Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is everything I had hoped it would be. The classic gameplay of previous iterations remains, while the series’ new edgy feel will appeal to a broader audience. This title has been upgraded, not just updated. The artwork, story, amount of content, truly engaging gameplay, and a host of online features make this title an instant classic. For those few naysayers out there that distrusted the move to a more mature format, allow me to allay your fears. This game is great!
The Advance Wars series has been around since the early days of the GameBoy Advance. Preceded by Famicom Wars in Japan, (from the Famicom/Super Famicom days) the title didn’t find real success until it released for the GBA. Since its publication on the platform, the series has met tremendous success on the international handheld market because of its outstanding tactical bent that’s perfect for mobile entertainment. The latest title in the series, Days of Ruin, coalesces the vast experience of renowned developer Intelligent Systems into one cohesive and incredibly enjoyable title. This edition has all the puzzling tactical gameplay of previous versions, as well as a fresh new look that breathes new life into the waning franchise. Combine these features with the first-rate tactile human interface of the DS and poof…Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is born.
The cutesy COs and Pokemon-like simplicity of the story of the Red Star and Blue Moon days have been replaced with dark heroes and a story that focuses on a post-apocalyptic world. After a series of mega-asteroids strike the planet, over 90% of humankind has been annihilated. An impenetrable layer of clouds, dust, and fallout permeates the landscape. The food supply has been decimated, and strange diseases begin to rear their fatal heads. To make matters worse, the chaos has forced those who remain to take what they need in the name of survival. Terror rules the day with warlords and warring factions reshaping the ruined political landscape. Amid this shadowy setting emerges Brenner’s Wolves; this band of Rubinelle soldiers take up the gauntlet in order to restore humankind to some semblance of its former state. Their noble crusade will be thwarted from all sides, however, as old rivalries and new enemies attempt to destroy their existence.
As you can see, this new world is far more engaging than any of the previous titles. The base story is really interesting, although some of the conversations are still a bit hokey. However, I actually read every bit of dialogue before, during, and after battles. The same cannot be said for its predecessors. Even though the old games were all about great gameplay, it was a pure button mash to get through the mindless interactions. The vast improvement in storytelling has the effect of making the game and battles not only more interesting, but also much more satisfying and meaningful.
Some new features have been added this time around that are sure to please everyone. There are new COs and units which add even more depth of strategy and ways to go about conquering maps. Moreover, an excellent and utterly complete set of online tools and gameplay are now at your disposal. I had a chance to play a couple of games with others from the press on January 19th, and I can tell you that the challenge presented by a human opponent from across the country or on the other side of the world is awesome. Games do last quite a while, but if you have a block of time to play, I highly suggest getting matched to someone of your own ability through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
In addition to the great Wi-Fi Connection play, you can also take on your friends through a local wireless connection. Everybody has to have their own copy though; there are no freebies here. There is also an awesome map customization tool that allows you to design your own maps including terrain types, building locations, and troop placement. After making the perfect battlefield, you can then trade those maps with friends for infinite additional content. This is a real boon to re-playability. To top it all off, full voice chat is supported through the microphone and speakers or through the inexpensive DS headset attachment.
The only problem with the extensive online tools is the fact that there is no sense of community. It would have been great to be able to share maps, enable voice chat, and form up teams with gamers previously unknown to me. If you want this kind of capability, you’ll have to join a forum and exchange Friend Codes with other players outside of your immediate circle. That means it’s still possible to get full enjoyment out of the online experience, it’s just going to take some effort and forethought on your behalf. On a brighter note, parents won’t have to worry as much about who’s on the other end of the voice chat. Nintendo certainly does its best to keep things wholesome.
On the visual front, the game is very appealing. In fact, it’s the best it has ever been. The little battle sprites are as cute as ever, but the new artwork and dark, edgy world are outstanding. The sounds do leave something to be desired, but they’re not too bad. Honestly, it’s pretty standard stuff for the Advance Wars series and the Nintedo DS as a whole. There are a lot of beeps and bleeps throughout, but the battle animations have fairly realistic sound FX.
The control scheme in this title is perfect. The stylus is the best thing to ever happen to both the series and handheld, turn-based, strategy games as a whole. The speed and ease with which selections are made is phenomenal. It’s also very easy to slide the stylus around the maps, access menus, and get both friendly and enemy unit info with just a simple tap. Great control also extends to the options menu. I like the fact that you can manipulate the way in which battles are animated. The ability to switch your preferences back and forth gives you the full breadth of the experience when you have time while enabling you to speed up play by minimizing lengthy animations.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is sure to be one of the very best titles to come out this year. The series has been revitalized and the online features make gameplay even more fun. This really is a very complete title that nearly everyone will enjoy immensely. This is a game I will continue to play for months to come, and is a must-buy title for DS owners everywhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The best visuals we’ve seen for the series to date. The little sprites are as cute as ever, but the new artwork and dark, edgy world are outstanding. 5.0 Control
The stylus is the best thing to ever happen to both the series and handheld, turn-based strategy games. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Pretty standard stuff for the Advance Wars series. There are a lot of beeps and bleeps throughout, but the battle animations have fairly realistic sound FX. 4.7
Tons of content, truly engaging gameplay, and a host of online features make this title an instant classic.
4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.