Wargroove Review

By Lucy Wood, 30 days ago
When developing Wargroove, Chucklefish looked back to the Game Boy Advance era, citing games such as Advance Wars and Fire Emblem as influences. The resulting game has been described as a medieval Advance Wars with clear parallels in the art style, story and simple approach to turn-based tactical gameplay. However, Wargroove adds another major element to the package by including a simple yet powerful suite of game creation tools, making it a can't-miss game for genre fans.

Wargroove's Commanders fight alongside their troops

Wargroove combines simple mechanics with the gradual introduction of new gameplay elements throughout the main campaign. Likewise, the missions become more complex and challenging as the campaign progresses. This gives it a very gentle learning curve which is ideal for newcomers to strategy games. Strategic depth comes from a critical hit system and the Commanders' special moves, or Grooves. Each troop type has its own conditions for inflicting critical damage. Players who think carefully about the sequence in which they move their troops, as well as their destinations and actions, will be able to use the crit system to devastating effect.

The Commanders' Grooves are varied enough to suit many different playstyles, and some of them have both offensive and defensive applications. On more complex maps players can deploy a combination of ground, water and air troops. This gives players massive scope to experiment with troop combinations or challenge themselves with self-imposed limits. Some players may be disappointed to find that the troop rosters of the different factions are essentially the same units with different skins. This can be viewed as a lost opportunity to increase the game's tactical depth, but it's a choice that fits the overarching design strategy of making a game that's easy to engage with.


Wargroove doesn’t reward cautious play, and at times seems to punish it. It’s possible to turtle through missions, advancing steadily while maintaining defensive formations and protecting captured buildings. However, it doesn’t work particularly well and usually leads to low mission rankings, long mission times or being overwhelmed by enemy numbers. The game rewards a more daring approach, with a willingness to make risky manoeuvres to fulfill objectives faster and sometimes sacrifice troops or buildings for the greater good. The death of the player’s Commander is an automatic mission fail, but the loss of supporting troops carries no negative consequences aside from the time and money required to replace them. This makes it much easier to experiment with troop combinations and makes the game forgiving of small mistakes.


Wargroove's solo campaign takes players on a journey around the continent of Aurania across deserts, mountains, forests, plains, and oceans while playing as different factions and Commanders. It's a varied and interesting campaign that gets players to try a broad range of strategies and uses mission structure to support storytelling. Campaign progress unlocks another two solo game modes, adding up to 50+ hours of solo content. Arcade mode is a series of mini-campaigns where players use the same Commander for five successive missions, which is useful for mastering use of Grooves. Puzzle mode is a series of maps which must be completed in a single turn. This is a fun change of pace for anyone who enjoys logic puzzles, and it also highlights any gaps in the player's understanding of the game mechanics. A comprehensive Codex provides all the information players may need about their Commanders and troops including tips on how to make the best use of them. Local and online multiplayer is available for 2-4 players with online options for both quick play and private matches.

Attack animations are optionalAttack animations are optional

Stars are awarded for completing missions, which can then be used to unlock content like concept art and the final epilogue mission. Players also receive a letter rank, with an S-rank awarded for completing the mission within a certain number of turns. The default difficulty offers a reasonable challenge level, but missions can be made substantially easier or harder via slider adjustment of Groove charge speed, damage taken and income. However, anyone wanting to collect all stars will have to play the main campaign with the default settings, as the alternatives limit stars available to one out of three.

Wargroove includes the same tools for editing maps, campaigns and cutscenes that Chucklefish used internally to create the game. This gives players the opportunity to produce games of similar quality and to share them with others online. The campaign editor is used to set locations for missions and pathways with descriptive information and can be used to create branching questlines or activation conditions for secret missions.

The editing tools are still straightforward to use at a higher level but more time, patience and logical thinking will be required to get good results. Players can upload their finished work for others to download, play and rate. The custom content browser makes it easy to find specific game types and content can also be accessed via unique codes which are easy to share outside the game. This makes a diverse array of user-generated content available and gives budding game designers an easy outlet for creating and testing their ideas. This feature takes Wargroove from a very good game akin to its inspirators and imbues it with much more life.

The achievement list is straightforward, and about two-thirds of it can be completed just by playing all the main campaign missions and trying out all the other game modes. The remaining achievements require more dedication and skill, with the toughest challenges involving collecting 200 stars and scoring S-ranks on all campaign missions.

This game was featured in our Best Xbox One Strategy Games Available in 2019 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?

Summary

Wargroove pays homage to Advance Wars in both style and substance, with an obvious nostalgic appeal to Game Boy Advance veterans. It's a well-rounded game that makes turn-based strategy accessible to anyone new to the genre. However, it can still challenge seasoned players via custom difficulty settings and custom content. The inclusion of straightforward content creation tools increases its scope and longevity and gives it the potential to develop a community centred on amateur game development. It may resemble a relic from the Game Boy era, but Wargroove is far more than just another retro game.
4 / 5
Wargroove
Positives
  • Simple game mechanics
  • Charming art style and music
  • Includes powerful content creation tools
Negatives
  • Tutorial dialogues can become annoying when replaying missions
  • Too easy to accidentally finish turns
Ethics Statement
The reviewer played the campaign's main storyline and tried all game modes, gaining 10 out of the 23 achievements. This copy was provided courtesy of the publisher.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Lucy Wood
Written by Lucy Wood
Lucy wasted her youth in the pursuit of music, art and stories. Eventually she discovered that video games combine all three with shooting and exploding stuff and a gamer was born.