Advance Wars: Days of Ruin Review
On the Game Boy Advance, we saw a lot of games get 'advance' versions -- no franchise was immune. Many of the new franchises would have the word advance tacked in front of them, too. Advance Wars was, arguably, one of the better games to get this adjective tossed in the front. An interesting take on the top-down strategy style games, Advance Wars was just fun to play for almost any gamer. As time went along, the series advanced -- story became more and more important, Commanders with special effects were added in, along with other minor features.
Days of Ruin is the newest entry in the franchise, the second Advance Wars game to appear on the DS. New units have been added and the game's story is said to have taken an interesting turn (I haven't paid much attention to it until this time around). Also, units now gain experience in battles and will level up as they kill enemies. This is especially nice for really durable units like tanks, or indirect fire ones like artillery pieces. However, they don't become mobile gods of destruction and doom, since they are still quite vulnerable to the enemy. Really, the new changes and units don't unbalance the game in either direction, and that is a difficult task in any game with this amount of units.
Some of the new units are more offensive in nature. Take the motorbike, for instance. A really fast infantry type unit, the motorbike can do a pretty good job of getting to and chewing up other infantry, but tanks will definitely annihilate them. Other units are more tactical in nature. The flare tank is an interesting concept, in that it can shoot off a flare at a great distance to uncover a sizable chunk of the fog of war on the maps. It keeps you from having to put your own troops in harm's way, especially since most of your faster units are likely to get destroyed by most anything that they'll find while out scouting. Of course, the old favorites like tanks, mech troops with bazookas and the like are also back, and behave just as you'd expect.
Playing through the single player game was quite enjoyable for me. Instead of tossing difficult battles my way to start the game, I was guided along by a well-integrated tutorial. As I've alluded to in previous reviews, I tend to avoid reading instruction manuals. However, I'm not a fan of horribly forced tutorials. Days of Ruin does it well, integrating the tutorial into the game but not treating things like a tutorial. You aren't forced to do things a certain way if you don't want, but are presented with some of the game's features through the early missions. The later missions do get difficult, but they don't seem to get to the point of hurl-your-game-system difficult.
The biggest change, though, came in with the first appearance of WiFi in an Advance Wars game. Instead of just having random battles, though, you're also able to use friend codes to find buddies to play with. You can even chat with your fellow players. This is the type of game that, while it has an enjoyable single player experience, does much better as a multiplayer game. Before, it was hard to find people to play with, but WiFi seems to be exactly what this system was screaming out for. It seems to be pretty well implemented to me, too, as I has a relatively easy time of getting online and playing.
Graphically, the game is no better or worse than previous iterations of the series. If you've seen an Advance Wars game in the past, you'll know exactly what you are going to get from Days of Ruin. Stories are told by character portraits that come in from the sides of the screen and text at the bottom. Really, though, it is effective at doing what it does, and doesn't get in the way. The styling of the characters really does have that gritty feel to it, even for some of the more cutesy characters (trust me, you'll know who I am talking about).
Overall, Days of Ruin is a fitting sequel to the popular Advance Wars franchise. Adding in a much-demanded feature in multiplayer and a variety of new units while keeping balance solid is definitely not an easy task, but it was pulled off well. Pretty much, Days of Ruin does exactly what a sequel is supposed to do -- add said new features, add a bit more to the overall formula, but not make it unfamiliar to players. If you have been a fan of the series to date, you're not going to be disappointed with this follow-up. On that same note, though, nothing here is going to change the minds of those that dislike the series. And for those of you that have never played an Advance Wars game, Days of Ruin is probably the best way to get your start with the series.