yes, i confess, i do let my obsessions get the better of me. i’d finished advance wars 2 and advance wars: dual strike back to back, but i couldn’t help trying out the next in the series, advance wars: days of ruin, the second advance wars game for DS. i was intrigued by the different direction that the game took in terms of its art style and presentation and was curious about how much the gameplay had changed.
i agree with the common response that in some ways the gameplay of days of ruin feels more like a step back than a step forward. the game lacks any of the new modes or features from dual strike and omits CO powers completely until about halfway through the campaign mode, and even then the CO powers are much less powerful. instead of the game-changers of previous games, CO powers here provide more-modest bonuses restricted to the region around the CO who “boards” a unit and retreats when that unit is destroyed. the game’s other main change is that rankings have been rehauled: the power score is now based on the effectiveness of your attacks (i.e. the fewer number of attacks the better) instead of the percentage of enemy units defeated during one turn (which always seemed rather pointless to me anyway), and the technique score is now based on the number of units you’ve used compared to the number your enemy has used, instead of the number of units you’ve lost as a percentage of your total (so now churning out units hurts rather than helps that score). another small addition is that each individual unit can increase a level if it defeats an enemy unit. there are only two levels it can obtain (after defeating two enemy units), and the bonuses it receives are minor, but it does give some motivation to keep units intact.
all of these changes focus the gameplay on keeping units alive, and thus force you to strategize a bit more in order to get S ranks. in some ways it feels like with these changes intelligent systems was looking to their other strategy franchise, the fire emblem series, for their inspiration for the gameplay of days of ruin. but IS borrowed from the fire emblem series more liberally for the presentation of this game: the music is distinctly reminiscent of the recent console fire emblem games, and the story, although set in a post-apocalyptic, contemporary world and not the fantasy world of the FE games, feels similar as well in its tale of a small band of do-gooders fighting against all odds to bring peace to the world. i was looking forward to the story, which the advance wars series thus far has been sorely lacking, but the story in days of ruin is trite: although it dwells on much heavier subject matter than the series has thus far, its exploration of such issues as survival, selfishness, and selflessness in extreme conditions is nothing we haven’t seen hundreds of times in other games and media.
in the end this was a game that i enjoyed playing through but isn’t my first pick for an advance wars game to replay anytime soon. it doesn’t contain a hard campaign mode, although it does include a slew of tougher “trial” maps, and it does have the advantage of enabling you to revisit any previous campaign map so you can try for a higher rating. when i think back on it i appreciate the new focus on strategy, but i still can’t help missing the fun of the previous games. although it took awhile and it hasn’t nearly supplanted my affections for fire emblem, in its four releases in the US advance wars has proven to be a series well worth playing in all of its iterations. i’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.
advance wars links … conquered!
– entry at wikipedia
– FAQ at gamefaqs, including a damage chart
– you can get a PDF of the manual at nintendo.com
– entry at strategywiki.org including regional differences
– you can get a the official site has a few wallpapers
– entry at metacritic.com