‘Wargroove’ is a fantastic tactics games for fans of Advance Wars

'Wargroove' is a delightful tactics game that lets you recruit cute armored pups

wargroove impressions review

More than a decade has passed since the last Advance Wars game, and few worthy alternatives have come to fruition. Games like Into the Breach, The Banner Saga, and the Fire Emblem series appeal to similar types of tactics fans, but we haven’t seen a game that replicates both the mechanical and aesthetic magic of Advance Wars — Until now.

Chucklefish’s Wargroove, a fantasy-laced tactics romp with glorious pixelated visuals, is the Advance Wars successor I’ve been waiting for. But Wargroove isn’t a mere Advance Wars clone; it carves out its own identity throughout its lengthy campaign and gives you plenty of reason to keep grooving long after the credits roll.

Fantasy wars

Though indebted to the Intelligent Systems Advance Wars series, Wargroove is fantasy-based. Small soldiers are replaced with sword-wielding fighters, ballistas and other medieval launchers stand in for tanks, and there are even mages and flying creatures. Not to mention the battlepup commander Caesar, who is a very good boy indeed. The storyline itself is rather rote, fantasy fare about warring factions and territory control, but the dialogue is well-written and light-hearted.

Each campaign mission sees you take control of one or more commanders and their troops. From a top-down perspective, you move each character across the grid-based maps to complete objectives such as killing the enemy commander, destroying their stronghold, traveling to a safe point, or even transferring civilians to safety via wagons.

wargroove impressions review 2019013013464000 935e13fc47c481c979fea5b1cc318284

One of the aspects of Wargroove that winds up really adding strategic depth is how it handles units. You start each match with a small number of different units, each with their own movement limits, strengths, and weaknesses. Key buildings under your control can spawn new units of your choosing. As the match progresses, you’ll accumulate money by capturing strongholds and defeating enemy units. Critically, you can only create one unit from a single structure per turn, and units, of course, have different prices. Standard soldiers are cheap but horseback-riding knights and long-range machinery can cost a pretty penny. Captured structures also serve as a way to heal your troops, so spending a turn on infrastructure is more than worth it in the long run.

The one downside of how you assemble your army is that besides the commanders, each unit merely feels like a cog. The commanders have personalities, but your minions? If and when they perish, you can just buy another one. While it’s nice to not have to worry about permadeath for beloved characters, moving around nameless pawns doesn’t feel quite as consequential.

The maps themselves start out fairly small but steadily expand into massive areas filled with bodies of water, forestry, rocky terrain, and bridges that must be crossed strategically as to not get bombarded by enemy units. In a nice touch, the features of each map serve as more than just window dressing. Occupying a tree-covered spot ups your defense, but standing on and near water makes units more vulnerable. In an early set of missions, fog clouds the playable area. Sending a battlepup onto a boulder pushes the fog back, allowing you to see the enemy units and plan your moves accordingly.

Enemies pop up on the edges of the map from all directions during a match, forcing you to constantly survey the land before making your next move. Wargroove does a great job raising the stakes to keep the pressure on and excitement up.

Engaging with enemies initiates a charming battle sequence animation much like Fire Emblem. Wargroove tells you beforehand approximately how much damage you’ll deal and receive with each engagement. Each unit has strengths and weaknesses that, when exploited, can really turn the tides of battle in your favor.

Like many other tactics games, the commander (main character) is the most powerful unit. Each commander also has a special move called a groove. Grooves charge over time and do things such as heal the surrounding units, deal massive damage, or spawn a new unit immediately. On a few occasions, a groove ability saved me from near certain defeat, but knowing when to deploy it most effectively takes practice.

A sliding challenge

To be clear, on its default difficulty level, Wargroove can be challenging. When surrounded by enemies, each move you make can be the difference between victory and defeat. Early missions take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, but later missions can take upwards of an hour or more depending on how long it takes you to make decisions each turn. The length of a match, especially when you have to spend several turns simply moving towards the enemy, can get tiring. I played on the Nintendo Switch, which feels perfect for Wargroove in handheld mode, and often took breaks during particularly long missions.

If you find yourself struggling on a mission, Wargroove has a great system for modifying difficulty. You can use a sliding scale to adjust how much damage you take, money you earn, and how fast your Groove charges. It reminded me of Celeste‘s accessibility options, as it lets you fine-tune the experience to your skill level to avoid frustration. And if you’re a tactics master, you can make it much harder, too.

