It’s been eight years since Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was released. There’s no sign of any new recruits for the series. People in search of a similar experience have had to settle for original games with similar styles of gameplay. One of the most recent releases is Risky Lab’s Warbits, an Apple iOS title that does a good job of capturing the Nintendo series’ whimsy, as well as its solid gameplay.
Warbits’ setup is similar and offers tribute to many elements from the Intelligent Systems. In an effort to cut down on real world casualties, nations have turned to simulations to settle differences. In the campaign, which consists of 20 missions, players are essentially a commanding officer for the Red Bear Republic. After some tutorial skirmishes against the Blue Whale Empire, which hails from an arctic environment, subsequent matches against the Orange Sun Union and Green Cactus Army ensue.
Did you catch the color-coded references? Red Bear is most like Orange Star, which was known as Red Star in Japan. In the campaign, the folks from Blue Whale are from the same sort of chilly climate as Blue Moon, and their early units consist of quite a few artillery units, like the sharp-shooting Ranger, Artillery, and Ballista, calling to mind Grit’s specialties. Orange Sun’s coloring is actually more yellow, like Yellow Comet. Green Cactus is close enough to Green Earth.
The gameplay is identical as well. There are 16 sorts of land, air, and water-based units. There are factories, towns, and headquarters to capture. Different types of terrain offer the same sorts of advantages and disadvantages. The same type advantages and disadvantages apply. The LT Infantry are Infantry, HV Infantry are Mechs, Probes are Recon, LT Mech and HV Mech are the Light Tank and Heavy Tank, and, well, APCs are APCs! Campaign maps are set up with a sense of purpose, but versus modes strive for equality. The strategies and knowledge you’ve acquired from years of Advance Wars transitions over easily and immediately to Warbits.
Even the incidentals are the same. While there are no COs to unleash CO powers, you do have Super Powers that can be unleashed from headquarters after getting Charges from defeating foes or heading to Reactors. Just like in Advance Wars, the Warbits special abilities don’t guarantee you an instant win. It just gives you a temporary boost for a limited amount of time to offer a brief advantage. Your foe has the same opportunity for momentary advancements, keeping things fair.
The multiplayer maps especially help maintain many of the elements that made Advance Wars great. It was about being on equal footing, so your intelligence and tactics determined winners. Each one puts every opponent in the same situation. There are an equal number of cities, factories, and airports on each map. Everything is symmetrical. If you lose, it’s on you. No one else is to blame.
In fact, a few of the Warbits 29 1-on-1 and 11 2-on-2 maps look as though they were plucked from Advance Wars. Grandmaster is an 8×8 square, with eight cities and four factories evenly distributed. While there are no roads, the simplicity calls to mind Advance Wars’ Bean Island or Metro maps. Iceberg, with its multiple islands, looks a bit like Archipelagos. Blender, with its central island surrounded by water and connected to other landmasses by bridges, is similar to Beaker River. The spirit is there, even if it’s not exactly the same. And the ability to search for multiplayer matches via hashtags is very much appreciated.
We still haven’t gotten the new Advance Wars game we deserve, which is a shame since it is an amazing series. Still, Warbits is a wonderful game to help fill that void. It has many of the elements we’ve loved in a very similar package, with an online multiplayer option that is wonderfully entertaining. Risky Lab clearly learned its lessons well from Intelligent Systems, and it shows in this enjoyable strategy game.
Warbits is immediately available for Apple iOS devices. It will eventually also come to Android devices.