Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Day One
The biggest change is to the tone of the game. The previous title, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, was noted for its happy-go-lucky anime style and its accessibility. While this game is still easy to pick up even for strategy n00bs, its post-apocalyptic art and story certainly casts the franchise in a darker light. And yes, these games have stories. While AW: DS’ story wouldn’t win any Writers’ Guild Awards, let me conservatively say that it added something to the game. This time around, you start off with some titles and stills indicating that meteors struck the earth and trashed everything, and no plant life can survive. You then follow the naïve youth character Will, alone, scared and pursued by raiders (read: Mad Max villains). Will is rescued by the remnants of the armed forces led by a benevolent patriarch who repeats platitudes like “as long as there is life, there is hope” and our heroes set out to do good in a hopeless, charred world. Being a hopeless, charred cynic myself, I can relate to this sort of story a lot more than that of AW: DS, where a band of bubbly teenaged generals waged cartoon war against cartoonish evil. But you’ll still have to choke down a few pints of cliches, it seems.
The gameplay isn’t much changed. Like all strategy games, it’s an elaborate rock-paper-scissors match, with concerns about terrain, ranged vs. close units, territory control and unit production added to the mix. Some units have been added (bike, anti-tank, flare), and some taken away (neotank, megatank). The ‘dual strike’ aspect of the previous game, where you would choose tag teams of commanders with different strengths and power attacks, has been removed – thankfully for me anyways, who found it confusing and unnecessary. But your units can now advance in level by defeating enemy units. Again like AW: DS, the game is easy to begin with, and tutorial aspects are blended into the gameplay quite gracefully.
One oversight, so far, is that fuel isn’t a bigger challenge. It seems to function just as in the previous title, where units have limited fuel, but it’s not too hard to manage resupplying them. If you’re doing a post-apocalyptic wasteland story, isn’t fuel scarcity part of the whole deal? This would have been an easy, story-motivated way to add a new gameplay consideration.
Of course like I say I haven’t finished the game yet, so fuel’s role could change, and my overall thoughts may, too. I’ll post more as we go.