple) armies facing off against an opponent. You will always have a commanding officer on the field, which is a distinct unit that looks different than the others, has a special Groove ability that gradually charges up, is stronger than ordinary units, and must stay alive. If that unit falls, the whole army loses. Usually, a few standard units are available to you. However, the bulk of each map involves using soldiers to conquer towns, barracks, and ports. The towns provide income, while the bases let you generate new units with the money you earn. You then need to use your constantly growing army to try and wipe out all enemy units, defeat the enemy commander, take over the opponent’s HQ, or complete a specific objective to win.
The commanders’ grooves are similar to Advance Wars’ CO Powers, with each offering some sort of helpful benefit or allowing the character to unleash an attack that can cause quite a bit of damage. Mercia’s Healing Aura heals allies within three squares of her by 50%. Caesar “Inspires” units directly adjacent to him whose turns are up to act again. Nuru can summon one unit, provided you have the funds to pay for it. Koji can make two Sparrow Bombs appear to deal damage to the enemies near them. While these powers (and the commanders’ attacks in general) are more powerful than usual, the charging rates and knowledge that if they die, it is all over serve to balance things and keep them from being too overpowered.
But, as good as Wargoove is, there are times when it can feel a bit unbalanced. In the campaign especially, the difficulty undergoes some rather drastic spikes in the endgame. There is a customizable difficulty setting, which lets you determine the amount of damage you receive, how quickly groove charges, and how much income you earn, as well as traditional difficulty modes. But the final maps in the campaign, and perhaps even final stage in the arcade mode, can get quite intimidating. Especially when some of these later maps could take over half an hour to complete and the game’s true ending requires people to earn 100 stars by performing as well as possible in prior maps.
Wargroove PS4 Review – Fighting with Friends
What’s impressive about Wargroove is how much it lets people do after the arcade and campaign mode’s battles. Local and online matches are available, though the PlayStation 4 is the only platform that doesn’t allow cross-play. (The Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC versions all let people play together.) The different options allow asynchronous play in hosted games, allow AI opponents, offer different fog of war, income, and weather options, and generally give you a chance to face-off in a multitude of ways that all work rather well.
The custom campaign element is also quite helpful. It is the same editor Chucklefish used to make the game and its cutscenes, with people able to create custom maps, scenarios, and campaigns. These can even have local and hosted multiplayer scenarios and skirmishes. The downside is, you are just thrown into the editor with no explanation how it works or what you should do to start putting together a campaign. Though, fans have picked up the rope here to help each other start doing great things. The original creations can then be shared online, increasing the replay value significantly.
Wargroove is the sort of game that brings back a feeling people had long forgot. Advance Wars has been absent for years and, while there were similar sorts of games like Tiny Metal, they didn’t quite capture the same magic. Wargroove does. It couples whimsy with dire straights. It offers multiple premade challenges from Chucklefish, while also giving players everything they need to put together their own impressive adventures. The PlayStation 4 version functions as well as the other versions that preceded it, like the Nintendo Switch release, though it does still include some of the major difficulty spikes that keep some endgame campaign encounters from being as much fun and doesn’t allow cross-play. Still, it presents players with a cause worth fighting for.
Wargroove review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a Standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.