Wargroove: review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Switch, Xbone, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Chucklefish
  • Developer: Chucklefish
  • Players: 1-4
  • Site: https://wargroove.com/ 
  • Game code provided by PR

The PS4 may be late to the party but it is, by all accounts, a party worth turning up to at any hour. You can add our account to that, because we can confirm that Wargroove is indeed a darn good game… with one small but important caveat.

This is a turn-based strategy game. It’s very good at what it does, but – but – it is absolutely not going to win any friends outside of existing fans of the genre (which is entirely possible, as games such as Disgaea 5 have proven). This is primarily down to the developers being entirely lost when it comes to how to accommodate those unable or unwilling to dedicate the required time and patience to every move. The gulf between ‘Normal’ and ‘Easy’ difficulties is hilariously enormous, and even then, Easy can throw up a few roadblocks to those who have been promised “just the story”.

With that established, let’s focus on the positives, of which there are many. The market may be saturated with retro pixel art in 2019, but there’s no denying Wargroove’s visual charm. The designs are neat, the animation sharp, and you’re all but guaranteed to fall in love with military mutt Caesar. Offering each character a few snatches of repeated dialogue is arguably worse than not voicing them at all but, hey, you can’t have everything.

There’s an admirable depth and complexity to gameplay, which never threatens to become overwhelming thanks to a carefully designed and paced campaign. Success will only come from a full understanding of the range of choices – and their potential consequences – available to you. Ordinarily, your objective in any given map is to either defeat the enemy’s powerful commanding unit, or to knock down their Stronghold (it’s up to you which you go for). Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

You’ll eventually unlock a long list of units, and every one has its unique advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to consider very carefully (not to mention their advantages over, and vulnerabilities to, certain types of enemy units). Recruiting allies costs gold, which you earn every turn, as does your enemy. The more buildings you hold, the faster you earn cash. More powerful units cost more gold, and you can only bring one unit (regardless of class) into play per turn, and you can only summon them at certain buildings. Keeping up so far?

This design prevents players from quickly amassing a horde of powerful units to spam their way through, forcing them to – horror of horrors – think! And think you must, because just one mistake could start a chain reaction that leads to your downfall. It sounds demanding – and it is – but you’re given all the tools necessary to win a hard-earned victory. Putting aside for a moment the maps that employ a ‘fog of war’ type effect (carefully deployed dog units will maximise your visibility in these cases), you can see each enemy unit at all times. It doesn’t stop there. You can examine the health of each friendly and enemy unit, their strengths and weaknesses, and – vitally – precisely where they can and can’t move to during their next turn. More than most turn-based games, Wargroove can be complimentarily compared to chess (only with more monsters and bolts of magically conjured lightning). When you win, it’s because you made all (or almost all) the right calls; when you lose, it’s because you made one too many mistakes. The fault will always lie with you, and never cheating AI or an unfair situation.

The campaign alone (which includes plenty of side missions) would be a refined delight for any turn-based connoisseur, but Chucklefish has added plenty more to the mix. There’s more content for solo players outside of the story… and then there’s the multiplayer. 2-4 players can wage war either online or off, and this by itself would have been enough to offer theoretically endless replay value. And yet, somehow, that is not all!

The jewel in Wargroove’s crown is, surely, the map editor. You can create your own map from scratch, placing enemies and scenery as you please to create the battle of your dreams. But that still isn’t all! You have the ability to create entire campaigns, complete with cutscenes, to craft your very own overworld with a story of your own. Needless to say, you can share your creations with the world. So even if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own content, you can download and play that of others for free. There’s no gating of this feature, either – so if you want to ignore the premade content and dive straight in to make a turn-based RPG of your own, you can (though playing through the campaign will make understanding fundamental rules, and how the units work, a lot easier).

The cute little pixel people belie a ruthlessly demanding game; this isn’t one for genre newcomers. Score a critical hit on the shell to break through, though, and you’ll find a lovingly crafted and incredibly generous turn-based delight.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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