The strategy genre gets its groove back.
One of the most exciting games released in the strategy genre over a decade ago was undoubtedly Advance Wars. Since its debut, there’s still yet to be a comparable title that follows in the same footsteps, which is downright bizarre. Chucklefish’s Wargroove attempts valiantly to solve this problem after all these years, to great success. Though there are a few small road bumps on its path to greatness, it’s a mostly fantastic adventure that will serve those who enjoyed those games over the past decade or so.
Wargroove is a strategy game set on a grid-based map that finds players moving across the “board” to defeat various enemies in turn-based combat, recruiting additional allies, capturing villages and land, and amassing fortunes by collecting loot. It will, of course, look instantly familiar to fans who cut their teeth on games like Fire Emblem and the like, but there’s a swath of infective charm that changes things up considerably.
The concept is familiar. You have several different units you can choose from, like horseback knights, soldiers on foot, and a variety of other characters. They will travel in units and share health, with soldiers dying off one by one as you continue to take damage. Like Fire Emblem, there are weaknesses to keep in mind. Knights take additional damage from spearmen, and so on. You also need to take note of the type of terrain you’re playing on, which you’ve no doubt experienced in other games.
This means you’ll have to be tactical in your approach to combat, so there’s a learning curve if you’ve never tried games like Fire Emblem or Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars in the past. But learning to combat these various weaknesses and how to overcome seemingly unsurpassable odds is part of the fun, and what makes it so awesome to come back to time and time again.
There are three modes you can choose from: campaign, puzzle, and arcade. The campaign is obviously the most content-rich mode available, with a wide variety of missions that necessitate smart, strategic thinking and tactical play. You’ll dole out swift punishment to challenging AI characters, all while following the tale of the young queen Mercia, who must take the throne in her kingdom after her father is unceremoniously assassinated.
Puzzle mode is a boon in terms of replayability, as you need to fulfill a certain set of conditions to complete each mission. It requires quite a bit of brain power, but it’s fun to challenge yourself. Arcade will let you play quick, bite-sized chunks of the game. No matter which mode you opt for, there’s plenty to do at all times.
One of the game’s biggest draws is undoubtedly its custom maps, however. You can create both campaign and multiplayer maps to your heart’s content, and since the game features cross-play, you can play with others on the opposite platform (until it debuts on PS4). This opens up a whole new world of possibilities, especially if you like to tinker with level editing and creating new experiences. It’s a wonderful addition to the game, to be sure.
There’s always something new and exciting to tackle, no matter how you want to play. It’s clear that Chucklefish, despite this game being only the second title the company has developed on its own merits, has put an abundance of love and care into making this throwback the best it could possibly be. In some ways, it’s a bit too much of a throwback, in fact.
That’s why Wargroove’s only real stumbles lie within the fact that it is a derivative but enjoyable adventure. While it’s extremely fun and polished, you can’t shake the fact that you’re simply playing the same game you played years ago. It doesn’t quite innovate the way we would have liked for it to, but it’s hard to fault it too much for sticking to what works. It will only grow and evolve over time, though, with additional update and tweaks in the future. It’s destined for even more greatness, and we can’t wait to keep groovin’ on into the future with Wargroove.
If you’ve been itching for something suitable to return to after waiting for a new, addictive strategy RPG in the past, you absolutely must get your hands on Chucklefish’s latest. Despite its strict adherence to classic mechanics, it’s a brilliant overall package that has just about everything you could want out of a spiritual successor to your favorite tactical RPG. It’s perfect for on-the-go play on Switch and feels right at home on PC. If you’re not convinced yet, we’re not sure you’re a true strategy RPG fan anyway.
[Reviewed on PC]
Brittany has been covering games and tech for over a decade for the likes of G4, Popular Science, IGN, Empire, Kotaku, Rolling Stone and GameSpot – as well as appearing as a speaker at video game conventions such as PAX East. When she’s not writing or gaming, she’s looking for the next great visual novel.