Wargroove review: Stuck in the groove

Chucklefish's turn-based strategy series excels at a lot, but sometimes loses itself in the grind.

3

It’s been over 10 years since the last entry of the beloved turn-based strategy series, Advanced Wars, released on the Nintendo DS. Now, with their want for a new title building over a decade, fans of the series finally have something that could fill the gap left behind when it descended into radio silence. Building off the same idea as the original Wars games, Wargroove brings some of the same systems to life, while also improving and adding new systems to help make gameplay more fluid and enjoyable.

While Wargroove takes a lot from the Advanced Wars series, Chucklefish hasn’t stopped at simply being a clone of the original games. Instead, the developer has worked hard to make sure the title stands out, and while it might initially seem like a direct rip-off, there’s a lot under the surface that helps the game to stand out as its own thing.

The Old Meets the New

Wargroove campaign map

One of the best things about Wargroove is how easy it is to really just dive in and get the hang of things. For the most part, the basic gameplay and mechanics are exactly what you’d expect from a game inspired by Advanced Wars; turn-based strategy set on a cartoon, tile-based map, where you must capture villages, recruit new units, and defeat the enemy. It’s a common formula that has been present in the Wars series for the franchise’s long history, and Chucklefish has never hidden the fact that Wargroove runs off this same basic setup. However, there is a lot more here that has been improved upon, that helps to really give the game its own feel, blending the old mechanics with new ones.

Critical hits are no longer random, as they were in the Wars series. Instead, each unit has a specific set of requirements that need to be met for the critical hit to come into play. Swordsmen need to be next to commanders, Pikemen need to be next to other Pikemen, and so on down the list. Each requirement is usually fairly easy to meet and doing so can change the tide of the battle quickly as you take more and more units down with ease.

Wargroove also takes some hints from another popular turn-based strategy series, Fire Emblem. Instead of Commanders simply being a power that you trigger sometimes—like in the Advanced Wars franchise—they take on a frontline role in Wargroove, acting as Commanders do in the Fire Emblem games. They still have their own unique powers, called Grooves in this case, which can help by bolstering units with extra defense, health and more. It’s a really good addition that helps to bring the battlefield to life even more, and adds even higher stakes to the battle, as losing your Commander in a fight will cause you to be defeated, forcing you to restart.

Stuck in the Grind

Wargroove fog of war covering map

In war, victory is not always assured, and Wargroove is no exception to this rule. While the game does a lot of things right, and really nails the nostalgic feeling that Chucklefish was no doubt aiming for, there are still a few wrinkles that need some ironing out. These things are all pretty small, though, but can add up over time, especially as you dive deeper into the game and start playing through later missions where you’ll find yourself sometimes spending as long as an hour trudging your way towards victory.

The developers have done a great job of balancing everything, so much so, that at times the battle comes down to an almost senseless session of grinding down your enemy’s health bit by bit. It’s a slow and tedious way to spend your play session, and after a few matches of dealing with the back and forth I had to take a break and just step away from my Switch for a bit. This isn’t a new issue for turn-based strategy games, though, but it is one that I had hoped to see a bit of an improvement on with Wargroove given how much love Chucklefish has clearly put into the title.

Another issue that I found quite annoying throughout my time with Wargroove is the weakness and strengths display that you can see in each unit's information screen. Due to the cartooony nature of the icons, and the size that they appear on screen, it's really tough to tell what each unit's icon is. This makes it difficult to really tell which units you should avoid with your units, which can make combat tricky at times, especially when the game introduces new units you haven't encountered yet.

War Never Ends

Wargroove army recruitment

While the grindy nature can eventually turn the campaign into a slog, Wargroove more than makes up for these smaller issues by offering an outstanding number of other goodies for players to dive into. Outside of the main story, players can also check out Arcade Mode, which pits you against various elements as you play through a five-mission story. It’s a quick way to dive into the action and just enjoy the mechanics without all the hubbub that comes from playing the campaign.

On top of this, you can also dive into Puzzle Mode, which gives you an almost unwinnable scenario and challenges you to come out on top. Of course, the grind can really show its head here, but if you don’t mind the challenge, then it could be the mode that really scratches your itch. It doesn’t open until you’ve progressed quite a bit through the main campaign.

If you want to dive into the online version of the game, or just want to go head to head with your friends, then you have that option as well. Both local play and online versus are available, and you can even face off against your friends in maps that you’ve made or downloaded from the online library. This gives you plenty of diversity to work with, which should make it easy to sink even more hours into the game outside of the main story.

Wargroove villager rescue

Map creation is a huge deal in Wargroove, as the creator has a ton of options and customization abilities. You can place everything down from map terrain, units, villages, and even set up cutscenes or events to play out during your map. The number of options here is outstanding, and I probably put a good ten hours into working with the customization system alone over the weekend.

Battle Scarred

Wargroove is far from perfect, but that doesn’t change the fact that Chucklefish has managed to recreate the same feeling of the Advanced War series, all while improving and making it stand out on its own. Wargroove is the closet thing we’ve seen to an Advanced Wars title in a long time and the amount of love and care put into making the title are clear from the very start. While the campaign can get grindy as it wages on, with battles often coming to a standstill as you and the enemy fight over a single path, the number of extra goodies available like online play, Arcade Mode and Puzzle Mode help to break up the monotony and give you plenty of ways to enjoy the world that Chucklefish has created.

If you’re looking for a game that you can sink your teeth into and really get lost in, then I’d highly suggest picking up Wargroove for the Xbox, PC or Nintendo Switch. There’s a lot on offer here, and while it does lose itself in the grind sometimes, the sheer amount of content here more than makes up for the negatives that you’ll encounter, especially if you’re a fan of the games that inspired it.


This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher. Wargroove is available on Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch, with plans for a PlayStation 4 release sometime in the future.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

Review for
Wargroove
8
Pros
  • Well-balanced combat and mechanics.
  • Appealing visual style that draws you in.
  • Fun and easy to digest gameplay.
  • Tons of modes including arcade and online versus.
  • Deep map customization and creation system.
Cons
  • Small icons make it hard to read strength and weaknesses info.
  • Later campaign missions can become extremely grindy.
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