Advance Wars: Days of Ruin Hands On Impressions

awdor_leadin.jpgIntelligent Systems has reinvented Advance Wars. They're stripped it to the bone, giving it a mature bent that borders now on dark, brooding and violent. Gone are long-standing Commanding Officers Andy, Sami, Max, and Eagle. Gone are Orange Star and Blue Moon. Gone are a series of precocious teens and sassy officers in capri pants ordering thousands of units to their doom, ultimately ending in a root beer party commemorating the dead. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is a post-apocalyptic war game that is expected to get a T-rating, so leave your soda at the door.

The story of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is one of a world in chaos following a cataclysmic meteor storm that leaves 90 percent of the population dead. The scattered survivors live in a diseased, war-torn world controlled by roving bandits and power-hungry warlords. The tone is muted, the dialogue dreary, the characters devoid of smiles.Advance Wars: Days of Ruin also takes the series back a step, gameplay-wise. The Dual Strike CO powers from the previous Nintendo DS Advance Wars are gone, and CO powers in general are said to have been toned down. The tides of war won't turn so easily this time.

Also absent from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin are dual screen battles, with maps and information occupying the top, gameplay shown in the bottom.

Days of Ruin does add some new units to the series, though, bringing a Motorbike unit to the list of infantry units. Motorbikes can capture buildings and factories like other infantry, but they have better range and better firepower. A new Flare unit, incapable of attacks also joins the ranks, cutting through the fog of war—now a permanent dust cloud kicked up by meteorites. The Duster, a new air unit that wasn't available for hands-on play is also promised for the final version.

Actually playing Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is much speedier than its Nintendo DS predecessor. The team has refined the interface so issuing orders takes fewer steps, resulting in quicker battles. The game's assets have been completely redone, giving the maps and enactments of your firefights a new look.

While our play time with Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was limited to only a trio of chapters, we were introduced to many of the game's characters. Leading man Will replaces Andy and Jake, with tactician Lin, a morose female officer, his companion. Captain Brenner, a "grizzled war veteran", leads the Independent Legion to which Will and Lin belong.

Most of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin's gameplay remains tried and true, it's simply boiled down to the core formula. Players of previous Advance Wars games may initially be unsettled by the frequent references to murder, pillaging and destruction—there's even a line from a barbarian named The Beast who wants more ears to add to his ear necklace—but the storyline feels more engaging than the light-hearted fare of games past.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin boasts a feature set that should have fans excited. Wi-fi multiplayer battles over the Nintendo Wi-fi Connection are finally here, bringing voice chat with them. Also coming is the tentatively titled Map Center, making map creation and sharing a worldwide affair. Players can take their map designs, upload them, and rate and download others via the Map Center, adding hundreds of maps to the 170+ already included.

It may be a big change, but Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is a welcome addition to the series and one that should breathe new life into the game.


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