Like a pikeman deployed long after a battle gets underway, it feels like the arrival of Wargroove on PlayStation 4 is more than a little late. Launching nearly six months after its initial release on PC and Nintendo Switch, the cutesy strategy game is here at last, but we can't shake the feeling the war is already over. That's not to say anything about the quality of the game, but any buzz surrounding Chucklefish's likeable effort seems to have dissipated.
This is a shame, because we've thoroughly enjoyed our time with this deceptively deep tactical adventure. Wargroove is a charming, intelligent strategy game with a lot to like. It has you making all kinds of tactical decisions on the battlefield, and it finds a wonderful balance between easy to follow rules and hard to master strategy. Units each have their own ranges of movement, attack power, critical strike parameters, and strengths and weaknesses against other combatants. All this, combined with various terrain types affecting movement and defence, gives you plenty to think about, but there's more besides.
You can choose one of 12 commanders to lead the charge. Commanders are stronger and move farther than regular infantry, and they all have a unique special ability known as a Groove. Once charged up after attacking the enemy, Grooves can be extremely useful tactical plays; Mercia heals herself and allies surrounding her, Greenfinger summons vines that block the enemy's path, and Valder brings a basic unit back from the dead. As with other unit types, commanders have their pros and cons, and your chosen leader can quickly turn the tide of battle.
Your first port of call is a lengthy and challenging campaign, telling the story of Queen Mercia and her Eastward journey to thwart an evil necromancer and his undead army. You can easily spend tens of hours in the story mode alone, but there's also an arcade mode where you can hone your skills with every commander, and a puzzle mode in which you must vanquish the enemy in one turn. The game is stuffed with things to do, and these are just the single player, offline modes.
There's also online and local multiplayer for up to four players, and you can even create your own maps and campaigns to share online. You can't compete against those on other platforms, and unfortunately, the PS4 player base seems to be very slim. We struggled to find opponents, and matchmaking seems to take a long time, but online play works well once you find a match. Thankfully, user made maps are shared between platforms, giving you thousands of community creations to tackle.
No matter how you play Wargroove, it's all pretty compelling -- if a little hard to read at times. The game is about as clear as it can be, but the battlefield can quickly become extremely busy. With lots of units onscreen, as well as different terrain and the occasional weather effect, it can be a surprisingly tricky game to navigate. It can also take a while to get used to all the advantages and disadvantages of your troops. You have access to a lot of information at all times, which is very handy, but retaining that knowledge is another matter; there's a lot to learn. In fact, there's so much to take on board that not even the game's tutorial levels cover everything fully. To understand all the intricacies, you'll need to dive into the Codex and do some studying -- it's almost overwhelming.
While there's a lot to think about while playing, the moment to moment gameplay is lots of fun. Planning out strategies, like placing units so they perform critical attacks, and having it all go to plan is wonderfully rewarding. A lot of actions are accompanied by cute animations, which are a nice touch, but you'll likely find yourself skipping most of them before long. Across all the game's modes, you'll earn stars, which can be used to unlock a wide range of concept art -- another nice touch.
If there's one thing we can say about Wargroove, it's that it's a very robust package. It has pretty much everything you could ask for in a relatively simplistic turn based strategy game, and it pulls most of it off rather well. We did notice some instances of audio skipping, which can be a little distracting, but other than that the port seems solid.
Wargroove is finally on PS4, and despite launching with practically no fanfare, it's very much worthy of your attention. The pixelated exterior houses surprisingly deep tactical gameplay that's easy to grasp but will soon give your grey matter a workout. With highly customisable difficulty and a vast range of modes to enjoy, this is a decent turn based strategy game that fans of the genre shouldn't pass up -- although we suspect many will have played it to death already.