Advance Wars: Dark Conflict - game review
Samus Aran from the popular today Metroid Prime series of games took his first steps on NES, Snake liquidated his first Metal Gear on MSX-2, and Mario ... Mario has been in the minds of people since the dawn of time. What am I going to? Until the beginnings of each series, to the first game that today may hardly be remembered by anyone, despite the fact that it tires Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3 in all possible ways. You have to know history, even though you cannot rely too much on it. This is because it leads to embarrassing situations, such as recalling the achievements of "Mountain Eagles" during each defeat of the national team. This time we are dealing with the Advance Wars series . This series has already had 6 editions so far. Two for GBA, one each for GC and Wii, and two for NDS. "Already", because the latest part of Advance Wars , the reviews of which you read, had its premiere recently.
Before we start, you need a few words of explanation. The first game in the series released for GBA was simply called Advance Wars , the second installment for this platform was called Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising . It's simple so far. However, the situation got a bit more complicated with the series switching to two Nintendo screens. At that time, the numbers were abandoned and that is how Advance Wars: Dual Strike was created (DS for short, which was to symbolize the transition to the new platform). This year, another part of AW premiered, which again brought confusion in terms of titles. In the United States, the game is called Advance Wars: Days of Ruin , while in Europe and Australia we buy Advance Wars: Dark Conflict . I will add that the AW version on GameCub was called Battalion Wars . And the Wii got its sequel called Battalion Wars II . Initially, the version for the not very popular Gack was to be called Advance Wars: Under Fire , but as the game system differed significantly from the AW series, the production was renamed Battalion Wars .
I found a short history lecture necessary for all those who are taking their first steps with the series and would like to learn about its roots. Dark Conflict presents the fate of mankind after a giant meteor hit the Earth. This incident meant that almost 90% of our planet's population had to pass through the Styx. It would seem that after such a catastrophe, humanity will unite and rebuild its home in peace. Nothing could be more wrong. The remaining belongings are plundered by bandits. One of the surviving groups of people is led by O'Brian, who leads an army of Laurentans, one of the two major nations that emerged from the meteorite strike. The main character, however, is Ed, a young cadet from a military school. Initially, the main opponents are bandits, but over time we start fighting the Zephyrians. It is a nation that is in constant conflict with the Laurentans. Players who read reviews of the game on foreign websites will pay attention to different names of the heroes - these, like the subtitle, are different in the States, different in Europe.
The campaign offers 26 missions that tell the story of the Earth after the catastrophe. In addition, after completing each mission, we will get access to training missions. They are not related to the main storyline, but are only intended to develop our tactical skills. There are as many as 38 side missions in total, which together with the main missions gives the number 64. That's a lot, considering that some of them will be approached several times. After each mission, we have a rating issued by the game. The assessment consists of three components: the amount of damage dealt, the speed of completing the mission and the technique we defeated the opponent. Depending on the number of points obtained, the system gives us a grade from C (lowest), through B and A, ending with S, which is the highest. The very fact of issuing ratings and the possibility of correcting them later means that players who like to complete the game in 100% will not be bored.
Advance Wars has always been associated with a fun and colorful strategy. Dark Conflict is more dark and brutal than the previous installments of the series. Many characters die here, others suffer, and still others only worry about their own skin. Intelligent Games managed to create a position that is much more mature than previous AW games. The whole thing is presented in a very nice graphic convention known from anime or manga series. The images of the characters are somewhat similar to those from Luminous Arc or Rune Factory . It's darker.
The graphical changes also affected the battlefield itself. At first glance, everything looks the same, but you just need to turn on the zoom to see new ones. Units in this mode have been remodeled, they are more detailed. More realism followed the detail. Stones that we can destroy have appeared. Planes and helicopters, infantry and tanks are like the real thing. Of course, the manga line has some strange constructions - they show that the series does not break with the past.
Snake told us almost a year and a half ago that war was changing. However, the war has not changed with the Advance Wars franchise . We are still dealing here with an addictive, flexible, and well-balanced system that will satisfy the most demanding players. A few new ones have been added to the already known units. Of the more important ones, it is worth noting the presence of a motor vehicle, characterized by considerable mobility, an anti-tank gun and a combat aircraft capable of hitting ground and flying targets. Combat is still turn-based, and each unit has a different mobility and firepower. Some units can attack when they are directly next to the target, while others can strike from a long distance. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each of them is the key to victory.
It is a pity that both sides of the conflict have the same types of units. This makes the game boring and more schematic. At the beginning I expressed my opinion about too much attachment to the past.
Knowing the rules alone will not make you a second Napoleon. It should be remembered that depending on the terrain on which a given vehicle or infantry is located, their defensive qualities will depend. For example, staying indoors gives more protection than staying outdoors. There are two types of buildings in the game: ours and the enemy's. Our units located in our buildings are supplied with ammunition, fuel and meals. If our vehicles stop in enemy buildings, they will gain nothing but defense during the attack. Buildings belonging to enemy units can be taken over by foot. The more infrastructure we take over, the more points we get during each subsequent turn. We can spend these points on building new units.
Randez-vous with the enemy can take place in two ways. If we are attacked from afar, there is nothing we can do. If there is combat between units in adjacent squares, a counterattack will be possible. One screen shows the attacking units, the other shows the attacked units. Initially, we observe each duel, but with time they start to get bored. Some unexpected twists during the confrontation would be useful.
The amount of damage dealt and received depends on strict rules. The gun is perfect for a duel with aces of the sky and infantry, but a medium tank can easily destroy them. The bomber can handle vehicles and infantry, but as soon as it encounters an anti-aircraft cannon or fighters, the pilot may eject. The last element that must be taken into account during the fight is the participation of commanders in our battles. The special skill system has been abandoned. In Dark Conflict, each commander has a special activity bar. The longer it is, the larger the area the units will gain more firepower or better defense. When the activity bar reaches its maximum, the Commander's influence will cover the entire map. If the Commander is killed, he can be brought back to life in the Vehicle Factory - with a zero activity bar of course.
The lower screen shows the tactical map of the terrain. The upper one serves as a display of statistics for the selected unit. We can give orders in two ways: by touching the screen with the stylus and using buttons. Both methods work great. However, you have to be careful because an order once issued cannot be undone.
Freedom in choosing tactics and a high level of difficulty make Advance Wars a unique position. Whatever we do, the enemy will constantly analyze the situation on the battlefield and send new units to the fight. However, the difficulty level has been well selected - although it is hard, the game does not reject it, but mobilizes you to choose a different tactic. Getting an S grade with each new mission is quite a feat.
Music is the weakest part of the game. It is schematic and, what is worse, in many moments it does not fit the events at all and there are only a few songs. The sound is good though - all the crackles and squeaks from the previous parts have returned, and a lot of new sounds have been added.
Multiplayer via Wi-Fi appeared for the first time in the series and turned out to be a bull's eye. We also received a map editor that we can use during skirmishes with friends. The tool offers great opportunities. We are happy that, in addition to 150 maps available in the game, we have the option of saving 50 more created by us. During the skirmish via Wi-Fi, we can modify virtually all the features of the board - here the game spreads its wings. If you think the single player battles were long, get ready for even longer ones. Of course, it depends on the level of both players.
Advance Wars: Dark Conflict is, next to Phantom Hourglass , Final Fantasy , New Super Mario Bros (and a few other productions), a must for every NDS owner. Good and clear graphics, a more mature atmosphere, a well-balanced combat system and multiplayer make it one of the most refined games for the Nintendo portable console.
Dawid "Taikun" Mączka