It's a difficult thing to create a compelling turn-based tactics game, but developer and publisher Chucklefish have managed to produce a near-perfect one in their latest Wargroove. Taking more than a few cues from Nintendo's highly popular Advance Wars series, Wargroove includes many genre-defining mechanics from a typical tactics game, but perfects and adds to them in ways that feel fresh and satisfying. There's never any aspect of the game that feels half-finished or phoned in; Chucklefish poured every ounce of love and care into its development and the final product is a testament to that.
Wargroove features three distinct single-player game modes: campaign, puzzle, and arcade. Campaign is where players will find the bulk of the content available, with strategic missions that require a good deal of tactical thinking and smart placement of units. Some of these battles will come down to the wire but there's never a dull moment. Players will feel rewarded for defeating smart A.I. enemies, especially at higher difficulty levels where the real challenge awaits. It helps that the story is actually fairly emotionally intriguing, centering on Mercia, a new and young queen who ascends to the throne after the assassination of her father. It's nothing truly original, but each character is bristling with personality.
Puzzle mode is a little more intense than either of the other two single-player options, setting the player in the midst of a battle and having them achieve certain goals. Perhaps even more-so than the campaign, you'll have to really use your brain here as there's only one turn given to achieve everything needed to win the mission. Unlike the rest of the game, it's probably the mode least suited to the more casual player but it works because, despite its highly tactical nature, casual players should be able to pick up on the rest of the game with no issue. This is helped immensely by the campaign's in-depth tutorial mode.
Arcade is perhaps the most accessible mode of Wargroove, allowing players to choose different commanders and go through a series of missions. Unlike the campaign, arcade missions are short and sweet comparatively so it's the perfect mode for someone who just wants to have a quick little mini-campaign to show the game to friends. There are several of these skirmishes too, with different layouts and maps so nothing ever really feels repetitive even after multiple playthroughs.
There are several units to be used in Wargroove, ranging from standard soldier types to knights on horseback. These units are grouped together but as their health decreases as a unit, single soldiers in the group will die. It's a fairly straightforward system, but one with a little bit of a learning curve as well. Certain units are weaker against other units (knights, for instance, are weak against spear men) and players will want to familiarize and memorize what type of unit will work better at a certain point in the game. This is further complicated by different terrains that will affect soldiers differently. Forested areas will provide an extra layer of defense, while watery areas will lower defenses. It can seem overwhelming at first, but eventually you'll be thinking so tactically that it's not even much of a bother.
While it's true that the turn-based tactics and three main portions of the single-player experience will likely be where the majority of players find initial excitement in Wargroove, there's one feature that will more than likely keep the game relevant for months or years to come: custom maps. Not only will players be able to create their own campaign and multiplayer maps, they can share them to everyone else playing the game. Thanks to Wargroove's inclusion of cross-platform multiplayer, these maps will be shared with players outside of your own system as well (though not PlayStation 4 when the game eventually releases for that system). The custom map creator is a deep but easy to use tool that will prove to be the main attraction for players once the main campaign has been beaten and arcade and puzzle no longer captivate.
This custom map function will also help multiplayer stay fresh longer in Wargroove. The game launches with both online and local PvP modes and it's an exciting experience. What really sets it apart from other games in the genre, though, is the ability to complete a turn and then leave without ending that specific match. You can always come back later and take your next turn. This opens up all kinds of possibilities like multiple matches at once or just time to think of effective strategy for later outside the game. It continues Wargroove's endless goal to be accessible and fun.
Wargroove is a modern masterpiece in the turn-based tactics genre. It's a game that will have players coming back to it long after the story campaign is done just to see what secrets were missed or what new, complicated maps other players have crafted. Its beautiful pixelated graphics will help with this too, giving the game a sweet nostalgic feel for anyone still longing for the gaming days of old. This may be only Chucklefish's second developed game (they've published quite a few others, like the enduringly popular Stardew Valley) but the level of detail, balance and ingenuity involved signifies a company that will be a power player in the gaming industry for years to come. If their future games are anything like Wargroove, that's a good thing indeed.
Wargroove is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One for $19.99. It will release for the PlayStation 4 at a later, unspecified date. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.