Advance Wars: Days of Ruin Preview Feature #1: Destroying the World

The first installment of our in-depth look at Nintendo's new handheld wargame looks at this sequel's darker tone and harder-edged art style.

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Advance Wars may not be as widely or affectionately recognized as Mario and Zelda, but Intelligent Systems' deep, intensely replayable portable strategy series has nevertheless emerged in recent years as one of the mainstay franchises in Nintendo's stable. All three previous games--the first two on the Game Boy Advance and 2005's Dual Strike on the DS--have taken place in the same sunny world of color-coded military hardware, spunky prepubescent generals, and factions with delightfully goofy names like Black Hole and Orange Star. In fact, this incongruous mixture of happy-go-lucky attitude and large-scale warfare has become Advance Wars' most recognizable hallmark--well, that and the series' exceptionally well-balanced turn-based tactical gameplay.

As much as we've enjoyed those past games, we were always a little unsettled by their whimsical take on wholesale slaughter. For fans like us, Nintendo has taken Advance Wars in a new thematic and stylistic direction with its latest iteration, Days of Ruin. Gone are the doe-eyed commanding officers with spiky hairstyles (well, mostly). In their place, Intelligent Systems has devised an entirely new, darker setting and storyline, as well as a more realistic depiction of warfare against which the series' beloved strategy gameplay will be set. True to its subtitle, Days of Ruin imagines an industrial civilization that has just narrowly survived a global meteor shower, which has leveled much of the landscape and brought about numerous other natural disasters in its wake. Most of the global population is dead, and those left behind are forced to endure inhospitable conditions, as well as a distinct shortage of food and other essential supplies. Obviously, not a good day for anyone.

It's survival of the fittest in Days of Ruin's postapocalyptic wasteland.

Prior to the disaster, two nations called Rubinelle and Lazuria were locked in total warfare with each other. Predictably, the end of the world and the deaths of billions have just about wiped the slate clean; the conflict is over because there's not enough left of the two nations to continue waging it. The campaign's storyline follows one small, intrepid band of survivors: a single unit of Rubinelle's army led by a valiant and noble-hearted commanding officer named Brenner. Early in the story, Brenner and his taciturn, no-nonsense second-in-command, Lin, encounter a feisty, spiky-haired military cadet named Will along with a mysterious, willowy little girl named Isabella, an amnesiac who possesses a disturbing amount of accurate military knowledge. (OK, the developers had to put some of that in here--it's a Japanese-developed game, after all.) Naturally, what Isabella knows and how or why she knows it will be central to the development of the storyline.

As you might expect, it's not all roses out in the postapocalyptic wasteland. The world is crawling with opportunists and psychopaths who are out to take advantage of the situation. For example, there's the Beast, a former military commander gone rogue (and insane) who's storming his way across the landscape just to spill blood. Of course, the Beast is just the first of your worries--there are other bad guys flitting around in the shadows, less reckless but more sinister. And even your supposed allies won't always be on your side. Early on, for example, there's a self-appointed, self-promoting mayor whose people Brenner can't help but aid. Yet through his influence over his people, the mayor uses Brenner's help for his own purposes and attempts to swindle and betray the very soldiers who have just saved his life. If all the marauding raiders and petty infighting weren't bad enough, a horrifying new virus is sweeping the populace. This virus causes plants to take root within and grow from infected people's bodies, sapping their strength and quickly killing them. The writing here may not be the work of Shakespeare, but about a dozen missions in, we appreciated the relative depth of the characters and the various threads of the plot so far.

This war thing is serious business.

To convey these grim conditions, Days of Ruin makes use of a more realistic art style than the previous Advance Wars games. Though the aesthetic is still decidedly mangalike, you don't get as many gigantic eyes and flamboyant hairstyles as past entries (excepting a couple of the younger members of the cast). The mostly grim-faced characters act out the storyline in static dialogue scenes before and after missions, which are set against hand-rendered backgrounds, depicting the various wastelands and high-tech facilities of the storyline. The game's battlefield graphics haven't changed that much--there's only so much you can do with tiny tank and battleship icons only a few pixels big--but the landscape tile sets and overall color palette at least look a bit more desolate. The up-close battle animations, however, are drastically different in their depictions of realistically proportioned vehicles, hardware, and soldiers, which look more reminiscent of an adult graphic novel than the kid-friendly happy soldiers of the past. War is hell, and it actually sort of looks that way now.

We'll be taking a closer look at other aspects of Days of Ruin in the days leading up to its release next week. Though the fundamental gameplay is unchanged, there's a lot new here. There are new units, of course, plus the commanding officers and their previously overwhelming CO powers have been revamped. Oh yeah, and online play! Diehard AW fans will probably be interested to hear about that one. Come back tomorrow for more on Days of Ruin.

Discussion

83 comments
ahyumifan
ahyumifan

This game is great. Finally all those ridiculous CO powers that destroyed whole strategy is now gone. All new CO management, power, and usage are much more approchable and reasonable. COs are good assets for battle but never overwhelming that it can destroy your whole strategy like Dual Strike did.

snoopy248
snoopy248

I loved dual strike! I hope this one is as good, even though it's going to feel different...

Lampooninating
Lampooninating

@ Samulies: When you're playing with a friend over wi-fi, I read somewhere (on Gamespot) that you just hold Y and talk. They said the quality was good too! Alsooo.... IT'S OUT TODAY!!! YAY!!!

velvetkloud
velvetkloud

Dual Strike was always fun to play on the toilet...

