In a genre of heavy, dark settings, the Advance Wars series has always been a pleasant aberration. The turn-based tactics games have always been strangely and endearingly uplifting. However, with this second installment on the DS, developer Intelligent Systems decided to scrap that formula for a new, grittier one.
The basic gameplay is still the same. Relatively generic military units are deployed on a grid of squares, and players rely on tactics and rock-paper-scissors-type pairings to win the day. The title plays much like its sibling Fire Emblem, but with a focus on winning individual battles rather than building characters over a campaign.
It is obvious that Nintendo wished to change directions after the last entry, Advance Wars: Dual Strike. Many players felt that the characters’ special abilities overpowered the game in that title, so Days of Ruin ditches the original cast for a new group of commanders with simpler, weaker abilities. Instead of powers being applied to all units, only those within a small radius of the CO’s unit have boosted statistics.
The real focus of Days of Ruin seems to be online play. As with all first-party online DS titles, it has a polished (if simplistic) way to get into battles, and the turn-based nature leads to no noticeable problems with lag.
As a result of this addition, though, it seems many other areas of the game were scaled back. The campaign is a bit shorter, and the popular War Room mode has been replaced by a slightly smaller series of training maps. Dual Strike‘s impressive roster of over 20 COs is replaced with one half its size.
All in all, Days of Ruin is a wonderful title for competitive players looking for a tougher challenge online, and a solid-if-unspectacular one for casual strategy players. Now that Intelligent Systems has established this new feel for the series, expect the next title to flesh it out and surpass the previous titles completely.