Wargroove 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

2023 has been a good year for tactics games on the Switch. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot marked the return of two classic GBA games while Fire Emblem Engage brought the series's focus to its strategic roots. Chucklefish and Robotality's Wargroove 2 is the next SRPG joining the fray, and while its adorable pixel-art graphics might trick you into thinking it is a watered-down, kid-friendly version of the genre, it provides loads of depth to keep even the most battle-worn combatants engaged. It just manages to look cute as heck while doing it.

If you played 2019’s Wargroove — which was inspired by the original Advance Wars — then you’ll know exactly what to expect from the sequel. The world is the same, but new factions are battling it out for control of the strange relics leftover from a long-destroyed civilisation. There isn’t a recap of the events of the first game for new players, but Wargroove 2 does a good job of getting you up to speed without dragging things out too long. The campaign provides exactly the information you need from the first game, but if you want to get fully up to speed, there is a robust codex that you can read as a primer to help fill the gaps.

Wargroove 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

This time around there are three campaigns to play through, each with unique characters and a plot that joins up with the other two in the final act of the game. The pixel art and the cozy soundtrack help breathe life into a charming cast of characters, which will make you want to keep playing through the game’s story mode. Visually, the developers do a good job of maintaining the pixel art in docked mode to keep it from looking distorted, meaning that the game looks just as good no matter how big or small the screen is.

The gameplay of Wargroove 2 is also remarkably similar to its predecessor, though that is largely because there was very little room for improvement. Each faction has a similar range of troop types, including swordsmen, archers, and cavalry. These units have the sort of rock-paper-scissors relationship with each other that you’d expect – cavalry can tear through swordsmen but not spearmen, for example. Terrain also plays an important part in your strategy, with forests, mountains, and rivers either giving bonuses or penalties to defence.

It is all fairly standard for the genre, though the return of the Critical Hit system adds an extra layer of strategy to each map. Every unit can deal massive damage if you position them in the right way; Swordsmen do their best work when adjacent to a Commander unit, Spearmen benefit from being next to other spearmen, and Archers crit when you don’t move them before they attack. This system makes the combat just complex enough that you’ll agonise over the particular placement of each member of your army, either to ensure their survival or to make sure their inevitable death leads to a greater victory.

Wargroove 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

With that complexity comes difficulty and there are some very tough missions in Wargroove 2. The default difficulty setting is Hard, which limits the number of redos you get per map and increases the amount of damage you take from enemy units. We’re not ashamed to admit we lowered the difficulty setting to Medium after the prologue and found that the maps were still challenging but far more manageable at this level, but even on this setting, the enemy troops' AI is surprisingly competent and makes some clever decisions to keep you on your toes.

Another returning feature from the first game is Commander units, which have powerful Groove abilities that can either deal massive damage or shift both friendly and enemy units around the battlefield. There is a small new wrinkle to the Grooves in Wargroove which allows you to supercharge them to increase their range or strength. Some of these skills are too situational to feel useful, like the one that rotates units around the Commander, making certain units feel less balanced than others, but overall it remains a fun feature in an already fun game.

Wargroove 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Our favourite part of the combat in Wargroove 2 is the healthy variety of objectives that each map offers during the campaigns. Sometimes you need to protect your base for a certain number of turns while other missions require you to navigate through a heavy fog of war. Most maps have optional objectives that you can complete if you’re after an even bigger challenge, so each of the maps has at least some replayability to them.

If the core campaigns aren’t enough for you, there is also the Conquest mode, which drops you into a gauntlet of procedurally generated maps, where you’ll rarely get the chance to respawn units as your health slowly dwindles. The further you get into each run, the more Shards you’ll earn, which can be redeemed for new units and stronger abilities, making successive runs easier. If roguelikes are your thing, you could conceivably spend as much time here as you do in the main story.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to test the online features of the game, including multiplayer, due to playing the game pre-release and there not being any fan-made maps to try or other players online. Similarly, we couldn’t try out the campaign editor feature due to a bug that caused our Switch to crash every time we tried to load the feature. Once these features are fixed in the inevitable future patch, Wargroove 2 will be positively bursting with content.

Wargroove 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Even without the online features, Wargroove 2 can stand proud among the other excellent tactics games we’ve seen this year on Switch. The pixel art aesthetic and lovely soundtrack add plenty of charm to the characters and the writing has the right balance of tongue-in-cheek humour and drama to make it memorable. There are tactics games out there with bigger budgets or more impressive cutscenes, but Wargroove 2 is still a must-play for fans of the genre.

Conclusion

It isn’t often that war is a cozy affair, but Wargroove 2 manages to pull it off. We loved the game’s colourful, vibrant art and playful writing, and there is enough depth and variety in the main campaign to satisfy most tactics fans while the Conquest mode will offer an even greater challenge for those seeking it. It doesn’t change much from the previous game; it just tightens up some of the existing mechanics and adds a couple of extra wrinkles to an already great formula. It's a brilliant sequel, and yet another worthy successor to Advance Wars.