With a name like Advance Wars, one is likely to expect an action packed, heart pounding war game. Needless to say, the Advance Wars series is really none of those things. Rather, the franchise has focused on slower paced turn-oriented strategy gameplay that is not unlike a glorified game of chess. So what is the appeal? Would it be better to just pick up a checkerboard instead?
To be sure, this series is not about blood-pumping intensity, but it is perhaps one of the greatest experiences you can have in a video game. Most war games center around aiming and shooting, but this series sets itself apart by taking the emphasis off the trigger and providing a battle of wits. Brute strength won't win this war, it’s all about the tactics, and Days of Ruin provides more than enough tactical opportunity for even heavily seasoned strategists.
As mentioned above, the game has a distinct similarity to a game of chess. Well consider the strategy involved with that pastime, and multiply it one hundred times. Days of Ruin not only provides you with a large quantity of units to use (which vastly outnumber chess pieces, mind you), it also adds in elements such as weather and environment. But do not become overwhelmed, the game's single-player campaign has a great learning curve, which introduces all of the elements of the gameplay.
It doesn’t take long for the difficulty level to rise though, if not in the single player options then it almost certainly will against live human opponents. One of the major additions to Days of Ruin is a vast online mode, and if you plan on coming out on top, it’s going to take more than a little practice. In addition to this mode, the game also features a story campaign, a 'free play' mode for one or more players using a single DS, a multi-card option that plays similarly to online matches, a custom map editor with online features, and more. All of which round this title into a very nice package, and will keep you playing for a long time to come.
In a game of chess you’d never move a piece without thinking it through, and that is one of the major fundamentals of Advance Wars. Battles play out turn-based style, with each of your turns letting you move all of your units once. After you’ve finished, the enemy will do the same. When you get within range and command an attack, the game will go into an automated battle. This may seem at first to remove skill from the equation. Yet in reality it will quickly become clear that there are ways to ensure your victory, even without direct control. First off, the game has a 'rock paper scissors' formula (albeit much more complicated) that will make you think before throwing one unit at another. Secondly, unit health will have to be kept in mind, as it not only determines defensive strength, but also offensive strength. There are many more factors in addition to these that will need to be considered of course, insuring that victory will not be an easy matter.
In addition to conquering the enemy, you will have to take over the landscape. Placed throughout most maps are a variety of structures, the most common being cities and factories. By using your infantry, mech, or bike units you can move in and capture these areas. Doing so is absolutely crucial to winning, as factories produce more units, and cities bring in extra funds each turn. Being mindful of your turf also provides defense advantages. For instance, fighting from a forest will give your unit extra cover in battle. Obviously, you will have to be thinking very clearly if you wish to use such advantages, as the enemy is ever present.
One of the more convenient features of this game is that it can be played using either buttons or the touch screen. You can switch back and forth without changing any options, so feel free to use whichever suits you at a moments notice. The button control is ultimately more accurate, and as a result is the better choice. Still, it’s convenient to have more than one option, and some may prefer to command their army with the stylus.
In terms of audio the game delivers nicely; the sound quality is excellent, and music sets an epic tone for the experience. The rock style tracks are a bit of a departure from the music of the previous games, but it suits the subject material well. The game also takes a bold new direction with its graphical presentation; to coincide with the darker storyline, Days of Ruin features a grittier look than past Advance Wars titles, which have always been a little on the 'light hearted' side. Although the darker mood suits the on-screen carnage better, this aspect will likely hit longtime fans hard. Still, the game looks nice enough, although the battle animations sacrifice detail on the small DS screens when aiming for a more realistic design.
When all is said and done Advance Wars Days of Ruin is one of the best games available on the DS - it really is as simple as that. The system lends itself well to strategy titles, and Intelligent Systems has cut no corners while supporting that fact. Some may find the change in style unnerving, but additions like online play make the change more than worth bearing, and in all honesty the more sombre tone makes the message of the game - that war can destroy lives - a little easier to stomach. It’s also a difficult game, but the gratification you get when a battle is finally won after possibly hours of relentless toil is priceless. We really can't recommend this title enough.
