As a player of games rather than a developer of games, I am reliant on others putting in their blood, sweat and tears for my enjoyment. Especially when it comes to the myriad of remasters and remakes that are occurring across the gaming scene right now. In fact, I just want someone to read my mind/social media posts asking for all my favourite childhood games to be remade. Up until recently, these posts were of me asking for the original Spyro games to be remade. I got my wish, but what now? Croc: Legend of the Gobbos?
My point is though, I don’t have the skills – or licensing rights – to simply remaster these games.
The team at Chucklefish may not have the licensing rights either, but they definitely have the skills. If my household was full of my ramblings of long-forgotten PSone 3D platformers, Chucklefish’s studio must have been a cacophony of noise pleading with Nintendo to remake Advance Wars, a turn-based tactics game designed for the GameBoy Advance.
But, rather than wait an indefinite amount of time like I would have for someone else to make the game, Chucklefish just went off and created their own version to fill the void in the market. Wargroove is that result, and it is a damn fine result too.
Wargroove is a turn-based tactical game along the same vein as the aforementioned Advance Wars, but also Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics as it employs a more fantasy setting. Players control small armies on a grid-based map and must battle foes, take over villages and recruit more fighters to ensure victory. There are a variety of different fighters available, from your standard swordmen, pikemen and archers to more complex units such as mermaids/men, witches and even dragons!
The grids come with different terrains of buildings to take control over. The more buildings you control, the more income you have to build a better army, and being able to see a battlefield change from one colour to another gives a tug-of-war feel to proceedings, as armies battle back and forth for ultimate supremacy.
Each army also has a commander in charge. There are 12 commanders in the game, separated out into four factions. Each commander has a unique ability that they can unleash when they have dealt enough damage – a Wargroove. Sadly, it doesn’t involve the commanders throwing some shapes on the dancefloor, but they can heal allies within the vicinity, boost defences or block paths to funnel your enemies into a trap. Each one is unique to the commander and their factions but, aside from a few aesthetic changes between faction fighters, these are the only differences between the commanders. It keeps the playing field level, but some unique fighters would have added a bit more variation.
Wargroove does however boast a very generous amount of modes to play through. Single player modes include the main campaign, an arcade mode which brings shorter, more fast paced games, and also a puzzle mode, where every map needs to be completed in one turn.
The single player campaign is the bulk of the game and centres around Mercia, one of the commanders. At the beginning, her father is ruthlessly killed by an unknown killer and this changes her home town of Cherrystone radically, forcing her and her mentor Emeric to flee to safety. Their journey will take them through forests and deserts where terrain will have an affect on their resilience to enemy attacks. Those enemies are also governed by their own commanders who have their own Wargrooves to unleash; some may become allies, but many will have their own vendettas against you.
It is quite clear of the amount of care and attention that has gone into the game as there is a Codex detailing all the lore happening within Wargroove, and it goes into a lot of detail that a quick glossing over of the main plot doesn’t do justice.
This main campaign is split into main quests and side-quests. They aren’t always focused on simply winning against the opposition either; some quests involve getting to a certain map location or holding out for as long as possible and defending a location or a commander. There is just enough variation to keep it interesting throughout.
The arcade mode features much of the same gameplay as that found in the campaign mode but in a faster-paced environment; most matches can be completed in a few rounds. But even this has its own self-contained story and shouldn’t be sniffed at.
It is the puzzle mode that is perhaps most interesting however. This is unlocked about halfway through the main campaign and there are 20 different puzzles to choose from. Each one can be completed in one turn – that is, defeating the enemies on screen – and requires you to put all your knowledge of the game to the test. These are not easy, but piecing them together is hugely satisfying.
There is a lot of content here, but if you manage to complete all that, multiplayer is also available for up to four players both locally and online. The best thing about the online multiplayer is that it is asynchronous: a match can be set-up at any time between opponents but does not have to be contested there and then. Players can return to take their turn when they have a moment, and this means that matches last longer but don’t ever tie you down. When playing online there are no connections issues either.
In fact, I didn’t encounter any issues at all from Wargroove. From the first glance it isn’t the most demanding game to run on an Xbox One, but the pixel art is very cute and goes above and beyond what you would expect traditional pixel art to be, almost like its predecessors before did.
If all this still doesn’t sound enough, Wargroove presents an open-ended game mode in user-created maps being able to be downloaded. These could be campaigns, multiplayer maps or user-generated puzzle maps. Some of the early stuff coming through includes someone recreating entire Advance Wars and Fire Emblem maps.. It is also very easy to use, and the community already seems awash with talented creators.
Wargroove on Xbox One features 23 achievements in total that take in all the various modes, and for the most part aren’t too difficult to pick up, other than requiring a bit of time. Completing each act – along with side quests – in the campaign, all arcade runs, and creating your own maps are fairly run of the mill. The trickiest one will be for collecting 200 stars. Each campaign mission, arcade run and puzzle offers up to three stars, but you shouldn’t expect to be drowning in them, especially when only the maximum number on offer is given for the hardest difficulty.
Wargroove is a perfect homage to the Advance Wars and Fire Emblem games, and yet also manages to carve out its own identity. The characters are varied enough, and their special abilities also somehow manage to fit with their personalities. But don’t let the pixel art style lead you astray, this can still cause a headache in later missions. Thankfully though there is enough crammed in here that you will never be stuck for too long. And if all else fails, you’ll be able to just create your own map that’s a little bit easier, all by using the extremely well designed creation tools.