Posted on February 5, 2008,

Gaming Today Impressions of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

aw-box.jpgAdvance Wars: Days of Ruin
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Price: $29.99
Platform: Nintendo DS
Category: Strategy
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older (Language, Mild Violence)
Release Date: January 22, 2008

I’ve been a huge fan of Advance Wars ever since the first release on Game Boy Advance back in 2001. While I’m generally not a big strategy game enthusiast (especially when it comes to turn-based games, which Advance Wars is), something about the simplistic and easily accessible formula was able to drag me in and keep me hooked. The two subsequent releases, Black Hole Rising and Dual Strike – while certainly not bad – lacked much substance. New units, a new campaign, a new mode… they felt more like what you would see in an expansion pack than a full-fledged sequel.

Days of Ruin is looking to change that, as well as the series’ cutesy image. The first three games’ characters and story have been dumped in favor of a much darker and grittier feel, which only makes sense given that this is a war game, after all. While the in-game style of graphics hasn’t really been impacted by this, the story segments have a much darker vibe to them. (Although they also have a strange, cheesy comedic vibe to them as well.) It’s definitely a change that is much welcomed, as are many others.

aw-1.jpgIt’s been some time since I’ve actually picked up an Advance Wars game, but the game’s campaign does an excellent job of slowly easing you into the action. Whether you’re new to the series or a returning vet that needs a refresher, you’ll find that the early missions do a fine job of not overwhelming you. Hardcore players might be a tad annoyed that what essentially amount to tutorials can’t be skipped, but they should be able to burn through them fairly quickly.

The extra layers of depth that you expect from a new Advance Wars are all here. You’ve got new units in the War Tank (the heaviest ground unit), Flare (can reveal areas clouded by Fog of War), and Anti-Tank (.. piece it together). You’ve got the ability to “level up” your units as they destroy enemy units, allowing them to get a slight advantage in battle. New terrain will hamper your movement or provide you with cover. There’s certainly plenty of new content in this regard, so if all you’re looking for in a new Advance Wars is more content, you’ll be plenty happy.

Other, more minor changes, such as the ability to send your CO out in a unit (which subsequently gives nearby friendlies a slight boost) and CO Powers have been nerfed so that they no longer drastically change the outcome of games, and instead act as a support ability (just as they should). This leads to a much more balanced and deep game as you incorporate new units and other factor into your strategy as you wage battle.

aw-2.jpgBut of course, the biggest addition is the only play, and it does not disappoint. First, the more menial things: you can both share and download custom maps made by others. So if there are somehow not enough maps shipped with the game, you’ll be able to download new maps from the AW community quite easily. Also an exciting addition is voice chat for multiplayer, although I didn’t actually encounter anyone using it while playing online.

As for the actual online play itself: it’s terrific. This is undoubtedly the best online game available for DS; it’s feature-rich, isn’t riddled with ridiculous layers of child protection that allow you only to communicate through a series of flashing colors (that actually seems ideal compared with what a lot of Wii/DS games offer) and thanks to being so well balanced, plays well every game.

When you combine online play with the stark new story direction, new content and tweaks to the gameplay, Days of Ruin definitely doesn’t have that expansion pack feel to it. While the fundamentals haven’t really been changed since the first game, I’d argue that’s a good thing – with the extra layers of polish, the game plays as well as you could possibly hope.

The official 1UP Network review of the game can be found here.

Also, do you like Super Scribblenauts? Be sure to check out the FileFront game review.

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