Tag Archives: Chucklefish

Wargroove brings brain-teasing tactics to consoles

Evidently, I am attracted to a very specific type of strategy game, and it is Wargroove. Which, as far as I can tell, is trying to be a modern take on the Advance Wars series, but I never got to play any of them, woe is me. In fact, the only strategy games I have any experience with are Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, among other smaller titles that I surely can’t remember at this moment. In short, I’ve never been a big fan of SRPGs or tactical games, but the genre is growing on me, especially if it is turn-based and not action-driven, like the Command & Conquer series. Give me time to think, people.

Anyways, Wargroove is a turn-based tactics video game in which players explore maps and battle foes, which is pretty typical stuff. Players can choose to take control of one of thirteen commanders, each with their own campaign, motivations, and personality, as well as special ability, referred to as a Groove. The game supports local and online multiplayer, including player versus player and cooperative play. There’s also a bunch of campaign-editing tools to allow players to create their own maps, which I promise here and now to never do though I’m not opposed to downloading some others have created. For me, it’s all about the main campaign.

Let’s dig in further. When war breaks out in the Kingdom of Cherrystone, the young Queen Mercia–who I occasionally misread as Merica–must flee her home. Pursued by her foes, which includes vampires, the only way to save her kingdom is to travel to new lands in search of allies. So far, I’ve only completing all the missions in Act 1 so…this is kind of all I really know story-wise at the moment. I’m sure things will get more dramatic later, but Wargroove does a great job with its storytelling, using in-game graphics to present bits of dialogue. I am always a fan of when a character grunts or just speaks one word from an entire sentence, and that’s how things go here, but you still get an idea about these people and what they sound like.

The first few missions do a good job of slowly easing you into Wargroove‘s groove. Your goal is generally to either defeat the opposing army’s commander or take their fortress. Capturing unallied buildings on the map or taking them from your opponent earns you money, which you can then spend on new units or health. The campaign introduces the units one after another and gives you hints as to their use, as well as how to use their respective critical hits. The first time you’re up against airborne fiends, for example, you also gain ballistas and mages, both excellent against that particular type of enemy. These missions give you time to get to know units and their strengths and weaknesses without being overbearing. Knowing what type of soldier fares best against what enemy is vitally crucial to keeping your troops standing.

So far, Wargroove’s weaknesses are a bit of a bummer and do detract from its general goodness. These include its occasional spike of crushing difficulty and tendency to drag on, turn after turn after turn. Positioning characters in the right spots for attacks and critical hits is already difficult enough, but Wargroove’s maps are relatively large, which means you can spend round after round simply traveling to meet the enemy or setting up your troops in the most optimal location possible. Maps often have chokepoints, such as bridges, that can be difficult to circumvent, quickly leading to your soldiers literally lining up to meet their maker. Flanking enemies is really important, as your damage to rival troops goes up greatly, but generating an army large enough to do so takes time, even if you load a bunch of them into wagons.

That all said, I am enjoying Wargroove and am excited to hop back into it after taking a bit of break once I got through Act 1’s missions. Seems like a big patch just hit for the game too, with many things being updated, such as adding mid-mission checkpoints and such. That’s cool. If it can make some of the more difficult missions easier and forgiving, I’m all for it, because it stinks to waste thirty minutes doing battle only to have your commander get wiped somewhat unfairly.

Lastly, I’m just going to leave this here, because it is all anyone needs to see to know that Wargroove is super special:

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Stardew Valley is undoubtedly a more fun Harvest Moon

stardew valley screenshot 02

I don’t have the longest or most memory-filled history with the Harvest Moon series, only entering the franchise a few years back with titles like Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon and Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar. I wasn’t very impressed, though I wished to be. On paper, these sound fantastic and easy to lose hours of time to, but they both began so slow and challenging that they turned into non-starters. I even came back to the well for a third time with Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, but that didn’t last long as I quickly realized making progress was still going to be a painstakingly lengthy task. Sure, you could make the comparison to real life, that managing and seeing an actual farm profit is no cake walk, but I’m not interested in a one-to-one simulator. It really shouldn’t take months to acquire a single cow, and then more months for the cow to like me enough to provide milk.

Still, being a massive fan of Animal Crossing and a few farming simulators that will remain nameless, I continued to scan the gaming horizon almost daily for something of this farming/dating sim ilk that will satisfy my curiosity. Which brings us to Stardew Valley, the talk of the Internet town over the last week. Amazingly, it’s developed by one person, Eric Barone under the handle ConcernedApe, and published by Chucklefish, and is receiving a lot of praise and press. I asked Greg Noe to sell me on the game as I know he’s a big fan of Harvest Moon, and he straight up gifted me a copy. Bless you, Internet neighbor. But if your farm is to be a raging success, you can’t give away the goods all time.

The story is one we’ve heard before: you’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot in the titular Stardew Valley. After slumming around in a corporate workspace and feeling a severe disconnect with the world, you grab a few essential tools, a handful of coins, and make your way to the farm, which I named Perdido Farm after China Miéville‘s New Weird novel just because, to begin your new life. However, it’s not going to be easy, especially under the shadow of the Joja Corporation. Plus, a large part of the nearby Pelican Town is in disrepair, so not only do you have to make this plot of land of yours a success, but also rebuild the town from the ground up.

Graphically, it’s pixel art, but it’s sweet, delicious pixel art. Really colorful and fun, and more detailed than you might assume, especially once you get inside some of the shops and homes. It’s a sharper SNES title, with a slicker interface. I got to make my avatar in my own likeness (see above), and the menus are easy to navigate through. Call me silly and maybe this has more to do with me playing a lot of open-world games as of late, but I wish there was a way to mark a location on the map and follow directions to it. Like I said, silly.

Well, I’ve put about two hours in Stardew Valley so far, which is equivalent to five or six days in-game, and I can safely say that this gets things going much faster than other Harvest Moon titles. Again, there’s a lot one can do during the day, and a part of me wishes time moved slower or the character had a faster walking speed, because it can take a decent chunk of his day simply going from place to place. You’ll want to clean up debris on your farm, plant crops, sell materials, meet people, take on quests, and so on. When I say there’s a lot to do, there’s a lot to do, and I don’t have the space here to list everything out.

Instead, I’ll focus on a couple of big aspects. First, I really like the there’s a quest log. That might seem like a small detail or even just the norm these days, but previous Harvest Moon games didn’t have it, which often lead to me not knowing what to do next or give me a goal to focus on while waiting for those parsnips to grow. Items and tools and everything else contain detailed information, which is handy, and the map is intimidatingly large. I’ve not yet met all the citizens of Pelican Town–how do you greet the wizard?–so I’m not ready to pick a potential love interest or discuss how the dating sim elements work. Lastly, the idea of rebuilding this town and doing side quests from the bullet board by Pierre’s shop is hitting the nail on two different heads: my fondness for quest boards, as well as watching castle headquarters grow in Suikoden and Suikoden II.

I don’t understand the fishing minigame. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I understand the mechanics behind it, but I don’t understand it as a whole. It seems both challenging and random, and at the same time I’m not desiring an easy button press like in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and everyone should already know my feelings on really bad fishing minigames. I just worry that fishing can be too much of a risk or time waster despite obviously containing some great rewards.

Anyway, I’m eager to get back to Stardew Valley tonight and continue making progress, especially with those parsnips. It’s definitely one of those “one more day” kind of games, where one more day actually results in you playing for several more hours. If you don’t hear from me after a bit, check the farm.