Tank strategy turns to the dark side.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin plunges the player into a world far grimmer than that of its predecessors. The lock-and-load, rock-and-roll style of the series is traded for a more serious, post-apocalyptic tale. The story begins after meteors strike the earth, sending it back to the Stone Age. The remnants of the Rubinelle Army, led by Captain Brenner, struggle against the evil Raiders to prevent them from wreaking havoc on survivors. All the previous characters and stories of Advance Wars have been scrapped for an entirely new tale revolving around the adventures of Will, a young survivor who joins Brenner's army.
Days of Ruin will entertain you even if you’re new to the series. Its gameplay is classic turn-based strategy, but it’s still accessible. You direct your army in battle against another army on a grid-map battlefield. Twenty-six main missions (complete with compelling cut scenes) are featured along with thirty additional training missions that gradually unlock as you progress further into the game. With each mission you will be required to wipe out all of your opponent's troops or capture their headquarters to win and go onto the next map.
Immediately noticeable is how beautiful the game looks. The graphics of the cut scenes are greatly improved, and battle scenes are harsher and more realistic. The character and game design stay well within the expected series' established boundaries; character design is done in an attractive anime style, while tanks and bases remain the same on the grid-map. Sagacious characters survive in gloomy desert environments - it is the apocalypse, after all.
Controls are status quo for the series, but the touch screen is used in a more intuitive manner. You can use the D-Pad or stylus to move your troops and equipment through battle, but most players will prefer to use the stylus due to its increased accuracy. The ability to zoom into parts of the battlefield with the R Button is a nice addition.
Anyone who has played Advance Wars: Dual Strike will have no learning curve with Days of Ruin. Strategy remains a big factor in the game, and despite the grim storyline the strong gameplay formula of the series remains intact. There are still battlefields in which you can't see enemy units (known as "Fog of War"); you can position infantry on mountain tops to clear the view, or send in reconnaissance vehicles to open up the fog.
Each Commanding Officer (CO) has an advantage on certain terrain, and each has a special C.O. Power. This is in line with previous Advance Wars games, but Days of Ruin features C.O. Powers that are more balanced and fair; C.O. Powers are limited to attacks in selected fields on the map, and the variable C.O. Super Power is gone this time around. This adds to the gameplay by limiting the knockout element.
There are several other notable gameplay additions. In a post-apocalyptic world you have to be conscious of fuel consumption, and new units add new levels of strategy. The bike infantry unit travels fast and can capture buildings. Flare tanks light the way in fog of war. The duster is a versatile old-school plane that's effective against helicopters, but weak overall. The game pulls out the big guns with mobile cannons and anti-tank guns. The grin-and-gun attitude of the previous installments is gone, but the character attitude, addictive turn-based battle system, and glorious graphics keep Days of Ruin from becoming too grim.
Days of Ruin's Wi-Fi capability is the game's hidden strength. You can play missions with up to three opponents (friends or strangers) on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and you can even use the DS’ microphone to chat with your opponents during battle! Player skill levels and one-hundred and fifty pre-made maps make online play fun and lasting. You can also edit and create up to fifty of your own maps.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin packs a big punch. The clear trademark of Advance Wars is its unique and iconic gameplay. The serious change-up in its storyline is a testament to the classic nature of the gameplay, barely affecting its pace. The gritty seriousness of the game seems suited to our times, but it’s an awkward change for the series. The strange attraction of Advance Wars has always been how the series combined war with color, fun, and bounce. There’s none of that here, but the gameplay elevates the player past the sorrowful storyline and provides massive warring online fun.