Great review Brody. I agree, this game is a dandy!
I'm getting this game sooner or later, thanks for the review it helped seal the deal!
Fantastic review! Will be getting this one soon. I love the fact that they've made it look darker; I've always thought the cutesy look of Advance Wars brought it down a few notches.
Hmm this review is making me buy this game when I pick up my DSi, this and Rhythm Heaven will be my purchases on Sunday! I really loved Advance Wars Dual Strike so I hope this is just as good or better!
I got the game last year around the time of its release. Very fun and addictive just as any Advance Wars game.
I am a huge fan of the advance wars series (not battalion wars though) and this game really is the best so far. The tone actually helps the story to be interesting and involving and the range of new vehicles really compliment the game nicely. I havent bought a new ds game since... theres no point. I have AW:DoR in my DS slot and Street Fighter Alpha 3 in my GBA slot. Heaven.
I really shouldn't have started with this one. It was good, and I liked it a lot, but it never actually taught me how to play, and I got my ass kicked a lot, so I stopped playing only a few missions in. Then I played the GBA entry, and I find that I like it a lot more. It's easier, it actually teached me how to play the G-ddamn game, and it's a lot more charming too - I'd take a colorful, light-hearted story over a dark and gritty one any day. I also like the look of this game. The dark and gritty look is just boring, and I prefer the brighter colors in the GBA game.
All in all, I really regret getting this game. It does nothing to cater to new fans of the series, and it doesn't really have the charm that the other games in the series have.
I just picked this game up for $10 in the clearance bin at Toys R Us. Can't wait to try it out, love strategy games, currently playing FE: Path of Radiance for GCN which is right in the same area and enjoy that a lot.
@Mickeymac, I like this dark gritty look, but to each his own.
Honestly, I've tried a bunch of other games in this series, and I find this to be the worst in the series. Yeah, the gameplay is still good, but without the abundant amount of charm from the previous entries in the series, it just isn't nearly as fun.
I also find this the worst in the series, the game play is good, but the generic plot is what i don't like. I actually prefer the fire emblem series to the advance wars series.
I presently own both the DS versions of Advance Wars Dual Strike & Days of Ruin,, they both have their merits, as well as both the GB Micro Versions; AW 1 & AW Black Hole and is very difficult to say which ones better but between these games and Fire Emblem:Dragon Sword (same game style) I'd be hard pressed to say which ONE is ultimate, as those are my 5 favorite games in ALL HAND-HELD gaming. plus the 2 GB versions of Fire Emblem... 7 greatest games in all, of all times.
Just picked this game for free as part of a buy 2 get 1 game free deal at Gamestop and after reading your review I cant wait to play this one. This is my first Advanced Wars title so I guess imma have trouble getting the hang of this one. Im not a true fan of the genre but after beating Starship defense and having a blast doing so I was looking for a good and hard strategy game to try. All of the other strategy games in the DSiware shop seemed a little over priced or not that good. For free, would can argue with that price!?
Btw, Good review.
I have played this game annnnd, it's okay at best,I've played the original on the GBA and it's AWESOME, but this one just isn't very fun ):
It looks like a really amazing game, I will probably get it!
I love the new art style, it's much better for a game like this.
I enjoyed this game a lot. It even reminded me of Starcraft 1 at times.
Alas, the enjoyment abruptly came to an end when I got to the last mission.
That's when the frustration began.
I'll never forgive Intelligent Systems for what they did with this game's last boss. True to his name, Stolos (Hellenic for "fleet") is practically unbeatable, unless you make strictly specific moves which require hours of OCD trial and error.
This game is the only one that's made me want to throw my DS across the room, because of that last boss. I never saw the game's ending and still bear a grudge against Intelligent Systems for that.
@Nintendawg: I felt your frustration. Caulder was nearly unbeatable. I sadly had to resort to a walkthrough just to beat him so I could unlock him to use in free play. This is by far my favorite DS game ever made. That's saying a lot seeing that I own over 400 titles. This game deserves a 10 out of 10.
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