Wargroove 2 review Chucklefish Robotality

Review: Wargroove 2 Paints Outside the Grid Lines

The original Wargroove had a lot of things going for it. Great pixel art! Robust creation systems! A return to a classic strategy formula that’d been gone for too long! For some, though, there was just one nagging problem: it wasn’t enough like Advance Wars. After years of missing that feel, the game occasionally trying to do its own thing got in the way.

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But now? Things may be different. The recently-released Re-Boot Camp brought back Advance Wars exactly as you remember it. Perhaps to a fault, too? It simply didn’t try to do anything new, even a little bit. So as a genre-expanding release rather than its sole standard-bearer, Wargroove 2 hits a bit differently.

wargroove 2 review

The mechanical variety in the Wargroove games is built around its commanders, so of course we see some new ones in the sequel. There’s a new faction of animal-folk, the Faahri, and the early campaigns teach you about what they do. They’re sort of weird? Which is fine for returning players, but if you missed the first Wargroove you may need to adjust a bit to them.

There are also some strange new units! There’s a unit that flies but lands, giving it maneuverability while leaving it vulnerable to ground attacks and making it reliant on finding an open ground square in range. There’s a frog that can pull units with its tongue, giving the game a reposition function for new formation strategies. You’ll also encounter “mini-commanders” in single-player modes, with gimmicky pseudo-COs adding to the variety. These seem to suggest possibilities for custom map creators, as a normal unit with special equipment can be an interesting foe.

chucklefish robotality playtest commander select screen

Wargroove 2 also integrates from the start the additions in the first game’s expansion, Double Trouble. The commanders are just in the world (having found some new pirate allies), and you’ll occasionally have access to rifles and thieves on maps. In many ways, that DLC now feels like Wargroove 2 Prologue, with a similar tone and tendency toward the weird.

If the first game was a take on Advance Wars, the sequel fittingly takes inspiration from Advance Wars 2 with its “tier-2 groove” system. These are, put plainly, the Super CO Powers from Black Hole Rising, with enhanced effects in exchange for waiting for a second meter to charge. We won’t say these are particularly balanced; some COs are obviously better off waiting for the charge and others definitely shouldn’t. But given how the game works, you may situationally end up using the other if the timing works that way.

What doesn’t feel like Advance Wars is Wargroove 2’s robust online system. In our tests, this worked just as well as the original’s, offering almost all the options you want and using the game’s turn-based nature to its advantage to survive network turbulence largely unscathed.

wargroove 2 review

There’s a lot of ambition in Wargroove 2’s storytelling, perhaps beyond the team’s grasp. It’s nice to see factions that aren’t patently good or evil. It makes sense to see personalities that are just a bit more prone to violence than average. There are times when the game tries to do something poignant or mysterious, and it just doesn’t manage to earn it. It’s harmless and easily skippable! Regardless, it’s good to set your expectations appropriately.

Robotality and Chucklefish clearly built Wargroove 2 atop the first game’s tools. Which isn’t a bad thing! But you’ll certainly see the seams when playing, especially in the new Conquest mode. This mode turns the game into a roguelite, with sequences of smaller battles interspersed with opportunities to recruit and equip units.

This mode worked way better than we expected, making for an engaging experience that we wanted to come back to more than the main campaign. It runs out of steam pretty quickly, though, as it was a breeze to unlock the full skill tree. We’d love to see updates to this mode that extend the experience and add a bit more challenge.

wargroove 2 conquest mode

But as we said, this is stitched together in a way that lets you feel the development behind it. It’s more than players could probably make themselves with the in-game scripting tools, but here’s an example: a “store” between maps loads you into its own map with one building, and then you have to manually quit from the menu to continue. It basically ends up feeling like a very cool mod?

Similarly, we encountered a decent number of bugs and crashes. Error messages about lua script! Full freezes in the middle of an animation! How about a field of effect that should last one turn, but never goes away? The game’s auto-save functionality means we didn’t lose a lot of progress, but it was still a bummer to have to quit and relaunch so often. Of course, this was the pre-launch review period, so it feels like these are the sort of hiccups that can be quickly patched.

chucklefish robotality online co-op screenshot

There are some in-game UI touches that could use a polish. The addition of equipment for units can make for interesting strategy, but the tiny icon indicating a unit is equipped? It’s hard to see. It’s placed in a spot that regularly lands on the unit above it. And in a mode with different types of equipment, it’d sure be nice to see which is the soldier with a shield and which is holding a magical necromancy totem. Instead, we get little identical arrows.

Moving on from the caveat emptor section of the review, we really did enjoy our time with Wargroove 2. Its approach leaves some rough edges, as well as room for fun ideas and creative player content. And now that we can go play the polished alternative if we want? That’s just fine by us.

Wargroove 2, developed by Chucklefish and Robotality and published by Chucklefish, launches on PC and Nintendo Switch on October 5, 2023 for $19.99.

Wargroove 2

Trouble stirs on the shores of Aurania. An ambitious new faction has unearthed forbidden relics capable of catastrophic consequences. But how far will they go to achieve glory? Take to the battlefield, sea, and sky with a cast of new Commanders, using your wits to wage turn-based war!

As a genre-expanding release rather than its predecessor’s sole standard-bearer, Wargroove 2 hits a bit differently.

Food for Thought
  • Getting near-unlimited Skeletons in Conquest Mode by investing in one piece of necromancy equipment can really break the balance, but it's fun to do!
  • The game lets you name units, for some reason? We could see this being a fun touch for streamer play, perhaps.
  • Oofa doofa, that Switch menu icon could use some work. No name, no indicator of what type of game it is at all, just a zoomed-out illustration of some of the new characters. Wild to see, since the first game didn’t mess up that part.

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Graham Russell
Graham Russell, editor-at-large, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.