Getting Back into the Turn-Based Strategy Groove with Wargroove 2

An important thing to note about Wargroove 2 is that while it’s a sequel, this game takes place a few years after the original Wargroove. And while there are references to that first title in the series, you’ll never be wanting for information as you play. The story in the original Wargroove was mostly just an excuse to facilitate the turn-based strategy gameplay. While Wargroove 2’s story is much better in that regard, you still won’t find anything as interesting or depressing as Advance Wars: Days of Ruin here, nor should you expect such a thing given its bright and cheery visuals.

Wargroove 2 features six different factions with tales told across four story paths that all intersect near the end. The default campaign follows a group of science-loving mice, but there’s also a campaign featuring pirates, which are entertaining thanks to Wargroove 2’s humorous writing style. No matter which story you pick, you’ll get unique backstory, cutscenes, and lore as you go through the different campaigns through the story mode. On top of the campaign, there’s the Conquest mode which is essentially a roguelite-style map where you need to choose between resting to recover health, recruiting new units, and doing battle.

There are loads of unlockables in the Conquest mode, which was a lot of fun to play and experiment with the different events and strategies you’re kind of forced to use by having access to randomized resources. If you find Conquest too easy, you can raise the difficulty which also gives you more rewards, leading to more Commanders, potions, and other goodies you can use during Conquest mode. Day to day passive abilities, like archers having +1 range, are also randomized and given to Commanders in Conquest mode, which helps change up your strategies in each run of the mode.

Gameplay in Wargroove 2 should be immediately familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based strategy game before. Both Wargroove titles try to emulate a lot of what made Advance Wars successful, but in case you’ve never heard of such a game before, you should still be able to pick up Wargroove 2 since moving your units around the various maps is very intuitive. You select your units, choose where you want them to move, and when they reach their destination they can capture buildings, fight with enemy units, or do other special actions. Seating your units on tiles that have cover, such as forests, can increase the defense of your units when they’re attacked, helping them weather impending onslaughts.

The mechanic most like Advance Wars is that units in Wargroove 2 deal the most damage while at full health. This means that an effective way to reduce the damage your own units take is by attacking and damaging your opponent’s units. I’ve always enjoyed this mechanic because it incentivizes players to get into repeat combat encounters- you won’t run into Fire Emblem situations where a single unit with a hand axe or javelin kills half the enemy army on their phase. Where Wargroove 2 differs from Advance Wars is in unit effectiveness and critical hits- every unit in it has the ability to deal bonus damage should a specific condition be met.

All of the units in Wargroove 2, including land, sea, and air each have their own ability to get critical hits if certain criteria are met. Spearmen get a tremendous damage bonus if they’re adjacent to another spearman, while archers will score a critical if they don’t need to move before attacking. Proper utilization of unit critical hits is largely the determinant of whether or not you’re a good Wargroove player. Soldier units get a critical hit bonus if they’re standing adjacent to their Commander- that’s right, unlike Advance Wars (sans Days of Ruin), your Commanders are powerful units that can be deployed directly to the field. They’re hardy and have some invaluable abilities but do be careful not to let your Commander go down; it’s curtains for you if they do.

Commander units are also capable of using a special power called a Groove to help turn the tide of battle. Grooves, like Advance Wars CO Powers, can be used to flip a problematic situation on its head, like healing all of the units in the immediate vicinity of the Commander. The new 2-tiered Groove system means that you can continue charging your Groove rather than using it immediately, which will allow you to use an even stronger power when the time is right. Take, for example, the aforementioned healing power: charging it further will allow you to heal all of your units on the battlefield, not just the ones near your Commander. Just like with Advance Wars 2, learning the proper time to use your Groove or Super Groove power can be the difference between steamrolling a player or getting run over yourself.

Wargroove 2 also has a good number of features that enhance replayability. There’s online multiplayer for those that enjoy it (I am one of them), and you can use that mode to try out strategies that may not work well vs CPU players during the campaign. Also, to that player online who I lured into multiple archer ambushes from the forests during fog of war by just sitting a unit out in the open a few times… I’m sorry. In my defense, you let me get away with it. Repeatedly. On top of this, there are different side missions that pop up as you complete stages of the campaign, which the completion of will reward you with stars for your profile. Unfortunately, those stars don’t seem to unlock anything, but there is a sense of accomplishment after acquiring a large number of stars.

There’s a full map creator… as well as a campaign creator for players to use. You can make your maps, connect them to a campaign you’ve made, and then upload all of that for other players to enjoy, which is kind of incredible. Putting tools of that nature in players’ hands is amazing, and while Wargroove 2 is far from the first to do this, people all over the world have had fun doing similar things in titles like Super Mario Maker 2’s Super Worlds. That’s a considerable amount of value for those who enjoy turn-based strategy gameplay, which really is highlighted by the fact that Wargroove 2 is only $20.

The visuals of Wargroove 2 are the same bright and colorful sets of sprites, with more units and faction types added in the same visual style. Sometimes when titles keep old assets and add new ones on top, you can experience some design whiplash when looking at a unit from the first game when compared to a new unit for the sequel, but thankfully Wargroove 2 manages solid visual cohesion across all of its environments and characters. The soundtrack is a little bit more iffy, unfortunately- a lot of the new tracks are somewhat forgettable and even after hours of playing it, it’s difficult to recall any of the backing tracks for various stages throughout the title.

Long story short, Wargroove 2 took basically everything that made the original Wargroove great and expanded on some systems here and there. New units help flesh out fringe or barebones strategies that weren’t possible in the original, increasing player options. If you enjoyed the first Wargroove, everything you liked about it is likely present here, just more. New units and Super Grooves give more varied gameplay opportunities, and the new roguelite mode Conquest is far more interesting and entertaining then it has any right to be.

If you didn’t enjoy the first Wargroove or just don’t like turn-based strategy games in general, Wargroove 2 will simply not be for you. It is a great sequel that is basically Wargroove: More, so if you enjoyed the original Wargroove, Advance Wars, or turn-based strategy titles in general, you’ll have a lot to love in Wargroove 2 for a very small price, especially if the community enjoys utilizing its map making tools.

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