Every now and then, a game comes along that defies all of your expectations. Wargroove is one such game for me. This game hits three items on my “Shit That Makes A Game Great” checklist – a strong female protagonist, solid strategy gameplay, and a dog. The last one, obviously, is the most important; at no point has there ever been a game featuring a dog that I didn’t love. Not only does Wargroove have a dog, but the dog is a general who inspires his troops to feats of valor and justice with this stalwart bravery and his goofy charisma. Truly Caesar exemplifies the best that pupper kind has to offer.
If you’ve ever played Advance Wars or Famicom Wars, then you basically know how Wargroove plays already. I’ve seen a lot of people draw comparisons online with Fire Emblem, and that makes sense given that Fire Emblem is more popular than Advance Wars in the West these days, but Fire Emblem is really not the best comparison because it’s not an SRPG. Your units don’t level up, and aside from the commanders, they don’t have unique names or personalities. You do, however, get to build up resources every turn and create new units and take cities and shit like Advance Wars. The way I’ve described Wargroove to friends is the gameplay of Advance Wars crossed with the basic setting of Fire Emblem crossed with the humor of slapstick comedy.
There are a couple of different game modes in Wargroove. In addition to the campaign, you’ve got the standard multiplayer as well as a sort of survival thing called “arcade mode” where you have to pick a commander and clear five random maps in a row. The last game mode is a puzzle mode where you’re given one turn to complete a certain objective – usually either defeat an enemy commander or get a specific unit to a specific spot on the map. Puzzle mode proved more frustrating than fun for me although I can definitely see how folks fonder of problem-solving type games would love that game mode. With the multiplayer mode, however, there is a map editor so you can create your own scenarios. It actually reminds me a lot of the scenario creator in Age of Empires II from way back in the day.
The story of the game isn’t really the highlight here as it’s pretty standard. The main character is the princess of this kingdom called Cherrystone, and then this skeleton army invades, and the whole story from there is pretty much exactly what you’d expect – run away, meet up with allies, counter-attack, discover plot device, save the world, etc, etc. What keeps the story interesting isn’t the story itself but rather the characters and how they’ve developed over the course of the story. I can’t say that I loved all of the characters in Wargroove’s cast, but I definitely found the vast majority to be quite likable and endearing. Especially Caesar. 15/10 best boy.
Wargroove doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to turn-based strategy gameplay, but it still does the genre extremely well. The units are well balanced to counter one another, the characters in the story mode are likable and well developed, and the visuals are bright, colorful, and well detailed despite the pixel art style. Perhaps the best detail of the game, however, is its approachability. Wargroove’s difficulty is fully customizable even beyond the handful of difficulty setting with sliders allowing players to set to their liking the rate of resource income, damage taken, and the speed at which the generals’ special abilities charge. This means that the game can be enjoyed by those who’ve never played a game like this before as well those who’ve beaten every game the genre has to offer. In a time when most games seem to handle difficulty by making the whole thing mind-numbingly easy or brutally difficult, the extent of customization that Wargroove’s difficulty settings provide is a welcome change of pace. Given the game’s exclusivity to the Switch, this is a definite must-own for Switch gamers even if it is sadly only available digitally.