Can Wargroove surpass its biggest inspiration?
Chucklefish is taking the fight straight to intelligent systems format: PC, Switch, Xbox one | Publisher: Chucklefish | Developer: in-house | release: Q2 2018 | Players: 1-2
We have to confess that we haven’t been completely straight with you. While we have indeed reported on numerous occasions in the past that Wargroove is practically the modern living embodiment of Advance Wars, we aren’t certain that that statement is entirely accurate. Not now that we’ve had a fresh opportunity to sit down with the upcoming title.
It’s been 17 years since Intelligent Systems’ GBA classic first made its debut and, as it should happen, when a group of hard-working developers spend all that time ruminating on what it is that makes it so bloody wonderful, they may just come up with something that surpasses it entirely. That’s right, we’re going there; Chucklefish is putting together a wonderful package in Wargroove, the charming 2D gridbased tactics game that’s scheduled to arrive on PC, Switch and Xbox One later this year. It’s easy to understand why the game has been lauded as a spiritual successor. It is, after all, an extension of the formula, exchanging modern warfare for fantasy battles whilst retaining the same tempered pacing and intoxicating visual style. But there’s something about the way that it handles itself – the way that it presents its complex systems and an ever-engaging to-and-fro of tempered warfare – that just feels right. Refreshed and ready to carve out the space to stand on its own two feet independent of any nostalgia that might hold it up.
While Stardew Valley (published by Chucklefish) sought to directly mirror Harvest Moon, the development team on Wargroove is sprinkling in an extra layer of complexity and challenge to its title to stand it apart from the crowd. One small (and yet oh-so integral) example is the way in which it handles hero units. While it’s true, Advance Wars did indeed feature characters with special abilities, they weren’t units on the ground – directly in the line of fire and liable to receive damage. Wargroove brings specialised heroes into play, not only giving you – and a friend, should you be engaged in multiplayer battles – the ability to turn the tide of a fight in your favour, but it also significantly raises the stakes. While these units may be your most powerful asset, they are also the catalyst to continue playing – if they die, then the game will grind to an untimely end.
Chucklefish is also leaning heavily on the inherent creativity its most ardent followers will want to express, building powerful creation tools into the base product. While simplistic on the surface, they will allow players to establish their own maps and units before pushing them out into multiplayer and even campaign scenarios. It ensures that Wargroove will live long beyond its initial release, growing as the player base does.
Wargroove is special. It’s a delight to play and beautiful to behold. And sure, Chucklefish had one hell of a template to work off of, but there’s no denying that it has stepped up to the mantle and will, we’re certain, make it quite difficult for Nintendo and Intelligent Systems should they ever decide to have another crack at the beloved series.
Above: Wargroove may look like it is little more than a spiritual successor to advance Wars, but there’s plenty going on behind the scenes to make it stand on its own