Hands On: Wargroove

Wargroove, announced back in February of this year, is a cartoon, turn based tactics game in the spirit of Nintendo’s Advance Wars series. It was at Rezzed earlier on in the year, and I managed to get some hands on time with it, as well as ask some details of the developer manning the stand.

Unlike the mechanised warfare focused battlefields of Advance Wars, Wargroove’s battles take place in a fantasy setting – armies of goblins and skeletons accompany their appropriate hero unit. There’s nine* heroes in the game, each with their own power, and -in another shift from Nintendo’s series- an actual avatar in the game. What this means is that the characters have to be moved carefully, and used where they can have most impact on the battlefield, as their skills are only effective in proximity to them.

The hero I played with had the power to heal units at cardinal points to them, which led to me using them to lead the smaller of the two groups I had made. The tactic worked, with the weaker group managing to hold the line while my main charge of Doggos, Cavalry, and Fliers swept up a bridge to the South and capture the objective. The big negative of risky manoeuvres, of course, is that if the commander falls then you play ol’ lose the battle.

This hero unit also serves as the traditional commander role in each of the campaigns -each of the nine have their own- with them heckling each other between missions.

Through the demo I played -which was a few short missions followed by a final vast level with masses of capture points and a tight 15 turn timer- there were about 10 different units on show for the heavily-advertised, human faction. These were split between ground and air. Much like wargaming titles, and more tactical based titles, there’s an obvious rock-paper-scissors effect going on with the troops; archers vs fliers, cavalry vs siege, siege vs capture points, and this is intended to stay just as critical as the amount of units closes at it’s final amount, of close to double the amount included.

Perhaps one of the most satisfying things in the game, outside of the inclusion of doggos as a unit, and of the game’s really bright and cheerful style, was the animations that play out as units (or units, and capture points) clash with one-another. Sure, it’s something that was in the original Advance Wars, and we see it in the increasingly popular Fire Emblem series as well, also kind-of in Shining Force, but let’s not get that finicky. But, it’s something that’s always lovely to see, especially if you’ve spent serious time playing games that don’t play out battle animations, as I have.

I mentioned Fire Emblem, so I might as well stick with that for the sake of my next point, my only real gripe with Wargroove (outside of that tight timer on the last level of the demo which left most capture points on the map nigh-unobtainable) is that it only half dabbles in the predictive combat efforts of FE. Turn Based RPGs tend to go one way or the other; some will just let you select and proceed with the attack regardless of the consequences – Oh, ho! But didn’t you realise she has a counterattack against fire spells that causes him to flip the elemental damage and outpu– yeah, you get the point- while, others (like FE) will warn you of the full result of the turn, or at least heavily predict it.  In Wargroove it only currently seems to show your offensive turn’s result; so you might be caught off guard with the actual result. This happened to me a couple of times in the longer scenario, and nearly cost me the battle.

Although my time with the game was very brief, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the game develop. There’s a lot of potential for the game should the developers buff the hero rank post-launch, or add in custom maps, or make it so the game is more than simply 1vs1 in the competitive PvP. That said, regardless of all that it’s a solid tactics game, and when it launches for PC, Xbox One, and Switch, it’ll likely go down well for fans of AW who have been missing the series, as well as fans of turn-based tactics titles in general.

*nine was the number I was told at the event, when the game was originally announced it was 12+ heroes over four factions.

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