When Wargroove crossed my proverbial desk, I was a little on the fence, in fact, I still am. Not just because of its complexity, but because of its infuriating difficulty too. Believe me, Wargroove is a tough game at even the simplest of times. That said, there’s a lot to like here, and indeed it manages to succeed through its depth and its fluid handling alone, but not quite enough to stand as tall as its peers. Now, if you’re like me and you’ve seemingly been hiding under a rock, unaware that this game even existed, allow me to set the stage.
When war breaks out in the kingdom of Cherrystone, and all things look lost, it’s up to Mercia, the recently crowned Queen, to try and set things straight. Valder, the game’s big bad, wields a magical and powerful gauntlet. Using a mixture of this, his intelligence, and his cunning, Valder is a force not to be taken lightly. Through the capability of being able to raise the dead, Valder chases Mercia from her home, leaving with Emeric and Caesar, her two faithful sidekicks. Now, Mercia must visit new locations in the hopes of finding allies.
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you again, this game is brutally unforgiving. By that I mean that if you so much as make one wrong move, you’re done for. Wargroove is a turn-based affair, so in part, it requires a lot of forward thinking. This certainly isn’t a game in which you can smash your way through your opponents, that much goes without saying. There’s a number of modes to take to; campaign mode, puzzle mode, arcade mode, and online and local multiplayer for up to four players. There’s even a map creator for skirmishes and missions.
Safe to say, there’s plenty of depth to enjoy here, and just as much variety. The campaign is mission-based, on which each mission will reward you with up to three stars in total. Now, as far as I could tell, these stars offer little more than an achievement, and some bragging rights – because, we all love that, right? The game does a good job at feeding you into the basics of play via a collection of missions that serve as tutorials. Here, you’ll learn the ropes; controls, different methodologies, what does what, and so forth. It’s a fairly warm welcome.
Once the story starts proper, you’ll follow Queen Mercia and her comrades as you meet a wide cast of fun, colorful characters, which in turn, opens up the story in ways that you wont always foresee. There’s quite a bit of depth to your allies, being that they all have their own backstories, made apparent by the codex – a place where you can find character grimoires and such. Here, you’ll even get background intel on troops, and suss out how to perform their critical hits. It’s a very straightforward system, I’ll give Wargroove that much.
Mission objectives tend to rely on two things; either kill the leader, or destroy their main base. Certain missions in the campaign will have other objectives popping up, but for the most part, it consists of the above. The gameplay itself, as well as its handling, is very to-the-point. This is pretty much to be expected when we consider that it’s a turn-based game. You’ll start out with a small amount of troops; swordsmen, pike-men, and even dog troops. During combat, you are afforded the ability to command each character in your team.
Here, you can move every member of your team a different amount of spaces, with distance and attack range measured by class and capability. Heaps of different and subsequent troops cover ground, air, and sea, and to unlock these, you’ll need to earn coins. Once again, this is fairly easy to understand. Moving a member of your team into an unoccupied building, or indeed, taking a building from your opposition, will earn you coins, to which you can then spend on more troops. Naturally, there’s a balance to this mechanic.
For instance, a swordsman will cost you just one hundred gold, but if you’re seeking a heavier, more robust troop, it’s going to set you back over one thousand gold. The general rule of thumb? Spend (and save) your gold wisely. There’s different types of troop buildings, and as alluded to above, you’ll need to capture them before you can use them. Further to that, you can only recruit one trooper from each building per-round. When you’re not buying troops, you’ll be moving around the map trying to keep as many of your troops alive.
Running alongside this, your enemy will be doing the same, making for a very tense affair of cat and mouse. The aim of the game is to grow out and cover ground as you work to getting to your enemy commander or their main base. Troops come with unique pros and cons that make them effective, or indeed ineffective, against varying enemies. You’ll need to intelligently place your troops carefully, with their traits in mind, to maximize your chances of success. There’s a lot of fun to be had as you experiment with your small army’s abilities.
Each type is better at one thing, and worse at another. Though, the game does indeed give you a firm insight as to what’s what, regularly. Nevertheless, your commander is your key player. These can provide you with some very beneficial extras, but should they bite the dust, you’re done for. More depth is found by allying with villages, which are littered throughout each battlefield. Do this, and you’ll earn more gold to capitalize on your success. Wargroove, if anything, is a game that simply gives you the tools and puts you on your way.
How you overcome each fight is down to you, but due to the sheer amount of options at both your and your enemy’s disposal, no two fights are ever typically the same. It’s just a damn shame it’s so hard. When you’re done with the campaign, the game still has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, the online mode was disappointing. It seemed as though I found myself sat in a lobby half the time, waiting for someone to turn up. The local multiplayer is fun, but not quite as fun as playing over the net with someone who cant see your tactics as easily.
Outside of that, you can create some maps for both skirmishes, and a mini-campaign map. Now, I’m not dimmest bulb in the packet, but even so, it would have been nice to have had a tutorial present for this segment of play. Instead, I had to work it all out by myself. Nonetheless, here you’re given the basics; two characters, and two bases. Once that’s done, you’re free to alter the size and shape of the map, and then add in all sorts of extras and additions. The map takes place on a grid-like format, making it easier to edit things overall.
There’s a handy tab section too, allowing you to move through the designs at your own pace, giving you all the tools you need to create the map of your dreams. Everything you need is present and accounted for; from settings the rules, right up to what soundtrack plays out. When you’re done, you can upload the map, however, you will need to test it before you’re free to show it off to the world. That does of course mean that you can download maps that have been created by the community, adding in even more length.
Some more accessibility would have done the game some justice on this front. When you’re done there, there’s still more to be had. Arcade mode is quite like a tower mode, in which you’ll select your difficulty (easy, normal, and hard) and will need to work through five battles to win. However, even on the easiest setting, this is freakishly tough. Bear with it though, and you’ll be rewarded with some neat goodies for your time. Then, there’s puzzle mode, which tasks you with overcoming some very, very specific battle requirements.
Overall, despite its fluid play, this isn’t a walk in the part. It has some very deep gameplay, mixed with some harsh challenges. Those that relish this sort of tough affair will no doubt be in their element, but for me, it proved to lean a little too firmly on outlandish difficulties. One area in which Wargroove excels, however, is with its sound and visual design. The game sports a SNES-like retro vibe, with varying, colorful and distinct presentation, running through it at every turn. Equally, the endearing soundtrack ties it all together nicely.
Wargroove certainly packs an impressive portion of diverse content, but its harsh difficulty, together with its complexity, has a tendency of muddying the water. Nevertheless, if you can overlook Wargroove’s taxing challenge and bear with it long enough to understand its varied functionality, there’s a lot to like about it, especially if you’re a fan of strategy games.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.