Units don’t level up like they do in some other tactics games, so the main mark of progression is collecting stars in each mission. Each completion earns you one to three stars depending on how you performed. The critical path took me about 15 hours, but there were more than a few side missions that I skipped, though you can easily go back and complete them.

If you build it

Wargroove‘s campaign is worth the price of admission alone, but the brunt of your time actually may be spent outside of the campaign. Along with a fun arcade mode with smaller-scale battles and a puzzle mode that tasks you with completing an objective in one turn (quite tricky), Wargroove has a robust map editor.

Though lacking in tutorials, the editor is easy to wrap your head around. The UI is set up so that making maps with a controller doesn’t feel like a pain. What’s most impressive about the editor is that it’s not just for building one-off maps. You can create an entire campaign storyline here, complete with cutscenes, that can be shared with friends via the online service. There’s even room for creating new rulesets and conditions for victory, as well as cooperative missions.

Wargroove supports cross-play between Switch, Xbox One, and PC, so it’s easy to foresee a huge library of awesome maps and campaigns available post-launch. The awesome multiplayer features extend to traditional online matches. Like some popular mobile games, you can manage multiple games at once, come back when it’s your turn, and then do something else until your competitor makes their moves. Wargroove also supports local multiplayer for up to four players, because of course it does.

Tactics fans: Wargroove is a must-play.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Here's our guide on how to progress through The Division 2 endgame

Your mission as an agent doesn't end after taking out the three main factions in The Division 2. The endgame brings the Black Tusks, a dangerous new faction, to D.C. Our endgame guide will help you on your quest for the best loot.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

Dominate in the Dark Zone with our guide to leveling fast in The Division 2

Loot shooters like The Division 2 are all about the endgame for some players. To get the best gear and play the hardest content, you need to hit the level cap. Our Division 2 leveling guide will help you get there as quickly as possible.

Relive Nintendo’s handheld golden age with the 25 best Game Boy Advance games

The Game Boy Advance was the swan song of the Game Boy era. It also happened to have a boatload of amazing games. We decided to countdown our 25 favorite GBA games from both first-party and third-party.

Here's what we know about the Dark Souls developer's next game

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest game from Dark Souls and Bloodborne developer From Software. Here is everything we know about the new game, including its setting and combat changes.

Upcoming zombiefest Days Gone boasts 30-plus hours of story-driven content

Days Gone, the first PlayStation 4 title from Sony's Bend Studio, looks to offer a different type of zombie game. Here's everything we know about the forthcoming title, from the setting to its gameplay.

Is Google launching a game-streaming service? Watch our GDC livestream to see

Google is presenting its 2019 GDC keynote on March 19. Here is how you can tune in to watch the event, as well as what could be shown during the presentation. Google's Project Stream service could be on the agenda.

Need to perform a factory reset on your Xbox One console? Here's how to do it

Whether you're upgrading to a One X and giving your old console to a friend, or troubleshooting a technical issue, sometimes your Xbox One needs a clean slate. Here's our quick guide on how to factory reset an Xbox One.

New character Octane makes an entrance with the first Apex Legends Battle Pass

Apex Legends' first season kicks off March 19 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The Battle Pass comes in two versions, with the base version costing around 10 bucks. Seasonal rewards include a bevy of new loot such as legendary skins.

The Unevn One is a portable desk that brings PC gaming on the road

Bringing a gaming PC outside your usual setup can be a challenge, but the Unevn One is the first all-in-one, portable gaming desk complete with a computer chassis and integrated monitor mount.

How to get the most out of agent builds and specializations in The Division 2

The Division 2 has an intricate loot system to let you fine tune your agent to fit your play style. In our builds and specializations guide, we'll walk you through all of the stats you should pay attention to when tinkering with gear.

Transport your Nintendo Switch in style with these nifty cases

The Nintendo Switch, which boasts both wired and handheld modes, needs a good case to ensure it doesn't get beat up while you're on the go. We scoured through dozens of Switch cases to bring you the best ones.

Here's how you can control your PS4 right from your phone

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs brings 3D demolition into your living room

Angry Birds is releasing its next entry in the spring of 2019 - with a new spin. Bringing 3D environments and destruction, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs uses augmented reality to add a new dimension to a classic series.