‘Wargroove’ Is The Most Wholesome War Game Ever, Thanks To The Dogs
Wargroove is a turn-based tactical video game filled with positivity, optimism, friendship and dogs. It’s only February, but it’s already a contender for most wholesome game of the year.
Released February 1, Wargroove is what you’d get if you put Advance Wars in a high fantasy setting and added dogs. Taking turns to move military units around a map, your goal in most scenarios is to either kill your opponent’s commander or destroy their stronghold.
It’s a fun, strategic game filled with charming pixel art and very good boys. However, at first glance, you wouldn’t expect the simple plot of Wargroove’s campaign to hold such a sweet centre.
Following the king’s assassination, newly crowned Queen Mercia is driven from Cherrystone Kingdom by an invasion by the undead Felheim Legion. Accompanied by Royal Mage Emeric and Royal Dog Caesar, she journeys across the continent of Aurania in search of aid, fending off attacks from the Floran Tribes’ plant-people and the Japanese-inspired Heavensong Empire.
It’s a tale of international warfare and political refugees, yet it’s all depicted with a childlike sense of play. While technically you are commanding military units in a war, it feels more like a fun battle between playground cubby houses.
Defeated Battlepups run away instead of die. Soldiers take orders from a dog. In one instance a defeated commander literally throws herself face-down on the ground and sulks like a petulant child.
Few of the characters would feel out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon, or invoking the power of friendship. Indeed, many opposing commanders are reasonable, friendly characters who only attack due to some misunderstanding, quickly becoming controllable allies once the dust settles.
There’s a sense that nothing is too terrible or irreversible, and everything will work out if you just keep going. If you lose, it’s just a matter of picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and trying again.
Almost all military units have an equivalent across each nation that bears the same attributes. For example, the Cherrystone Swordsman, Felheim Dreadsword, Floran Slasher and Heavensong Lionblade are functionally identical, just with alternate appearances. Though the resultant armies lack variety, they’re simple and balanced.
This homogeneity also means that, like chess, victory in Wargroove demands careful strategising and thoughtful positioning of your units. The campaign quickly escalates in difficulty – not so much that it’s unreasonable, but enough that you’ll have to carefully consider who you move where, and what units to invest your gold in.
The significant exception to the nations’ symmetry is the commanders. The most powerful units on the map, each commander has a different special ability called a “Groove”. Grooves charge up as the commander deals and takes damage, and can turn the tide of battle if deployed at the right time.
I definitely prefer some Grooves over others. Greenfinger’s ability to grow impassible vines underwhelmed me, while I gleefully used Nuru’s Teleport Beam to drop surprise Trebuchets on the front line. Even so, the variation between commanders doesn’t feel unfair, as the battle largely rests on how you use the rest of your forces.
Wargroove feels great to play, clean and simple yet at the same time challenging, and vindicating when you finally defeat your opponent.
But it isn’t all sunbeams and skipping ropes. It can get tiring having to restart a battle from the beginning after one small misplay brings everything tumbling down. I would also have liked some way to show the multiple units’ ranges at once, so I didn’t have to keep checking each one when trying to thread the danger needle.
Fortunately, developer Chucklefish seems open to players’ feedback, and has already indicated it will be making some improvements to Wargroove in an upcoming update. Significantly, this includes making it easier to determine which type of enemy your units are strong or vulnerable against, as the icons intended to convey this information are currently difficult to make out.
We're hard at work developing the next update for Wargroove! ⚔️
Thanks to everyone who has shared feedback and suggestions — we've been listening!!
Here's a quick preview of an upcoming change… pic.twitter.com/JWOc2804Xy
— ⚔️ Wargroove (OUT NOW!) (@WargrooveGame) February 6, 2019
Wargroove‘s campaign already has enough to keep you entertained, but there’s a bunch more packed into the game beyond that. Local and online multiplayer lets you play against friends. An arcade mode provides some quick action. A puzzle mode challenges you to win a scenario in one turn, akin to a chess puzzle.
And when you’ve exhausted all that, Wargroove‘s community is already making eager use of the game’s robust map editor, which allows you to make and share maps, cutscenes and whole campaigns.
There’s a ton of fun to be had here, made all the more attractive by some incredibly cute pixel art and a positive atmosphere. We may still be in February, but there’s a good chance Wargroove will make it on a few best-of lists at the end of the year.
Wargroove is $30 on PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. It will be arriving on PlayStation 4 at a later date.