Advance Wars: Days of RuinESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer – Intelligent Systems
Publisher - Nintendo
2-4 multi card play
Online Via Nintendo WiFi
Fans of the long running Advance Wars games have something new and something old to give their DS a workout. The widely popular cartoony, but surprisingly deep series is back with an attitude. Advance Wars Days of Ruin is a bold and completely new chapter in the turn based series that started on the original GameBoy Advance. The game has added a few new gameplay features, along with a whole host of new characters to defend against. This game arrived at a perfect time as I was hungry for some handheld gaming. Developer Intelligent Systems has had a great run with his series so far, let’s see if they can continue it with Days of Ruin.
The games graphical look in this latest incarnation of Advance Wars has been overhauled to give it a darker and gritty look. While the cartoon flavor of the previous versions is still present this newest entry into the series has a definite darker feel to it. Deep, bold dark lines are quite prevalent throughout the game and it is quite a departure form the bright and clean look of old. Days of Ruin still boasts a very large colour palette, it is just muted this time around. I think the game does show a little more detail and graphical enhancements over past versions and this is a positive thing.
Days of Ruin has no full motion animation to tell its' story. Instead static cut scenes are abound and these are very well done. During my time with the game I saw no signs of clipping or any frame rate issues anywhere; mind you most gamers will really have no time to notice a lot of the visuals as the pace of the gameplay can be hectic. Players can opt to skip aforementioned cut scenes and battle animations, but I think this defeats the allure of the game. Days of Ruin has a new visual mode that overlays a grid on the battle map. While this very useful grid takes away from the overall prettiness of the game it is quite useful as it cuts up the map so you can plan your attack ranges.
Overall the visual facelift certainly helps pull one into the story as gone are the traditionally cute little army men and cartoon-looking military hardware. It's not a huge shift, but it definitely tames the cuteness factor without completely abandoning the classic Advance Wars style, perhaps opening the game up to older and more mature gamers.
The soundtrack included in Days of Ruin is quite interesting. For most of the game it is hard rockin’, heavy and fast guitar sounding music that drives the action. I actually got into some of the tunes and thought to myself this is way too heavy for a Nintendo game. There were some nicely orchestrated musical passages thrown in throughout the game too, but these were mainly evident when you had a bad round or finished off some baddies. There really isn’t too much in the way of voice acting, except for some clips of the C.O.’s when they launch their various attacks. The rest of the sound effects are quite well done, but nothing we haven't heard before. Unfortunately the DS’s little speakers don’t do the games music and effects justice. On the other hand using the headphone jack is the way to go as the stereo soundtrack comes alive and can really pull the one deep into the game. I would recommend it over the speakers in a heart beat.
Days of Ruin retains the classic turn based gameplay that has hooked many fans right first game in the Advance Wars series. You control various units in the game which can range from war machinery to traditional troops. You move your units to wherever you like within a certain timeframe. Your main goal is to defeat your enemy by battling their units and eventually capturing their city base. Days of Ruin includes six all new battle units to the series. For example, flares are a new type of light tank that also have the ability to light up dark or very foggy areas on the battle map. They are extremely useful as a recon type vehicle being that they are able to defend themselves. There is also a new aircraft at your disposal in the form of Dusters. These are propeller-driven aircraft that can attack ground and air targets. I would say that the new units are a much needed shot in the arm as it gives this latest version more options during gameplay. That being said, I wholly recommend that you take the time to figure out how these new units work. I found this out the hard way as I attempted to use them without any real knowledge of their particular effectiveness, and believe me in the heat of battle the ability to understand them is a key to conquering this game.
One of the Advance Wars staples has undergone a fairly significant change this time around. Commanding Officers (C.O.’s) were strictly behind-the-lines characters, but this time around they now have the ability to take charge to the front lines where the battle is taking place. You can add a C.O. to a unit to expand both the potency and range of its attack. The presence of a C.O. will also boost the power of any other combat units around him. You will notice a bit of a darkened perimeter around his proximity and the idea is to stay within that zone as doing so will increase the defense and offensive abilities of the surrounding units in that area. Your C.O. can also sustain an extreme amount of punishment, especially if he/she is powered up. The different C.O.’s also have different attributes; so you should choose them with care keeping in mind what advantages they may have to help in your battles. C.O.’s are mostly unlocked during or after certain battles as you progress through the games campaign. Days of Ruin starts out on the easy side, but the later missions will provide quite a challenge. Mercifully your C.O. as well as helpful tactical advice specific to your current battle is available from the mission info menu.
The games controls were pretty easy to figure out and I used the DS’s stylus for most of what I needed to do. I did find the buttons could get in the way if I inadvertently touched them and this did cause some confusion now and then. Also, some of the touch screen buttons did get in the way of viewing the on-screen action at times. That being said, both of my 'button' complaints are really minor gripes and don't affect the overall gameplay that much. If I could change one thing on the touch screen I would make it so you could do some tinkering while your opponent is taking their turn. You can scan the battle map while your opponent is implementing their moves, but you cannot interact with your own units at all. If you were able to just do basic checks of things like fuel or ammo, or even plot your next move, this would help greatly in your own strategizing and ultimately understanding the game’s mechanics. This is just my humble opinion of course, and the game still plays fantastic otherwise.
Along with the new weapons and C.O. features, Days of Ruin provides an amazing amount of content to work through. There are 26 maps to defeat in the campaign/story mode with another 28 maps available in free battle mode, which you can play at your own leisure. Some maps are fairly large covering the screen two or three times over. Prepare for some long matches against the computer A.I. especially later on in the game. As with all Advance Wars games, a robust map editor enables you to create your own battlefields, and you can save up to 50 unique maps of your choosing to swap with friends.
The real attraction of Days of Ruin for me is the multiplayer modes found in the game. You can set up four-player battles between friends, but in order to do so you must have four copies of the game. The real treat however is the ability to battle over the internet via Nintendo’s WiFi Network. Once I clicked the option it was very quick to fire up and begin looking for other players. You can do a rudimentary search for gamers of similar skill or find a player of any skill at random. There were a few connection issues as I played, but not the chugging or slowdown one might expect with a handheld system playing online. The majority of the online games I played ran flawlessly, with only the odd one suddenly dropping. The DS that dropped would be given the match status of 'lost' while the DS that remained was the winner regardless of their status during the game. I really enjoyed my time online and I had some games that spanned over 2 hours, so be prepared to have your DS at full charge or plug it in before playing. I have one beef with the online matches. I found numerous times that the player who was able to start first would have an advantage over the other pretty much all game. They get to set up their units and get their strategies rolling first, and as Days of Ruin has time and map boundaries this is crucial. Having a great start is imperative. I suppose it is the luck of the draw on who gets to go first to it can be luck that helps one win. The game also supports voice chat through the microphone attachment, which I did not part take in. You can also find your friends online using the friend code system.
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