STAFF REVIEW of Wargroove (Xbox One)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019.
by Randal Santia

Wargroove Box art I’m a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. Why solve a problem that someone else has already successfully solved? Now, refining that wheel, for say, Formula 1 race tracks to increase your lap speed by 1/1000th of a second... that I’m on board with! That’s precisely what developers Chucklefish games has done here with Wargroove, only instead of shaving off 1/1000th, they’ve obliterated the lap record by a few seconds. From the developers of Starbound, Wargroove is a turn-based, tactics style game with retro-esq graphics, a familiar feel, clever twist and a punishing late game that turns the right knobs even if they can cause pain.

If you’ve played Advance Wars, or Final Fantasy: Tactics then you’ve seen this style of game. A battlefield that you have to maneuver like a chess board, with individual units of different types with different movesets, abilities, attack rules etc, in a turn based environment where your opponent is trying to do the same thing... trying to outsmart you.

You’re playing as one of four factions, and while the factions have different unit types and names, they all have the same type of the same units. For example, they all have a soldier type, they all have a giant type etc, and the vulnerabilities don’t change. You’re also fighting over the same resources on the map, and the benefit of each resource is the same for all factions. There are villages and buildings to fight over on the map which generate resources for you to spend, and to help heal your units up during battle.

Also like most games of this style, there’s the familiar 'Rock-Paper-Scissors' type mechanic, where certain units are strong against a certain other units but weak against a third. For example soldiers are effective against archers but vulnerable against spearmen, and archers are effective against spearmen and spearmen are effective against... Ok, you get the idea.

My favorite mechanic in Wargroove is the “critical hit”, where if executed, guarantees a critical hit on the enemy. Each unit has one and each is different. For example, if the archer attacks without moving, or the trebuchet attacks at max range, or if your spearmen are beside each other. These abilities play a huge role in the planning and execution of the tactics you attempt to use in each battle. You’re going to do a lot more damage, and have a lot more success if you can set up your units to land critical attacks more often than not.

Where things differ are the commanders. Each faction has 3 commanders that will be in battle with them. The Commanders have special abilities, called grooves, that if used correctly, can significantly swing the tide of a battle. Things like reanimating dead units, or healing auras can obviously be really useful in the middle of a full out 5v5 unit battle.

Before I had played and decided to review Wargroove, the word in the sandbox was that this game had a steep difficulty curve, and that combined with the time commitment for each missions, often lead to a frustrating and often un-enjoyable experience. To that I say, put your training wheels back on, and ride up and down the driveway. This is a big person’s game, and you aren’t it! While I agree that the difficulty does ramp up in some areas, it’s that difficulty that makes the game fun to play; you’re not here for the story. I mean, it has one, but whatever, you’re here for the mental challenge.

A game of Chess can take a long time to play, and when you make a wrong move, you’re punished. You don’t get to take the move back, and you don’t get to have backups built in to allow you to still win the game. You lost, you messed up, learn and get better. I am HORRIBLE at this game, I can’t count how many times I got too aggressive with my commander, though they were safe, and then he or she (or it?! Woof!) got surrounded and was dead before I had a chance to do anything about it. Which in Wargroove is a game over. You can’t lose your commander, or your base, or it’s over.

I spent a lot of time thinking about those instances, and I can honestly say they were my fault. I didn’t learn from my past mistakes, got impatient and paid the price. If you’re not here for that, why are you here, right? I play tactic games to have my logic and tactics stressed and tested, and that’s exactly what you get. I’ll knock the game for not giving me a chance to undo moves that I do by accident, which happened a lot with misclicks when I took advantage of its Play Anywhere feature. If I haven’t made another move, I should be able to undo a move, if only a limited number of times, to account for the fact I have fast stupid fingers and make mistakes all the time. However, I know that, so again, I should take my time. Lesson learned.

I think what makes Wargroove a must play for “fans of the genre” is its difficulty. It’s a challenge, it’s not a mindless jog through the park.

Another feature I loved the idea of, even if it’s not something I personally would spend a lot of time with in Wargroove was the multiplayer ability to share and create maps, scenarios, campaigns and stories that others can play through. It has a built in tool-set to potentially give you endless supply of the game to play. Admittedly that isn’t my forte, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with their creation tools, however they seemed varied and flexible enough to create some really engaging content. I’ll definitely be playing some community made content once I get good enough to not fail 3 times per map!

So as you can see, Wargroove quickly becomes a nice little package, and for a pretty reasonable price too. A meaningful and challenging campaign that doesn’t just lay down in front of you and count the hours, a potentially endless bucket of user created content all with great polish and a nice little soundtrack. Combined with the Arcade mode which is just a string of 5 battles in a row against a set scenario, the replay value of Wargroove is off the charts.

The Way I See It: If you’re looking for a challenging and engaging turn-based tactics game and you aren’t afraid to get slapped in the face for your hubris, this game should be on your list.

What a fantastic package. So much value and opportunity. Most importantly fun!

You definitely need to get an exit game button on the Windows 10 Play Anywhere version... only way I could close out on my PC was ALT-F4 or tab out and close the window. But that's a minor complaint!

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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