I spent way too much time playing Advance Wars: Day of Ruins over the weekend. The latest in the franchise, remains just as addictive as its predecessors. I was disappointed to find that the more detailed, grittier look found in the game's cut scenes vanish when you drop into play.
Once you're in the game, duking it out with a new slate of bad guys across a post apocalyptic wasteland, the game looks an awful lot like Advance Wars Double Strike. Fortunately you don't have a whole lot of time to sit around marvelling at how the vehicles still look like Tonka trucks, because the game's artificial intelligence ramps up quickly.
By level 14, in fact, I had hit the sort of wall that required me to play the conflict over, and over, and over again, getting so annoyed at my imaginary adversary at one point that me wife asked me who I was playing. (She walked off in disgust when she realised I'd been yelling at the DS and not a real person.)
In fact, some of the single player campaign battles almost feel like tactical brainteasers. These levels are constructed so tightly that I suspect there are actually only a few ways to win.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as found in previous versions, though a few tweaks and a few new units help to make the experience feel fresh.
The game allows your units to level up in battle, up to level three. Each time you defeat an enemy and go up a level that unit gets a bonus in attack and defense.
While the commander special attacks found in Double Strike remain in the game, you can also now pick the commander up in a unit, which gets an instant jump up to level 3. A zone around the commander's unit also gets offensive and defensive boosts. The zone increases as your commander's power boosts with victories. When the unit carrying the commander is defeated the commander is sent back to camp to await a new ride, but not removed permanently from the battle.
The new units also add a couple of twists to gameplay. For instance, rigs can build temporary ports and airports. Other new units include motorcycle-mounted infantry units, a land or air attacking Duster plane, a mobile anti-tank unit and a unit that can shoot a flare to reveal hidden units.
Since I was tucked away in the mountains, internet free, over the weekend I wasn't able to test out the coolest new feature of Days of Ruins: The voice-chat enabled online play.
The game supports up to four players either in online play or local multi-card play. It also allows you to create and trade maps, which should give the game plenty of legs.
Having spent the weekend, mostly, beating up AI, I'm psyched to test out my tactics on real live opponents.
Even if the game hadn't changed a thing from Dual Strike the inclusion of online multiplay would make it worth the price, but the beefed up AI and play tweaks mean that I've got a new addition I can carry around in my pocket.