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Wargroove

Wargroove

Chucklefish have come up with a new title, a little tactical game that evokes a very retro feel. Does it do a decent enough job?

Wargroove comes from our good old friends at Chucklefish, a company that has enough hands in enough cookie jars to have quite a decent foothold in indie-publishing. While they’ve cut their teeth with Starbound, most notably, they helped ConcernedApe release Stardew Valley to critical success.

While Starbound has receieved some acclaim from many players, others felt like the development pacing left much to be desired, with large swaths of gameplay drastically altered over the game’s lengthy creation. Has Chucklefish learned from this slight misstep? Wargroove certainly seems to suggest it.

Story

Wargroove, while nipping a few ideas of characters from Starbound, is a totally new setting from the previous developments of the lovable aquatic publisher. Set in a medieval fantasy locale, several factions begin duking it out for various reasons. Our main faction, the rulers of Cherrystone, are fighting a defensive war against a Vampiric race of the undead, after said faction assassinated their king. It’s up to Mercia, courageous heroine and princess of the land, and her stalwart allies Emeric (wise mentor) and Caesar (dog) to save the realm.

I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten too far into the game. It’s not due to lack of enthusiasm, however. I’ve been enjoying each of the characters, and the story has me interested enough to keep going. Unfortunately, I fear the enemies may become too sympathetic (a growing trend in the entertainment industry today), which will throw off the very retro feel. Not that it’s totally a bad thing, but sometimes it’s nice to have a full-on bad dude that doesn’t get betrayed by his suddenly-sensitive underlings.

Gameplay

I have to say, the gameplay loop is fantastic. Combining the best elements of strategy gaming history, from Advance Wars to Fire Emblem, Wargroove provides endless hours of entertainment. I love the complexity that manages to make every match feel different, while staying simple enough to not overwhelm me. I love RTS games, and this is the Emblem-style strategy game that finally got me hooked. Each unit has a specific use, with the Commanders really standing out.

When utilized in battle, Commanders begin to develop their “groove”, a special move that brings about a potentially game-changing turn of events. Mercia, for instance, can heal the units around her, while Treebeard (or whatever his name was) can grow tendrils out of the ground, hampering enemy movement.

The buildup during certain fights, however, can be a little tedious. I find it baffling that the first few moves in each scenario end up being used for simple advancement or capture of a nearby village. While it’s understandable to an extent, holding this pattern for several turns can get tiresome, especially when you’re replaying the missions for 3-starring.

That said, the biggest problem is the speed at which the game lounges about. I love the battle animations, and am loathe to turn them off, but watching every unit go through a ten second movie just to do two damage, especially in the endgame where you’ve got about ten units on either side pummelling one another. I know I could just disable the animations, but I’d much rather keep them on and skip them. They’re planning to reduce the skip timer, at least, so my biggest gripe will hopefully be remedied within the next few updates.

Graphics and Sound

I’m a sucker for retro graphics, and this whole game feels like such a nostalgia trip. The art style reminds me of the old top-down RPGs, and the music brings back fond memories of my Gameboy Advance. The animations I complained about before are honestly too good to disable, given their cute little conflicts (plus, Caesar can’t get more adorable than his combat animations). The sound effects feel visceral without being too realistic. Everything just feels steeped in 80s charm.

Summary

With so many high-profile releases planned for Q1 2019, I’m pleasantly surprised by the current lineup. I’m enjoying Wargroove a ton, and I expect a ton of wonderful content from both Chucklefish and the Communit, given the scenario creator. I hear there’s been tons of porting going on, with old titles in strategy games having entire campaigns ripped. I’m very excited to see how this’ll end up!

Chris Crawford
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