Video Game Reviews

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Advance Wars: Days of Ruin / Dark Conflict

Nintendo DS

Summary:

For many years Earth has been in conflict, with the world split between two sides fighting each other in what is a long and arduous war... suddenly one day Earth is hit by a shower of meteors which devastate the planet, wiping out the majority of the earth's population and leaving the planet in darkness from the dust and smoke which fills the skies... as survivors of the disaster, a small battalion manages to group together under the command of one man who aims to try to help protect any survivors of the disaster in what has become a dangerous desolate environment where renegade soldiers terrorise them day in day out... but as they continue their mission to find more survivors and supplies to keep them alive, they find themselves being pulled more and more into a battle far more complex than they could ever have imagined...

This is a turn-based strategy game where in each mission you take control of a CO (Commanding Officer) and have to defeat your enemy by deploying and commanding troops of varying types and abilities to either destroy all of their troops or capture their headquarters in order to progress to the next mission. In the earlier levels the troops are pre-deployed, leaving you in a fairly simple scenario where you are able to learn how to use your troops most effectively, and as the game progresses the challenge gradually increases, requiring you to make more decisions on your own in more difficult scenarios. Each CO has special abilities which can be used to give you an edge over your opponent, but requiring some strategic planning in order to be used at the right time to really make a difference in battle.

There are several side missions which you can also complete during the campaign in order to practice your skills, as well as over 100 multiplayer maps for you to practice on against either AI opponents or by playing friends using the wireless link or Wi-Fi connectivity online.

Pros:

- The gameplay remains true to the earlier versions of the game, which is definitely a good thing

- The graphics are less cartoony though with a more ‘gritty’ feel, personally I like it (although some fans of the series might disagree with this)

- The earlier missions and on-screen information charts make working out how to use your troops a lot easier and at least allows gamers new to the series a chance to work out the basics fairly quickly before the missions start to get tough

- The additional trial missions in the campaign mode give it some diversity and are optional, so if you're struggling with them at least you don't have to complete them to get to the end of campaign mode

- You can choose to replay earlier missions in campaign mode to improve your scores and get a higher ranking, which wasn't possible in earlier games in the series

- The option which allows you to zoom out to see more of the map is very useful when trying to work out your next move

- The supply units can now be used to build temporary ports/airports wherever you decide to place them, which helps greatly when trying to refuel/supply troops

- The range of troops available compared to earlier versions of the game feels much more balanced and varied in terms of the types available and how effective they are when attacking enemy troops

- Transporting troops around the maps is easier compared to earlier versions of the game as there are now more options as to which boats and aircraft can do this

- The option to allow you to produce artillery who can travel further each day by riding bikes (for an increased production cost per unit) balances things out and helps when trying to navigate larger maps

- There's plenty of versus maps to keep you and your friends busy (you can also unlock new maps in versus mode by unlocking them in the campaign mode first)

- There's also a design option allowing you to make new maps too

- Wi-fi connectivity allows you to battle online and send/receive any maps made using the design option

- There's plenty of COs to unlock as you progress through the campaign mode, which are good when you want some diversity in versus mode

- You can now change CO colours from the start, which compared to "Dual Strike" where you had to earn points to buy the option to do this for each CO individually makes a lot more sense

Cons:

- The CO powers now require you to deploy your CO to one of your troops on the map, with the effects of their powers being limited to a certain area around them, which if you're used to the older concept of those powers being applied over the entire map this may feel a little weird and limited in comparison... (Although at the same time it does make things more challenging and strategic in terms of how you can use those abilities effectively in battle...)

- If you liked the option in "Dual Strike" where you could level up your COs to allow them to use additional stat boosters you might be a little disappointed to know that this option has been removed

- If you liked how in earlier versions of the game where you could earn points to buy new maps and COs, you might be a little disappointed to know that this option has also been removed

- It will take you AGES to get all of the medals, also when some of them require you to do things badly or lose you may start to wonder why you're bothering

- Playing the battle animations every time you attack will probably bore you after a while, so it's a good thing that you can disable these animation sequences at any time

- You can control everything on the map with the DS stylus, but compared to using the D-pad and buttons to do things this can be a little tedious and inaccurate at times, especially if you've been playing these games for a while and want to issue commands to your troops quickly

Similar Games:

- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Gameboy Advance)

- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (Nintendo Wii)

- Advance Wars: Black Hole Rising (Gameboy Advance)

- Advance Wars: Dual Strike (Nintendo DS)

Overall:

For anyone who's played the older games in the series, this will feel like more of the same, but the neat touches and refinements they've added build on those earlier versions of the game, leaving us with a game which is even more enjoyable, challenging and diverse than ever, to the point that this could be rated as one of the best turn-based strategy games out there at the moment!

If you've never played Advance Wars before, this would be a good place to start... as for those of you who have already played previous versions of the game, you shouldn't be disappointed by this installment, especially given that now you can finally battle your friends online! ;)

Final Score: 9/10

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