Wargroove Review: A Charming Display of Tactical Warfare

by David Sanchez August 8, 2019 @ 11:51 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

The moment you watch the anime-like opening cinematic in Wargroove, you know in you’re store for a grand quest. I was excited to play the Chucklefish-developed turn-based strategy game, and I figured there was no better time to do so than now that the game has landed on PlayStation 4. The game is a true joy to play thanks to its challenging gameplay, charming presentation, and addictive design.

Before we go any further, I have a confession to make: I have never played an Advance Wars game. I’m a monster, I know. I bring up this dark secret because there seems to be a lot of comparison between Wargroove and Advance Wars and, to an extent, Fire Emblem (which I have played). In any case, I went in fresh, with no prior Advance Wars experience to compare Wargroove to — and I’m kind of glad I did because I won’t feel the need to bring that series up at every turn.

For the Kingdom

The game opens with a mission that both introduces you to the story and characters and acts as a tutorial. You guide an evil vampire named Sigrid across a kingdom with one goal: to slay the king. Rather than dump a ton of text boxes on the screen, Wargroove teaches you how to play by actually letting you play. The way the game shows you the ropes at the onset is great because, though there is some text to read and required tasks to do, you’re striking down rival units and learning the results of different actions during play.

Once Sigrid defeats the king, we’re introduced to Mercia, the rightful heiress to the throne. She’s a charming character who’s training for battle and is suddenly thrust into a leadership role.

The story doesn’t get too deep, and the characters are okay, but honestly, the plot is probably the least interesting aspect of Wargroove. It’s not terrible, but what you’re really here for is that sweet, sweet tactics gameplay. And that’s fine, because the action in Wargroove is phenomenal.

Into the Groove

Your position on the battlefield is one of the most important things to keep in mind if you’re going to be successful in Wargroove. Some units function better in certain terrain. Others boost each other’s attack and defense. Certain units are better in some situations than others. No two unit types are alike, and when you first start playing, it might be a little overwhelming taking in all the information the game requires you to learn.

You’ve got soldiers, spearmen, mounted, and ranged units, among others. You’ve even got attack pups! Yes! All units have strengths and weaknesses, and they perform better against certain enemy unit types. Mounted knights, for example, are great at destroying enemy bunkers, but they’re very vulnerable against spearmen. Speaking of which, spearman are slow to move around the map, but if you’ve got a couple of these units adjacent to one another when attacking, you’ll deal a critical hit. These are just a few examples. The best way to learn what each unit does is to use them all extensively.

You also have commanders that have special abilities, or Grooves. These allow you to heal your units, up your defense, and so on. Each Groove ability has a charge, so you can’t just spam these moves. Instead, you’ll need to use them in those moments that are most beneficial.

Like any strategy game worth a damn, there are several environmental factors to take into account in Wargroove. Fog of war is one such factor, and it’s easy to get ambushed if you’re not employing proper tactics. Rather than sending out your units into a forest blindly, you’re better off enlisting the aid of couple battle pups. Send those doggos to sniff out the area and perch themselves atop a mountain to get a good view of the land. This will allow you to expose enemies lying in wait, as well as scope out territory you can capture.

The health of your units is important, as is making sure you have a strong enough military force. As you take control of buildings, you can use these areas to heal your wounded soldiers. Taking over a barracks is critical, too, as that’s how you’ll be able to summon units in the middle of a battle using funds that you earn as each turn goes by.

If you’re new to this type of game, Wargroove may seem a bit overwhelming, but it’s really not. Yes, there’s a great deal of tactical gameplay, and there’s a lot of info to take in, but once you’re in the thick of things, the game flows beautifully and feels great. It’s definitely not an easy game — by default, it’s set on Hard — but it’s approachable and highly entertaining.

So Many Ways to Battle

You’re likely to return to Wargroove on account of its enjoyable gameplay flow. That’s why it’s great that there are so many ways to play. Aside from the Campaign mode, there’s also Arcade, which puts you up against a gauntlet of commanders. Puzzle is a super strategic mode that challenges you to win in one turn. There are also local and online cooperative and competitive modes, inviting you to play with and against other folks.

As if the one-more-turn design and multiplayer options weren’t enough to keep you coming back for more, Wargroove also features a level editor. You can create all kinds of levels, so if you’re creative, you can build maps that are fun, wild, or insanely difficult. You can also download other players’ levels, with a featured section that shows off some of the best user content out there.

For a game that’s essentially about war, death, and destruction, Wargroove is definitely a charming little sight to behold. The pixel art is bright, cheery, and colorful. And though it’s a visual throwback to Game Boy Advance titles, the character animations are much more fluid than they could’ve ever possibly been on a handheld from nearly two decades ago.

There are bits of voice acting here and there, but these are limited to gasps, groans, and short phrases. The characters all sound quirky and cute. In addition, the music is catchy and nice to listen to — it’s your typical fantasy/strategy/grand campaign fare, but it’s all really nicely composed and sounds great.

I can’t sing the praises of Wargroove enough. Everything about it is incredible, from the strategy mechanics to the presentation to the bevy of modes. The tactical gameplay is tough, but it’s massively satisfying, and it’ll sink its hooks into you and keep you coming back over and over again.

Score: 9 out of 10

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