Wargroove 2 Demo Preview: Engrossing Tactical Turn-Based Fun Feels Familiar
I am a pretty big fan of the colourful, fantasy turn-based strategy game Wargroove. Since its launch, I have sunk many hours into endlessly cycling through its varied local multiplayer maps, engaging in the lore-rich and often humorous campaign, and even creating my own maps and cutscenes through its detailed creation feature.
Despite spending most of my time playing Wargroove while watching YouTube or before going to bed, I still found it to be an immensely rewarding and fulfilling experience. The original Wargroove came at the perfect time on Switch, layering complexity, gorgeous visuals, and a phenomenally catchy soundtrack into a package that satisfied the Advance Wars itch that had gone long unscratched until the recent release of Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp.
So it should come as no surprise that I was extremely excited for Wargroove 2 and all the potential advancements, factions, and units that it would bring. Fortunately, I recently got the opportunity to try out Wargroove 2 in its Steam Next Fest demo and see firsthand what it brings to the table.
“Wargroove’s core gameplay encourages repeat playthroughs in a way that the cookie-cutter roguelikes flooding the Steam store page rarely do.”
The biggest new addition that Wargroove 2 introduces is the new Conquest mode. This roguelike mode starts you off with just your commander, and you work your way through different nodes containing battle maps or randomly generated experiences that let you gradually build up an army.
The experience of going from node to node, taking on new and exciting procedurally generated battles, building up my army, and uncovering new events was invigorating. There’s even an element of decision-making, as these nodes branch off into two paths, and picking one makes the other inaccessible. It forces you to make the tough choice of whether to recruit new soldiers, heal your current troops, or take a gamble and venture into a mystery node where you don’t know what’s going to happen.
The easiest comparison to make would be FTL’s non-linear roguelike structure, but even then, I found Wargroove 2’s conquest mode to be such a unique experience. The blending of Wargroove’s core gameplay coupled with this expertly implemented roguelike gameplay works surprisingly well and encourages repeat playthroughs in a way that the cookie-cutter roguelikes flooding the Steam store page rarely do.
“The Conquest mode is the most significant addition to Wargroove 2, which some could perceive as a negative thing”
Perhaps what makes the Conquest mode so special to me, and likely many others, was the ability to name your units. It’s a small addition that makes all the difference, instantly building a bond between you and Bob the spearman, Bobby the dog, or even Bobilda, the knight. Each unit becomes an intrinsic part of that playthrough, a memorable component of a run, as well as an emotional tether that encourages you to return to complete the end of their journey.
The Conquest mode is the most significant addition to Wargroove 2, which some could perceive as a negative thing. If you don’t appreciate the innovation it brings to the roguelike genre or necessarily even enjoy what it’s attempting to do, then the core reason for picking Wargroove 2 up over its predecessor becomes obsolete.
Nevertheless, I found it to be an impressive addition to the game and an extremely welcome one at that. I think the Conquest mode was the most fun I had while playing Wargroove 2, and I can easily imagine myself sinking a lot of time into it.
“Wargroove 2’s stunning visuals and excellent animations are complimented brilliantly by a phenomenal soundtrack.”
Outside the Conquest mode, Wargroove 2’s demo also allows you to play a handful of maps in the multiplayer mode. There were three maps available in the demo, and I played through one of them. As I expected, it was just as good as those from the original Wargroove, offering a wealth of tactical options to outsmart your opponent. I also played against the AI, who proved to be a formidable opponent capable of exploiting the map’s dense landscapes, quickly outmaneuvering me and stealing the win.
Once again, these maps are brought to life thanks to the stunning pixel art that perfectly builds upon the excellent fantasy worldbuilding that permeates throughout much of the dialogue and detailed designs. The animated battle sequences that play out whenever units fight one another are equally glorious, immersing you further into the tug-of-war style battle gameplay and further building upon the intense emotional investment you put into every turn.
These stunning visuals and excellent animations are complimented brilliantly by the phenomenal soundtrack. It continues the previous game’s fantastically grandiose yet jauntily bouncy motifs, immediately quashing any potential for a sombre atmosphere this game about war could have had. Wargroove 2’s music injects an immense sense of joy and wonder into every battle, making the whole experience feel immensely satisfying.
“The lack of any meaningful new units, commanders, or factions felt a little disappointing.”
Unfortunately, this is where I find myself in the woeful position of criticising Wargroove 2 somewhat. While all of this lavish praise absolutely applies to Wargroove 2, for the most part, it also justifiably applies to the original Wargroove. Despite the Conquest mode adding significant innovation to the game, the demo did little to prove that Wargroove 2 is much more than a well-packaged DLC.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the demo did not allow me to experience any of the three campaigns, which will undoubtedly bring new and exciting tales set in Wargroove’s rich and lore-filled universe. However, the lack of any meaningful new units (there will only be five new units added in the full release), commanders, or factions felt a little disappointing. The one new character, a flamethrower-wielding pirate named Nadia, was fun to use, but her accompanying pirate faction was a slightly reskinned version of the Cherrystone Kingdom.
Similarly, the gameplay, while still enjoyable, felt more or less the same. The Groove system has had an update, which brings with it an added level of strategy, but beyond that, you’ll be utilising the same strategies you perfected in Wargroove. To that point, this demo makes it feel like Wargroove 2 will be an Advance Wars 2 style update, bringing familiar gameplay, a handful of new units, and, more importantly, a dynamic new narrative.
“I’m still excited to play Wargroove 2 when it launches later this year.”
In that sense, Wargroove 2 may prove to be a little decisive, earning its sequel label in the eyes of many and feeling more akin to an Overwatch 2-style reboot to some. Frankly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The core gameplay DNA that it shares with its predecessor remains an engrossing and engaging strategic marvel that no game has matched before. The visuals, music, and witty dialogue continue to immerse the player in Wargroove’s dynamic universe, and I’m sure the various campaigns will be phenomenal.
However, Wargroove 2 is not the great leap forward that perhaps some people were expecting. It is still very enjoyable and will likely be one of, if not the best strategic turn-based games on the market. But it’s still just more Wargroove. If you like Wargroove, then this will be an amazing, albeit slightly familiar, experience for you. If you didn’t like Wargroove or perhaps wanted a little more from it, then I can’t imagine you’ll get much from the sequel unless the Conquest mode seems like a significant enough addition. Fortunately, I am confidently in the former camp, and I’m still excited to see what elseWargroove 2 can bring to the table when it launches later this year.