CovieEngineer
CovieEngineer

"The up-close battle animations, however, are drastically different in their depictions of realistically proportioned vehicles, hardware, and soldiers, which look more reminiscent of an adult graphic novel than the kid-friendly happy soldiers of the past." Still poorly drawn though.

velvetkloud
velvetkloud

Then read the next installment rather than the bit that states "The first installment ~ looks at this sequel's darker tone and harder-edged art style."!

Downleyboy
Downleyboy

I don't care about graphics or story. There was only a pasing mention of gameplay.

Samulies
Samulies

does anyone know how the voice chat will work?

Ungdi
Ungdi

I wanted online play for the first advance wars ds game, THE GODS OF GAMING HAVE BLESSED US!

krnpk081
krnpk081

@wytefang lol this game is in a completely different category than company of heroes or medieval 2. this is a ds game, what were u expecting? Full 3d units that automatically take cover? it's a freaking turned based game. lets see sega or relic create a portable game as good as this. oh wait, relic has tried w/ warhammer 40k and it's nowhere as good as advance wars. get outta here and stick to the pc section

wytefang
wytefang

Boy does this look laughable, even for its format, when you compare it to something like Company of Heroes or Medieval 2. How lame is this game? LOL

yourmakerawaits
yourmakerawaits

It certainly sounds better than before. I hope this doesn't eat its words.

edpeterson
edpeterson

Can't wait until thsi game finally comes out

DoubleR485
DoubleR485

ahhhh cant wait any longer just one more week

Chinbobbabobot
Chinbobbabobot

Amnesia is to Japanese game storylines what exploding barrels are to First person shooters.

izayoi
izayoi

Can't wait for this. Next week already!

lowenergycycle
lowenergycycle

I'm still not sure about the new redesign, but it'll no doubt make no difference once you're locked in battle. I can happily do without the OTT rubbish that made up the previous stories. But still, I kinda liked the cutesy battle animations of old. They had a charm that Days of Ruin just doesn't.

Twili
Twili

Sounds awesome! I can barely wait =)

personmann
personmann

hmmm children becoming military commanders, almost all of earth destroyed by act of god, and strange occurrences involving a found child? sounds to me like the new units we get are GIANT ROBOTS

Sumna
Sumna

I think that this means I will finally have to try an Advance Wars game.

zobobthegreat
zobobthegreat

sooo....sturm wanted the destruction of earth in 2 campaigns and then von bolt did, neither of them had time to wait for days of ruin?!? odd twist

zobobthegreat
zobobthegreat

dualmask took the words right outta my mouth; if it aint broken dont fix it, and i liked the old CO's.

oKiRe
oKiRe

This is how it should be.

SciFiCat
SciFiCat

I might just finally get a DS because of this title.

urbsdad6
urbsdad6

This looks like just what the Doctor ordered. Not that the series was doing poorly but it seems to be a well developed deeper and improved storyline with many twists and turns to keep the old noggin workin. Looking forward to this as the previous ones were all excellent!

Sunnyboy777
Sunnyboy777

Hmmm...this was completely unnecesarry, but at least we can play it online:P!! now i need to get a new ds cuz my lil' bro broke mine but w/e they're cheap and worth the money.

jumjum92
jumjum92

:( i liked the old looks better :(

Chef_Bretz
Chef_Bretz

Man this is gonna be one heck of a wickid game :)

monty_4256
monty_4256

ahh love advanced wars can't wait!

frankeyser
frankeyser

Looking good! i like the new direction nintendo is going with the advance wars series!

KALHETMAN
KALHETMAN

Finally some good new's in turn base strategy. My favorite genre not going to die.

NWA_31
NWA_31

Nice. I was getting a little tired of the whole cheery "Yay ! Let's bomb some dude" conversations. I'm really looking forward to play this game. :)

Dualmask
Dualmask

I dunno, if it ain't broke, don't fix it...on the other hand I guess it will be nice to see a more serious, realistic take on the Advance Wars storyline, and if the gameplay is balanced better, it can't be bad. Plus this is one of the few games I'd actually consider playing online. Still, I'll miss my old favorite COs like Hawke and Lash.

S0mEGuY12
S0mEGuY12

Good maybe AW will be a little bit more serious. I always loved advance wars,but at times ive always felt it was a bit kiddy...this will make it better...Though im not sure if i can get it on the 23rd since im a little short on money...im saving up for Devil May Cry 4 for the 360 :) il prolly get this game..in the...Future...

TheCarl
TheCarl

Very nice! Thank you GS for the update.

siryami
siryami

Looking forward to it, espically online

DFTricks
DFTricks

For some reason it doesnt look as fun then the other ones in the series, altrough i have to admit that it does look a lot more serious.

padejace
padejace

I'll try to borrow the DS of my little cousin to play it :)

MichaeltheCM
MichaeltheCM

reminds me a cheap internet game. looks fun! :)

TheBlaklyon
TheBlaklyon

if it is anything like the other advance wars games, I'm sure fans will enjoy it!

zjohnsto
zjohnsto

i wonder if they're steering closer to fire emblem-ish character attachment? sounds like a solid change in play and image - bring it on!!!

Yellowdart42
Yellowdart42

Sounds good. Hopefully this will tide me over 'till March 10. Stupid Smash Bros delay..........

vgxtremist
vgxtremist

AW game...too many hours spent playing...that's all I've got to say.