Review: Advance Wars: Dark Conflict
Posted 03 Feb 2008 at 15:59 by Hellfire
|"This way some units may be more valuable to the player than units of the same type, forcing the player to think carefully before sending them to certain doom."|
Forget Andy, Sami and Max, forget the light hearted view on war and forget the Sun. A Meteor Strike struck Earth, dust covered the sky and 90% of the population was exterminated. Nintendo takes Advance Wars to a darker, more desperate place.
However fans of the series don't need to worry, the characters, albeit more gloomy and with a less cartoonish look are still very charismatic and stand out from the crowd, not only because of the great designs but because of the quality of the dialogues that we've grown accustomed coming from Intelligent Systems, although sometimes they fall in clichéd terrioty. The game begins with the main character Ed, a survivor from the meteor strike, being saved by Captain O'Brian and First Lieutenant Lin, leaders of the Laurentian 12th Independent Army that is searching the world for survivors and helping those in need. The altruism of O'Brian and Ed contrast very well with a ravaged world where people have lost hope and any sense of kindness, giving in to their self preservation instincts and darkest urges. Instead of the usual fight between nations, this time you will fight bandits and eventually a mysterious group that basks in other people's suffering. This setting makes you feel like you're actually fighting for something meaningful instead of a faceless war like so many others.
Some features present in Dual Strike, like the War Room, the shop and Dual Screen battles were taken out to give place to other things that make this title feel fresh, but still a part of the series. First off, no longer will the COs and their powers play such an important factor in the game, as you cannot choose which one you control before each mission, you just have to roll the dice the game gave you; second, the CO powers are much less devastating, focusing on status changes, thus avoiding the tide of war to turn at the last minute, adding more emphasis to strategy. As units destroy an enemy, they level up (up to three times) giving them better stats and abilities, also the CO can now travel inside a vehicle, instantly increasing its rank to the maximum. This way some units may be more valuable to the player than units of the same type, forcing the player to think carefully before sending them to certain doom.
Instead of just adding more and more units, this time some were removed to make place for the newcomers, keeping the number of units at 26. Gone are the Mega and Neo tanks, replaced with the War Tank and Anti-Tank, which brings new strategies to the table due to the fact that it can attack from a distance, but more importantly, counter-attack. There are also new airplanes that can attack ground units and vehicles that can build temporary air and seaports. There are also new terrain types like the tower of fire that illuminates the adjacent area, negating the effects of the fog of war, ruined buildings which are mainly for providing cover and wastelands that are only accessible to infantry.
While the removal of the shop mode and war room decreases the single player life span it also allows the player to do custom battles with all the options right from the beginning, so it's a mixed bag. During the campaign, some alternative missions pop up, that despite being called training exercises, are in fact much harder than the main levels, providing a considerable challenge to those who want to take them on. Once completed, these missions will be available from outside the story mode.The biggest and most wanted addition is obviously, the online play. You'll finally be able to battle your friends from across the globe and talk to them at the same time with the DS mic. Asides from the game's 150 maps, custom levels can be designed with great detail from something as basic as the positioning of the bases to the AI level; up to 50 maps can be created, stored and traded offline and online, giving the player lots of reasons to keep coming back to the game.
The missions start off easy, but quickly turn into the devilish hard time consumers the series is known for. The D-Pad controls still work perfectly, but the touch screen controls have been refined and work perfectly now, taking total advantage of the DS capabilities together with the terrain and unit stats on the top screen.
Graphically, besides the obvious changes in style, with darker tones and the characters sporting a more serious design, everything in the game is much more detailed and the animations were handled superbly with very dynamic action scenes that look like they came straight from a comic book, showing that this time Intelligent Systems didn't settle with just improving a little on the GBA engine. The soundtrack is also very good featuring some very catchy rock and dramatic tunes.
Fans of the old Advance Wars don't need to be scared away by the changes made, the game still retains the classic rock-paper-scissors formula and those who were turned off by the more happy-go-lucky look may now give a chance to the game and join the veterans online in a big, happy, post apocalyptic war.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Final veredict: It's good to see Nintendo taking some risks with the series without abandoning the fans. Another awesome and challenging addition to the Advance Wars series, prepare to be addicted.
Might be too hard for some