PAX: Wargroove 2 finds a new groove in its roguelike Conquest mode

Wargroove 2

Conquer the nodes

Wargroove is back with its sequel Wargroove 2, a surprise follow-up that returns to the tile-based tactics. And while it’s hitting many of the same notes as its predecessor, we got to go hands-on with its new spin on turn-based warfare: the Conquest mode.

The Conquest mode is one of Wargroove 2‘s big new features. It’s a roguelike approach to battles that follows a familiar structure if you’ve ever played other styles of roguelike. Yet for all the familiarity of this concept, it wound up being a pretty refreshing take on the turn-by-turn fights of Wargroove.

Assemble the army

Starting out my demo at PAX East 2023, I was given the main Commander Nadia. Wielding a flamethrower and able to make fire rain from the sky, I was already in a good spot. But I’d need some more forces to have a real army going.

Three choices were given to me for my starting forces. I could pick a weak group, made up of dogs and soldiers, that came with a significant sum of gold. Or I could go the other way, getting very little seed money but a strong foundation of units. I chose the middle option, giving me some decent units and gold. In retrospect, I could have benefitted from being a little more confident in either approach.

From here, a map stretched out, laying out potential routes through a series of challenges. Some icons, with swords and skulls, clearly indicated battles ahead. Others, with question marks, were possible events. Again, this will be immediately legible if you’ve played something like Slay the Spire. It’s a node-based map progression where you often have to make choices about which route to take at various forks.

Tense decisions

What the roguelike mode emphasized for me was the value of each unit. I’ll freely admit that I’m probably too carefree with my units in strategy games. Normally, in a game like Wargroove, you can throw a few smaller units into the fray and make more when you need them.

Here, though, every unit was precious. Each point could be the difference between a clean sweep or a messy loss. Fog-of-war becomes all the more dangerous when the danger could wipe a unit in one fell swoop. Terrain, already a key part of the tile tactics that Wargroove 2 partakes in, becomes all the more valuable when it’s the difference between losing two points or four.

In my own run, I didn’t get many chances to bolster my forces either. Part of this was my own luck; I had some gold, but never hit a shop. One of Wargroove 2‘s developers told me that while maps will be prebuilt, the order and routes you could encounter, as well as the enemy numbers and details on those maps, can be random.

Routing became crucial, and maximizing the advantage of my Commander was all the more crucial. I lost my run, in a hail of arrows and a flood of canine warriors. But I learned a lot about myself in the process.

A fresh fight

When the first Wargroove came out in 2019, we were in a bit of a tactics drought. It’s odd, but just four years later, the tables have turned; tactics games have become increasingly popular, and Wargroove‘s most direct inspiration Advance Wars has a reboot looming on the horizon.

So going into Wargroove 2, I was curious how it would differentiate itself. Chucklefish still has much of what you’d expect in store, including new units, Commanders, multiplayer, and a new campaign with three different arcs.

Conquest, though, is the X-factor. It got me to think about this style of tactics in a way I hadn’t before, making Wargroove 2 feel fresh. Battles are shorter and faster for sure, but the meta-layer of strategy and planning, as well as the tension of each clash, added a lot to every map.

With so many tactics options available, it feels like Conquest is a major part of how Wargroove 2 will stand out above the fold. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of this strategy sequel pans out.

About The Author
Eric Van Allen
Senior News Reporter - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.
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